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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Friday, March 31, 2006

Singapore to host F1 in 2008?

Don’t brush this off as an April Fool Prank. S’pore had earlier given up the opportunity of hosting F1 and ended up regretting that decision. I hope they will not let go of it this time.

The Indian Chat Center

Looks like chat (online help) service provided by Indian Call Centers might not face that much abuse like the Call Center abuse that we often hear about. I don’t know about the comparable billing rates for voice and chat (online help). If the chat service is not very lucrative, Indian BPO’s would continue to concentrate on voice.

Basab Pradhan: New Kid On The Blog

Corporate blogs have not really taken off in India, and CEO blogs are virtually non-existent. Rajesh Jain’s Emergic is probably the only prominent CEO Blog that people are aware of. I feel that Basab Pradhan’s new blog will make up for some of the void in this space. (Via) If his initial posts are anything to go by, it promises to be quite a thought provoking blog.

Basab Pradhan was Infy’s high-profile sales head (Basab was Phaneesh Murthy’s successor) before he quit to start Gridstone Research (formerly known as Perputo Inc.). Gridstone is almost entirely founded by Infosys-IIMA alumni and operates in the areas of financial modelling and research.

Basab feels that publishers should directly launch paperback editions in India (as against Hardcovers), as the pricing of the international hardcover edition would be quite expensive by Indian standards. This is a very valid point, but publishers might also have a fear that the low-priced Indian edition would make its way to other international markets thereby eating into the sales of the newly launched hardcover edition.

A recent NYT article pointed out that low-priced Indian editions of some technical and engineering textbooks are being sold in a clandestine manner in the US. As per the prevailing US laws, it is perfectly legal for students to bring in cheaper foreign editions for personal consumption, but some students have apparently made a business model using this loophole.

In another interesting post, Basab explains why Bangalore passengers rush to get off the aircraft even before the plane has come to a grinding halt whereas air passengers landing in Delhi are in no hurry to get off the flight.

Nomination for BBC MasterDUMB 2006

As mentioned in some of my earlier posts, I get SUN Music only for 2 hours each day and this dumb girl occupies the screen for 50% of that time (her show is an one hour show from 9 to 10 pm IST). Although I was thinking that this was a request show (with some random quiz questions), it is turning out to be one big comedy programme. If you are really stressed, you should definitely watch this show. BTW, it looks like I’m not the only one who is making fun of Hema Sinha.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Controversy Surrounding Sivaji Stills

It has now come to light that the Sivaji Stills that you saw in various blogs and websites last week was taken without the permission of the producer and director (this was quite obvious as cellphones, cameras etc are banned at the shooting spot). AVM is now trying to crackdown on the circulation of the pictures. BehindWoods has already taken off the pictures. But the damage has already been done. It has been circulated the world over through email forwards, blog posts and also by MSM like Dinakaran and Kungumam. This probably explains why Vikatan and Kumudam have stayed away from publishing these pictures.

TN Poll(i) Promises: Goodies Galore!

After reading the DMK’s manifesto, I got a feeling that April Fools Day has been preponed by 3 days. While promises like subsidized rice, free bus passes; mid-day meal schemes etc have been in vogue for a long time, the promise of a free colour TV for every household looks like the biggest comedy ever.

Quality rice at Rs. 2 a kg on ration cards, free colour television for every family "for women's recreation and general knowledge," a maternity assistance of Rs. 1,000 a month for six months, waiver of all cooperative loans to farmers and free electricity to weavers in addition to farmers, were some of the highlights.

I can’t understand the logic behind extending the free Colour TV scheme only to women. Maybe they are of the opinion that men are found only in TASMAC shops and might not really use the TV. Although MK has not defined what he means by women’s recreation and general knowledge, I have a strong feeling that he is referring to mega-serials and Thangavettai respectively. With so many burning issues on hand, shouldn’t the DMK be talking about tackling those instead of making a fool of themselves by offering TV’s? I guess the desperate urge to win at any cost is pushing them in this direction.

TR Vivek sums up most of my thoughts in this excellent article:

Karunanidhi's detractors allege that he is more interested in expanding the family's media business interests. His "vision" of increasing the television density would most definitely mean greater revenues, not to speak of unmatched political and advertising clout for the Sun Network.Just a back of the envelope calculation shows that Karunanidhi's latest freebie scheme would cost the exchequer Rs 5000 crore. The average penetration of CTVs in India is around 27 per cent. In the case of TN, it is higher at 30 per cent. Considering that there are 1.2 crore households in the state, nearly 70 per cent or 8.5 million (10 million are sold in the whole of India annually) of them still don't own a box. Even if you put the average cost of a CTV at Rs 6,000, TN's next finance minister could be looking at setting aside Rs 5100 crore.

If the DMK ever gets down to implementing this scheme, it will be an administrative nightmare as there might not be a foolproof method to identify households without Colour TV’s. Even households owning a colour TV can sell it off just before the government distributes the TV’s so that they can take advantage of this scheme.

Update: Kamlesh Singh of CNN-IBN has a funny poem depicting the poll promises of the Dravidian parties.

Making cents out of Adsense

I am not a big fan of Google Adsense. If there was real money to be made through Adsense, I would be chalking out strategies to do that rather than writing blog post after blog post. Most people who claim to have made big money out of Adsense actually make more money out of selling “Get Rich Quick Through Adsense” kind of books on Amazon. In some ways, Google Adsense can be equated to MLM. Lot of people want to make money out of both these schemes, but no one knows how to make money. Both these schemes hope that some bakra will come and click on the ad (in the case of adsense) or join the MLM network so that the person can get rich.

I usually watch such articles with scorn and it would be wrong to assume that everyone can make the kind of money mentioned here:

But Gandhi's Adsense profits have exceeded his wildest dreams. He now earns about $1,000 a month from the program, the same salary he previously earned as a software engineer. His new income has allowed him to leave his job and return to school. "Today I am able to sponsor my higher studies because of Adsense," he says.

Deepesh Agarwal, who runs a small cybercafe in Rajasthan state, India, draws about 90% of his income, or $1,500 a month, from his Adsense earnings. It is a princely sum in a state where the average income is just $300 a year.

"Adsense has changed my life," Mr. Agarwal says. "I can afford things that I was not able to before. I am planning to buy a new car. I can save for my future."

In the Indian context, Google Adsense is not really attractive to bloggers and blog readers. There are very few India specific (contextual) ads that tempt you to click. Further, most of the ads are by the NRI-Remittance services and matrimonial sites. Indian MSM sites (like The Hindu Online Edition) use Adsense extensively and they should be recovering some of their costs through the Adsense program. With the growth in the Indian blogosphere and the Indian online audience don’t be surprised if an India focussed ad service is launched soon.

Of Dix-its and Shams

Western publications try to educate people about Indian names and sometimes overdo it. After the Forbes article about Anurag “Dix-it” Dikshit, a lesser-known American publication educates people about how to pronounce Shyam.

Then there's Shyam (pronounced, more or less, "sham") Reddy.

Did they listen to too much of Shyam (ESS ECH VAI YAA YEM) Radio? Usually they are the guys who pronounce Shyam as Sham.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

ARR – CNN Talk Asia Video

Neodawn points us to the Video of the recent ARR interview on CNN Talk Asia (Warning: The file is about 80 MB). If for some reason you are not able to view the video, follow the thread in the ARR Yahoogroup to check whether they have given any troubleshooting info.

Meanwhile, Mohit Rajhans at the Intent Blog has some nice words to say about ARR’s role in LOTR Musical:

Though it is not billed as a musical, the music stands out as another highlight. I had a great opportunity to chat with AR Rahman the day of the premiere and he spoke very highly about his experience scoring the production and working with artists from around the world. Rahmans touch can be heard through out the play from the intense scenes to the melodic numbers. BTW, anyone catch Rahmans song at the opening of Spike Lees new movie?

The Idli Entrepreneur

After the overdose of the crorepati salaries, the media is now writing about MBA’s who have taken the entrepreneurial route:

Lessons learnt in his childhood have given Suresh Babu, an IIM graduate, the conviction to turn down a job offer of Rs 8.5 lakh from an IT firm and pursue a career in catering. An MBA student from IIM Ahmedabad, he used to sell 'idlis' in his childhood to meet education expenses and support his family.

Even today, Suresh's family makes around Rs 2,000 per month. All that would soon change, he hopes. Suresh graduated from BITS, Pilani on a Tamil Nadu government scholarship. IIM, from where he obtained a management degree, too gave him a scholarship.

Let’s hope Sarath Babu (the DNA article above got his name wrong) sets new standards in the industry dominated by the Saravana Bhavans' and the Murugan Idli Kadais' of the world.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Google Search Before The Job Search

It would be worthwhile to do a Google search of your name before you apply for your next job. In case you blog in your real name, it makes sense to read through your archives & comments and look for content, which might be considered inappropriate, abusive or defamatory.

Update: Srivatsan points to a Business Week article that deals with the same topic.

India's first wax museum

Rediff reports that India's first wax museum is located in a Theme Park in Kanyakumari. Although this sounds like a novel initiative, I doubt whether people would go all the way to Kanyakumari to visit this attraction. These kind of attractions have a high likelihood of becoming popular if they are located in one of the metros.

Engineering pay packages shooting up

After the boom in MBA salaries, Engineering pay packages are on an upswing now. (via)

This year 75 students of Anna University have secured jobs with a salary of Rs.1 lakh a month, and this is the highest number of candidates in any of the educational institutions in the country to get such an impressive pay packet.

Mr. Viswanathan was delivering the fourth convocation address at IFET College of Engineering near here on Saturday.

He said for the next year, the companies had spelt out their requirement of 500 candidates in the Rs.1 lakh salary category and many thousands in the Rs 50,000 bracket.

One candidate from a private engineering college at Coimbatore had got an US $ 28,000 a month offer (amounting to Rs 1.75 crore a year) from a Nigerian company.

It is still not clear as to who the top recruiters are. One company, which comes to mind, is Microsoft. But, Microsoft might not have recruited in huge numbers. So there has to be some broadbased recruitment by biggies such as Google, Yahoo etc.

During one of my earlier posts, I had discussed about INR 12.80 lakh salaries doled out by Microsoft to students of Anna University. At that time, there were only a handful of students who had bagged these offers. The discussion in the comments section revealed that the fixed portion of the salary was only INR 5 lakhs and the remaining 7.8 lakhs consisted of various one-time payouts. In all likelihood, the salaries being referred to by the VC might also contain such surprise elements.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Omnipresent YouTube

Not a single day passes without viewing something on YouTube. YouTube is probably the fastest spreading buzzword in the Blogosphere and the Internet. Although it still competes with mightly Google, I somehow get a feeling that YouTube might come out tops. YouTube has still not started selling videos commercially, but might need to do it soon to be profitable. As far as the viewing experience goes, I have had far better experience with YouTube.

All of a sudden, YouTube is everywhere. A couple of months ago, it was just a whispering among the blogs. Now, it's hard to go five websites without stumbling across a YouTube video, those little movies that are often built right into a Web page.

YouTube is a service that lets anyone upload any video they desire, and makes it easy to share that video around the Internet. It doesn't sound like a radical concept; people have been passing grainy little videos around the net for years. But YouTube has shot to prominence by getting a few small details very right.

Much like blogs flourished only when companies like Blogger (which was later swallowed by Google) started letting anyone sign up for a free blog, no questions asked, YouTube is driving on-line video by letting anyone walk in off the street and upload a file.

Talking of YouTube, do watch this amazing comedy by Russell Peters (Note: The video is 45 minutes long) (via):

Future of Print Media

Some of the top brains of the Indian print media participated in a panel discussion at the recently concluded FICCI – Frames Conference. Here are some snippets:

The main challenges come from Internet. Websites like Shaadi.com, Naukri.com have made major inroads for jobs and matrimonial. Real estates and second hand vehicles are two other classified ad category waited to be snapped by us webpreneurs. Baazee.com, now taken away by eBay has already proved its potential of internet shopping. Sensing this pattern, several newspaper publishers have forayed into the electronic media. Some have succeeded and some have bit the dust.

Purie recalls an incident that took place thirty years ago at a printing conference in Venice, the questions asked were pertaining to the future of print and will print vanish. There were printers who raised their concerns on whether the business would last or not last, as computers had started creating its presence.

Narrating the incident, Purie adds, "One of the speakers Robert Maxell, the owner of The Mirror Group in his opening statement said, "I know print will survive because you can't take the computer into the toilet." But now, of course, one can take the computer to the toilet.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Check Out Netvibes

After getting a few hits from Netvibes, I decided to check out this new(?) service. Netvibes is basically a web-based RSS feed aggregator, which provides a portal kind of interface. Although I haven’t used MyYahoo extensively, I have a feeling that Netvibes resembles MyYahoo in lot of ways. Unlike Bloglines and some other RSS feed aggregators, Netvibes doesn’t provide previews of the feeds. Hence, one might need to visit the blog / site to read the entire post. This might be a turn-off for heavy readers. Om Malik sums up some of the buzz around Netvibes.

Bloglines has introduced several enhancements in the last few months. I don’t think I’m going to move to any other aggregator right now.

Sharath Does India Proud

After playing a pivotal role in India’s victory in the group event in Table Tennis, Sharath Kamal finished off the Commonwealth Games in style with his splendid victory in the Men’s Singles Final. He’s just 24 and I’m sure he’ll bring many more laurels to the country.

Update: News Today has some reactions from yesteryear stalwarts.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Chennai on Metroblogging Map

After Mumbai, Chennai becomes the second Indian city to join the Metroblogging Network. Familiar names like Kiruba, Nancy Gandhi, Keerthi, Chandru, Srivatsan, Echo and Yours Truly are behind this initiative. We have grand plans for this Metroblog and your support and encouragement will help us move in the right direction. For those interested in looking at various aspects of life in Chennai, we have a separate Flickr feed which serves this purpose. You can subscribe to the Chennai Metroblog by using this RSS feed.

Here is the welcome message from the Metroblogging Team:
Continuing our theme of cities that have been recently renamed, we're happy to introduce Chennai which used to be called Madras. Wikipedia says that Chennai is called "the Detroit of South Asia" because of the auto industry focus there, but we're happy to call it the 44th Metroblogging city. It's also our second metblog in India - stop by and check it out.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Lukewarm response to LOTR Musical

The much-awaited LOTR Musical opened in Toronto on Thursday night. Initial reactions indicate that the play and the music are below expectations.

And though the musical score, by the Indian film composer A.R. Rahman, the Finnish group Varttina and the show's musical supervisor Christopher Nightingale is an engaging mixture of folk rock, trippy-hippy mysticism and Eastern chants, it doesn't offer any memorable numbers.

It remains to be seen whether ARR would continue to concentrate on international ventures (he had hinted about collaborating with an Australian director during his recent CNN Talk Asia interview) or focus on captivating Indian audiences.

Somehow one gets a feeling that ARR looks a schoolboy.

(Pic Courtesy: Rediff)

Hari Sadu doesn't exist in telephone directory

Naukri.com has issued a press release related to the recent notice by Hari Bhanot. A commenter on my earlier post on Hari Sadu pointed this out.

Making advertisements requires the use of a “creative license” and while we do sympathise with the child in question here we must also point out that the character in question here is not “Hari” but “Hari Sadu”. Surnames exist to distinguish individuals bearing common first names. Interestingly the name “ Hari Sadu” was selected after looking at phone books and an extensive google search and finding nobody of that name, in order to minimize causing any offense to anyone inadvertantly.

Naukri.com is in no way responsible or liable for the fact that Master Hari Bhanot is getting teased by his friends.

The fact is that Hari Sadu might not have existed in Google searches before this ad came out. Now that people have started searching on Google for Hari Sadu, Naukri can no longer claim that this name doesn’t exist in Google searches :-) All said and done, Naukri's campaign gains more popularity (that too at no cost!) because of this episode.

Sathyabama issue erupts again

The media has been full of reports about the unrest at the Sathyabama Deemed University. It looks like things have taken an ugly turn as the management sent thugs (disguised as students) to beat up the students and also to threaten the media. T M Veeraraghav of CNN-IBN claimed that the thugs took possession of the videotape of the CNN-IBN cameraperson and burnt it.

In the war between the AICTE and deemed universities, the students are being used as pawns.

The media became the target of attack this time as well. Cameras and cars were damaged and tapes confiscated allegedly by a section of students and goons hired by the university management.

"Fifty to sixty boys were called from outside. They are not from our college," said a student.

I don’t know why the state government is acting as a silent spectator in this whole issue. If reports are to be believed, Jeppiar has decided to hide behind doors so than he can avoid any trouble.

The agitating students set fire inside the campus and damaged the auditorium as they were not given permission to meet the College Chairman and Chancellor Jeppiaar. The entire campus looked like a war zone as lab equipment, doors and some rooms had been smashed to smithereens. It is being alleged that some of the first year students staying in the hostel were beaten up by the management staff last night for taking part in the protest on Tuesday.

Four students received serious injuries and were admitted to the hospital. The students today gathered together and went to meet Jeppiaar to complain about the incident. However, it is said Jeppiaar was not there and the management representatives asked the students to leave.

What's your Blog Influence?

Indian bloggers are crazy about rankings remarked Neha in one of her podcast interviews with Global Voices. So far, ranking mechanisms like Technorati have been considered as the Gold Standard. There is the general feeling that Indian bloggers don’t show much “Link Love” to fellow desi bloggers. This could be one of the reasons why there are hardly any Indian blogs in the Technorati Top 100 or even Top 1000. Rajesh Jain’s Emergic is probably the only Indian blog in the Technorati Top 1000. There is some amount of debate on whether Incoming Links should be the key determinant in deciding a blog’s ranking. In other words, these people question whether there is a need for an alternate to Technorati kind of rankings. The newly launched BlogInfluence uses a combination of various factors to rank a blog.

My influence

When you see the ranking for your respective blog, you can make out that the ranking is derived from a formula, which gives weightage to Technorati rank, Yahoo search, Bloglines subscribers and Google Page Rank. Even this is not without any flaws. This assumes that Bloglines is the most popular RSS feed service. I think the reason why they included Bloglines must be due to the fact that Bloglines discloses the number of subscribers for each blog. Other RSS feed readers like Google Reader don’t give information like how many people have subscribed to a particular blog. Rohit Bhargava takes this debate forward by listing down the aspects he feels should go into an ideal blog ranking mechanism.

Pick Up.....Drop.....ESCAAAPE

For those of you interested in tracking all the media reports about Sivaji, a separate blog has been set up for this purpose.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Word Verification Turned Off

I have not been able to leave comments on other blogs because of some weird problems with Blogger Word Verification. I suspect others might have also had similar problems; hence word verification has been turned off temporarily.

CTS employees sing iTune(s)

This looks like big news, but I didn’t hear / read much about it ever since the news broke out. Few years ago, it was big news when Infy gave USD 1,000 cash to celebrate their entry into the Billion-dollar club. It looks like CTS is celebrating in style by gifting 30 GB iPOD Videos to all its associates.

Cognizant Technology Solution’s annualised revenue run rate of $1bn, during the quarter ended December 31, ‘05, was music to its employees’ ears. All employees on the rolls of the IT company as on June 30, ‘05, got a fifth-generation 30GB Apple iPod each.

The iPods, which the Cognizant associates received on Wednesday, are capable of packing in close to 75 hours of video, 7,500 songs and 12,500 photos. This should let techies put their music in their pockets and still have room for reading with audiobooks, browsing photo slideshows, watching podcasts and TV shows, looking up an email address and they can even check the time in another city or time their fastest lap.

The market price of a 30GB video iPod is $299 or about Rs 14,000, according to Apple’s online store. However, observers say, the company would have spent Rs 3,000-4,000 additionally on import duties and fringe benefit tax, which means an investment of Rs 30-32 crore on this initiative.

Although the market price has been mentioned as US$299, CTS would have got it at a steep discount considering the huge volumes that we are talking about.

While some of the employees might feel that a cash incentive would have been better than an iPOD, employers generally prefer to give in the form of a product, as it tends to remain longer in the employee’s mind. These kind of novel initiatives put enormous pressure on competitors to do similar stuff and grab the mindshare of current and potential employees. It is natural for people to comment that the employer is too generous in giving out such gifts, but one should remember that they are not doing this out of public money but using internal accruals to do it.

For those who can read Tamil, do read this detailed post by Pradeep on the same topic. (via Gilli)

(Pic Courtesy: Shankar Narayanan)

IT pays to be honest

Sometime ago we read about IT companies firing employees for faking expense claims. Now, IT Companies have turned their attention towards employees who submit fake CV’s. With the kind of recruitment and churn that is happening in the IT and ITES sector, it was time that the industry joined hands to curb this problem.

Wipro has just fired some employees for faking their CVs. It has also filed police complaints against several recruitment agencies for helping these employees falsify CV information.

Manipulation of resumes, often in active collaboration with recruitment agencies, and sometimes with the knowledge of recruitment personnel of IT companies, is assuming alarming proportions.

One often hears that the IT companies themselves fake the CV’s of some of the employees when the employee’s CV is sent out to the client for being staffed on a new project or for an onsite assignment. I’m not too sure about the extent to which this is prevalent. If this is true, who’ll put an end to this practice?

MRP in Indian Retail Sector

Is this what they call Maximum Retail Price?

The top-rung at Reliance Retail is a gallery of high-profile prize catches with annual salaries of more than Rs 2 crore. Some of the big names are Raghu Pillai from Pantaloon, Rajeev Karwal, ex-MD of Electrolux and Bijou Kurien from Titan.

Success begins with an ‘A’ Certificate

This is the belief that seems to be driving Kollywood directors:

The producers and directors are in a catch-22 situation but they do not want to openly crib about the censors. So far, there have been only three hits this year — Chithirem Pesuthadi (UA), Kalvanin Kathali (A) and Pattiyal (A).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

White Guy in a Bollywood Song

This is what happens when westerners get influenced by Bollywood. Hilarious! (via)

Another first for Chennai?

Time to be happy and &@!. Are Dayanidhi Maran and Jayalalitha going to fight it out for taking credit for this?

Just Like That

When I had to write about Sowmya, all I had before me was what she had written in her blog and her comments. Like most other bloggers, I have not met her before. After writing this post in DesiPundit, I came to know that I knew her in the real world as well.Sowmya aka Choms was my sister’s junior in BITS Pilani and have heard about her from my sister / sister’s friends. In addition to this, Sowmya’s younger sister happens to be my CA batchmate as well. I haven’t been in touch with Sowmya’s sis recently and hence didn’t know what was going on. All I knew was that she had lot of medical complications and was putting up a brave fight. When I chatted with my sis last night, she told me that Sowmya had passed away. After connecting the recent news in the Blogosphere and this piece of info from my sis, I concluded that we were referring to the same person. Some of my friends had met Sowmya at Harry’s wedding and they even told me that she was quite cheerful. Harry has mentioned that wrong treatment methodology used by the doctors could have led to Sowmya’s death. I hope he writes more about it so that something can be done to prevent such errors in the future.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

CAT Walk

I didn't know that this news was important enough to make it to the International Section of The Hindu. Have they run out of stories?

Sharath Kamal does it for India

I was following the Commonwealth Games closely as the Indian Men’s Table Tennis Team was inching its way towards the top. India was the underdog and it managed to stage a remarkable comeback to beat Singapore in the finals. Although I have no stats to prove whether this has been their best performance ever in the international arena, this is definitely a commendable feat.

The Indian men's table tennis team made history, pipping fancied Singapore 3-2 after being 0-2 down and earning its first ever Commonwealth Games gold here on Monday. The final, which went right down to the wire, was a thriller all the way.

Nobody gave India a chance and when Singapore won the first two matches, a defeat looked imminent. However, the Indian paddlers did not give up and the trio of Subhajit Saha, A. Sharath Kamal and Soumyadeep Roy displayed tremendous grit and fighting qualities to claw back into the match.

Sharath then played the match of his life. The Indian battled it out against fancied Zi Yang and after exchanging leads twice, he clinched the issue in the crucial fifth game to win the match 3-2 and drew India level.

The victory was special to me in a personal way as well as Sharath Kamal’s father (Srinivasa Rao) was my Table Tennis coach back in the early 90’s. Back then, Sharath Kamal was a primary school kid who used to come along with his father and participate enthusiastically in the activities of the coaching class. Sharath has been performing quite well in the domestic circuit and it was only natural for him to peak at the Commonwealth Games. I had high hopes on Sharath during the Sydney Olympics, but he didn’t make it past the second round. Let’s hope that Sharath will do better in the individual event of the Commonwealth Games. Also watch out for Sharath’s younger brother Rajat Kamal, who is likely to make it big in the coming years.

MKV Remembered

A good family friend & also a neighbour for over 3 generations passed away last Friday. Those who have studied Engineering in TN would have definitely come across Maths textbooks authored by M K Venkatraman (MKV). My grandfather and MKV were colleagues and neighbours in Karaikkudi. Although I didn’t study BE, I have heard a lot about his academic work and have interacted quite extensively with him. My dad and uncle happened to be his students and often narrate about his distinct style in handling the subject. During his classes, he would often use the term MKV to mean Mukkhiyam Kattaayam Varum (Important, Will Definitely Come) so that the students give special attention to that particular topic from an exam point of view. He was a fatherly figure to my family and will definitely be missed.

Here’s what Ramadoss Magesh had to say about MKV:

Most of the books of this author that I have read are literal adaptation of some of the world-renowned books on the same topic. It usually includes solutions to the problem set that are left as exercises in those books. Inspite of the above-mentioned fact, I consider that a lot of student community (including myself) has benefited from such efforts. Such efforts are all the more relevant in situations where the original books were not accesible to students for a variety of reasons (higher cost, less exposure or just the fact the original ones are extremely difficult to understand).

SUN Music - High on Dumb Quotient

Ever since SUN TV altered their program schedule to suit Singapore time, I have been getting SUN Music for 2 hours (11pm – 1am) every night. Although I watch Sun Music regularly, I’m increasingly developing a hatred towards the dumbo VJ’s. After listening to them, one gets a feeling that they might not even have attended school. One of the most irritating VJ's is Hema Sinha and she occupies 1 hour of the total 2 hours. She asks some really dumb questions and expects people to answer them. Sample this:

Hema Sinha: What is the name of America’s Space Program? (Clue: Remove SSER from NASSER)
Caller: Is it NA?
Hema Sinha: Add SA
Caller: ?!@#$?
Hema Sinha: The answer is NASA!

I think Crazy Mohan was better in this game. He used to give simple clues to guess Nehru’s name :-)

Monday, March 20, 2006

One Night @ The Call Center

After the initial concerns about data theft and information security, western media is now trying to reveal the sin side of the Indian call center:

They are the young faces and polite voices of India’s economic boom but the country’s growing number of call centre staff handling British and American customer inquiries have a guilty secret.

According to senior police officers and pollsters they are also leading a social revolution against traditional Indian values by having extramarital affairs and taking party drugs.

According to insiders the centres are generating a work-hard, play-hard culture where liberal attitudes to sex and club drugs are thriving. The staff work under high pressure and are rewarded with “team-building” parties.

One of India’s most senior police officers said the western companies behind the call centres were causing a breakdown in the fabric of Indian family life.

Hari hits back over Hari Sadu Ad

Naukri is in for some trouble now:

Guess who's heard from Hari? Job web site Naukri.com has received a legal notice from an 11-year-old boy claiming damages to the tune of Rs 1 crore for allegedly showing a part of his name in bad light, a report said.

Irrespective of the verdict of this notice, Naukri should be happy as the ad has definitely made an impact and is making people stand up and take notice.

All About Indian Weddings

Reading the Sunday edition of the various newspapers is a real delight because of the sheer variety of the articles that get written. Although its layout (atleast in the online form) may not be great, the New Sunday Express continues to be one of my regular reads.

Indu Balachandran writes about the various customs and practices that dot the traditional Indian wedding and also tries to compare the rituals and ceremonies that are peculiar to the different states and communities.

Today, Karan Johar and Yash Chopra seem to dictate much of how we conduct our weddings — particularly lavish ‘designer’ tamashas — and purists will lament that it is getting increasingly difficult to tell a Madrasi kalyanam from a Punjabi shaadi.

All over India, the ‘arrival of the groom’s party’ is a common cause for great flurry amongst the family of the bride—often the starting point of all rituals. But the journey itself is quite momentous—and very different in the North and South. While the Northern groom arrives on a horse, his Southern counterpart prefers horsepower—usually a borrowed 1942 open Cadillac.

Thambi - Hit or Miss?

Is Thambi really a hit as it is being projected to be? I haven’t read any positive reviews so far. Further, Madhavan’s appeal is largely restricted to A centres and I doubt whether the movie would have made an impact in the B and C centres. Am I missing something?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Follow The Finger

Nestle's new Butterfinger chocolate (launched in the US) is using a viral marketing campaign and the commercial has a sequence which has been shot at a Bangalore Call Center. The campaign has been titled Follow the Finger. Go have a look. (via)

Laloo's Lollu

Outlook mentions that Laloo has learnt a few Tamil words because of the presence of some TN bureaucrats in the Railway Department. If Laloo puts some more effort, Tamil Music Directors can ditch Udit Narayan and replace him with Laloo.

Having accepted defeat in Bihar and finding his stride as railways minister, Laloo Prasad Yadav seems to be back in form. Rail Bhawan officials say because of the presence of several Tamil Nadu bureaucrats and ministers in Delhi, Laloo has learnt some Tamil words such as poda (go away)! He even tried it on some Tamil speakers. Meanwhile, about Nitish Kumar and Bihar, he says: "I am sure Nitish will enjoy himself at 1, Anne Marg. But I must warn him about the bhoots (ghosts) in an old neem tree." They are friendly ghosts, he says. Between Biharis and Tamilians, Laloo appears to enjoying his own sense of humour.

Rajini fans react to his statement


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Mozart of Madras on CNN Talk Asia

I managed to watch A R Rahman on CNN Talk Asia this afternoon (via). Since the talk show host Lorraine Hahn is based in Hong Kong, I guess this interview would have been recorded when Rahman visited HK for his concert in Feb. The media-shy Rahman talks about LOTR, Bombay Dreams, his Bollywood and Kollywood career in this 30-minute interview. The show is being aired at the following timings:

Airtimes: Indian Standard Times
Saturday, March 18 at 0930am, 2000hrs and 2230hrs
Sunday, March 19 at 0600am, 1700hrs and 2030hrs
Monday, March 20 at 0900am

ARR mentioned that people with Muslim names generally tend to change names just to gain more acceptance (atleast initially) in the film industry (I guess he was referring to Kollywood). People had suggested to Rahman that he should also follow the same path and adopt a different name (eventhough Rahman was a new name he had chosen after embracing Islam).

Educated in both the eastern and western music disciplines, Rahman sees the two schools complementing each other. To nurture the next generation of musicians: “My biggest dream now is to start a classical conservatory in India, or Chennai. I think the discipline of classical music is very important – and then we can ring in the eastern elements into it”.

ARR doesn’t give that many interviews. He lets his work do all the talking. After seeing the interview, you would agree that ARR continues to be as humble as ever and international recognition has not brought about any change in his attitude. For those who are unable to catch it this weekend, I’m sure ARR enthusiasts will record it and upload it on Google Videos / YouTube.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Gimme a Missed Call when you’re there

A recent study notes that "Missed Call" is slightly unique to India. Apart from serving a purpose, it also helps in saving money. With cheap / free SMS and free incoming calls, I guess the utility of a missed call is much lower what it was earlier.

The Indian mobile user seems to have mastered the art of missed calls - and actually to communicate without answering the calls! While cellphone operators are reluctant to give the exact share of missed calls, according to industry estimates, it is somewhere around 20-25%.

Writes Nick Gray in a Moblog (mobile blog) — in India ‘missed calls’ were very popular, as a way to say, “I’m thinking about you” or “call me back.” I would often hear someone say, “I’ll send you a missed call when we get there - see you soon.”

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Your call is important to us, but you need to wait!

All our operators are currently on the phone. Your call is extremely important to us. Your call will be attended to in the order in which it was received. You may wish to wait or you may call back later.

You may remember the above sentences byheart if you happen to speak to call centers quite often. Almost all the banks are using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. Although this was welcomed initially, people have started developing a hate towards it in recent times. Invariably, the waiting time is quite lengthy and you seldom get to speak to the operators within a reasonable amount of time. Further since it is a virtual queue, you hardly get to know how ahead / behind you are in the queue. Based on your judgement, you need to take a call whether it is worth waiting or is it wise to call back later. Although IVR is considered technologically sophisticated, it is increasingly being considered as a bureaucratic system. I have had cases where I was made to wait for 1 hour to reconfirm a flight booking. (I made the mistake of reconfirming it over phone rather that doing it online).

If the banks / call centers gave out a virtual token number or gave you some idea about the average waiting time it might give you a clearer picture of the situation and help you arrive at a decision. In the absence of such a system, you might even hang up just before your call is attended to by the Customer Service Officer. During a recent call to one of the banks, they noted down my phone number and offered to call me back within 2 hours. Irrespective of how simple / complicated your query is, they are doing this to cut down the waiting time. However, if your query can be resolved by the Automated Voice Response system, your query will be handled immediately by the system. If you need to speak to the Customer Service Representative to resolve your query, they would take your number and offer to call you back within two hours.

This looks like a welcome move provided you have the patience to wait for two hours. If you are doing an urgent Internet banking transaction / ATM transaction, chances are that you would want a quick fix solution rather than a courteous reply that they will call you back within two hours. I guess this move is just an experiment to see the response before they decide to roll it out in a full-fledged manner.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Diamond Pearl Down Under

BTW, How often do you get to see Vairamuthu like this? (via)

In Bad Taste

I was disturbed after seeing this picture in the front page of Tamil Murasu. I wonder why PTI decided to distribute such pictures. Dilip D’Souza has also linked to the same picture published in the Hindustan Times. Can we have the culture police please?

The Salary Wars

It’s placement time again and those obscenely high salaries keep getting flashed across all forms of media. Add 20 – 50% to last year salaries and the Indian media gets a good story to write about the B-School placements. This happens year after year and this year is no different. Few years ago, there were limited news channels and hence the hype and hungama was restricted to print media. With the news channels doing whatever it takes to bring the news to you, it was natural to expect them to cover the placements this year. As mentioned by many others, it is inappropriate to convert foreign currency salaries to Indian rupees.

The unwritten rule is that records need to be broken every year. B-Schools also wan’t to be in the headlines in claiming that their student managed to bag the highest salary. B-Schools have been following a cautious approach and try to reveal the salary details only after other competing B-schools have revealed their numbers. This situation is somewhat akin to the IIT-JEE results where the various coaching institutes (Brilliant, FIITJEE etc) claim that they coached the Top 50 / 100 rankers. A quick glance at the ads by these coaching institutes will reveal that an identical list is splashed across the leading newspapers. Although it is possible that some of the top rankers could have enrolled with multiple coaching institutes (through postal and/or classroom coaching), it is a bit unbelievable to see an identical list.

Domestic salaries don’t lag behind

With the Indian economy booming, one would have anticipated a spurt in the domestic salaries as well. When I read that the highest domestic salary of Rs. 34 lakhs was bagged by an IIMA grad, the names of top-notch MNCs (particularly Investment banks and consultancies) came to my mind. After reading the full report, it came to light that an old economy veteran (RPG Group), was the one to dole out the Rs. 34 Lakh package. Economic Times carries a small bio of the person who has managed to bag the highest domestic offer.

Surya Prasad (42) laughs when you ask him about his Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) experience. “It was quite an experience studying with 20-year-old students some of who were not even born when I started work. That’s the charm of studying at the business school,’’ says the Chennai-based deputy inspector general of police, who graduated from the IIM-A this year.

Prasad is hero of the IIM-A with highest domestic salary offer of Rs 34 lakh per annum, beating last year’s Rs 14.5 lakh. Prasad, a 1988 batch officer of Tamil Nadu cadre drawing Rs 25,000 per month, says, “My promotion was due soon.

Surya Prasad has more than 15 years experience. This might be the highest salary as per the record books, but it is misleading to club such outliers with the average salaries and project it in the front page of national dailies. With the increasing emphasis on laterals in the placement process, it might be better to release two sets of averages (one for the laterals and one for the regular hires).

IIM’s as a placement agency

If the Finance Ministry has its way, it might end up levying service tax on the revenue earned by the IIM’s in the campus recruitment programme.

Director of IIM, Ahmedabad, Bakul Dholakia, said the IIM-A had already told the Ministry that it was an educational institution and not a "manpower recruitment agency."

Mr. Dholakia agreed that the IIMs did charge a fixed amount from the companies coming for campus recruitment at $5,000 per overseas placement and Rs. 50,000 per domestic placement.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals that IIMA could have earned about Rs. 3 crores through the campus recruitment programme this year. The revenue for the other IIM’s could be slightly lower depending on the number of overseas placements they have had.

The IIM’s are subsidizing the fees of the students hoping that they can make up for it through the campus recruitment programme. Hence the revenue earned from the campus recruitment is not strictly revenue, but it goes towards making up for the lower fees. This looks like a fair argument and it would be interesting to see the outcome of this tussle. Lot of other educational institutes collect placement fees from corporates (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India is one name that comes to mind). I’m not too sure whether the Finance Ministry plans to bring all such institutes / educational institutions under the Service Tax net.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Prime Minister was out for golf......

…..and the Opposition wants him out now.

How To Bag That Coveted Book Deal?

More and more first time authors are making a mark in the Indian literary scene. Samanth writes about this new trend and explains how publishers scout for new talent. I haven’t heard about some of the books mentioned in the article. Even the fairly active book enthusiasts in the blogosphere had not covered some of these Indian authors.

Often, admits a highly placed industry insider, that potential is spotted because of word-of-mouth. ‘‘It may not always be possible for somebody who is not already writing in some form or another to have a book published in their first shot,’’ she says. ‘‘Most debut novelists have written in newspapers or magazines, so they have some experience. Some are recommended to you by somebody you trust — not as a favour, but because they genuinely think the writing is good. It is somewhat like the agent system, in a way.’’

But publishers have their own eyes peeled as well, not least in the Indian blogosphere. Both Debi and Abraham admit that their firms keep a close watch on blogs. ‘‘Publishers have always been looking out for new voices, and we’re looking at blogs now,’’ says Debi. ‘‘We've always had people looking at magazines, newspapers and even academia, so now we have some people tracking blogs for that purpose.’’

Abraham is even more definitive. ‘‘We were even considering, at one point a book compilation of the best of blog writing,’’ he says. ‘‘Blogs are really effective monitors of good, reactive writing,’’ and the fact that a huge percentage of Indian bloggers are young, urban professionals helps. Blogstreet India, an online directory, lists 2,270 Indian blogs, and there are many, many more who have simply not registered with Blogstreet; that is a lot of writing that is often good, almost always honest, and rarely downright uninteresting.

Just like how the Indian movies target the expatriate market, there should be a way in which the new books / authors reach out to the NRI market. I guess there are not many Indian sites, which offer International shopping or the charges for the international shipments are on the higher side (sometimes the shipping charges can be more than price of the book).

Monday, March 13, 2006

Vaiko Seeks Amma's Blessings :-)

Vaiko is the flavour of the season and cartoonists seem to be having lot of fun.

(Pic Courtesy: Dinamalar)

Readers’ Editor gets down to business

In his weekly column, The Hindu’s Readers’ Editor lays down the scope of his role and also highlights some of the limitations:

The exclusion of editorials and articles from the ambit of the Readers' Editor was not liked by some.

As for editorials and articles, these are opinion pieces. For those who differ, there are the channels of Letters to the Editor and rejoinders to express their dissent. Any errors in editorials or articles — these are rare — are corrected suo motu. And the daily "Corrections and Clarifications" column we now publish is proof that we are not afraid to pull ourselves up.

The Readers' Editor's role is correctional, not adversarial. He is not a disciplining authority, he is a watchdog who barks but does not bite. An "old insider" with nothing to gain personally has a better chance of being listened to. What guarantee is there that an outsider will be impartial, with no axe to grind? And an executive appointment is made not by a popularity poll but according to the requirements of the job.

Those who have problems with Hindu’s Left-leaning attitude and excessive Dayanidhi Maran propaganda need to find some other channel to vent their anger.

The ‘Other’ Phone

Listening to the Anna University VC is turning out to be a delight. It looks as if the VC has done a Ph. D. on the mobile phone usage statistics. Next time you spot a guy with two mobile handsets, you can say without doubt that the guy has a girl friend.

D. Viswanathan, Vice-Chancellor, Anna University, once again blamed the use of mobile phones by students for their dismal academic performance.

This time it was in his convocation day address on Saturday at the K. S. Rangasamy College of Technology. "Today, boys have two mobile phones. When they receive a call on one of the phones, they have no problems attending it in the presence of others, but when the call is on the other, they walk out, take the call, talk discreetly only to return after a long time. The second mobile phone is kept aside exclusively for girl friends," he remarked.

He charged the students with using mobile phones for four hours a day on an average, neglecting their studies. "I am waging a war against the use of mobile phones," he declared.

Call Center Comedy

I think if somebody decides to start a venture providing call center and outsourcing related content to foreign media, it can turn out to be a goldmine. Here is a video showing how a call center agent tries to dabble with 4 different calls at the same time. There are too many flaws that one can point out in this video. The call center agent is shown as using a legacy phone (the ones that were used in the 80’s). The actor in the comedy vaguely resembles Satinder Bindra of CNN, but I couldn’t find his name in the credits.

Blogging Perks?

Business World (issue dated 13th March 2006) has an article about how one make money through blogs and the trend of people quitting their jobs to take up full-time blogging. The article mentions that an estimated 10 – 15% of the 100,000 odd India-centric blogs use Google Adsense. However, there are no stats on how many Indian bloggers have really made money through blogging. The article also suggests some alternatives to the Google Adsense program. I was surprised to read that Fabmall is planning to dole out goodies to bloggers:

Sulekha has also tied up with Fabmall to launch a scheme where the bloggers will benefit simply from blogging. A blogger will will get 100 points for every post, 20 points for a comment on his page, and 5 points every time someone reads his page. On accumulating 2,500 points, the blogger will win a gift certificate worth Rs. 250 from Fabmall.

Although the fine print has not been mentioned, I can’t ascertain the motive behind this move. Fabmall could be paying this kind of money to people who sign up for display of Fabmall ads in their respective blogs. Further, this could be restricted to people who use Sulekha as their blogging service. Has Fabmall built up lot of stock that it wants to dispose off through this scheme?

I think it is better to turn off word verification so that the spammers have a riot in the comment box.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Conflict of Interest and the Media-Politics Nexus

It is public knowledge that BSNL has been going crazy on their adspend on various media forms (TV, FM, Newspapers) controlled by Dayanidhi Maran’s family. This is clear conflict of interest and I’m not sure what kind of control mechanisms are in place to monitor such spending. On a related note, it has also been pointed out that the TN Government has been spending a lot on media forms associated with ADMK (Jaya TV, Namathu MGR). It would be interesting to see the outcome of these petitions.

Small-town Swamijis

It’s not just IT and stocks that are booming. S Anand writes about the swamijis who are mushrooming in various parts of Tamilnadu. Inspite of the misdeeds of lot of fly-by-night swamijis, the public confidence in these swamijis doesn't seem to have taken a back seat.

The long-locked man is just about five feet tall and an undernourished 40 kg. Clad in a yellow veshti, he lives in the Adi Dravidar (Dalit) Colony, where the roofs of most of the 27 government-built one-room houses have collapsed. Seated on a gunnysack, Arumugam pedals his sewing machine, stitching a green blouse. It’s early on a Friday, and before the clients turn up, he asks us to fetch him two 180 ml bottles of Cosmopolitan whiskey, two plastic glasses, two water sachets, a packet of savoury ‘mixture’, some pickle and five idlis. Of course, the ‘prasadam’ will be of even greater value if you add ganja, pan parag and Ganesh beedi to the list. The man at the state-owned liquor shop 2 km away knows at once: Is all of this for the Snot Swami? he asks.

Although Jaggi Vasudev has been climbing the ranks quite steadily, I came to know about him only recently. There were some reports that lot of filmstars started frequenting Coimbatore to relax in the pristine surroundings of the Anamalai Hills. This gave a hint about Jaggi Vasudev’s popularity among the rich and famous. Jaggi Vasudev’s presence in Davos this year further goes on to prove that he wants to carve an identity for himself in the international arena.

The Tamil tabloid press reports on the activities of these lower-end godmen with vulgar enthusiasm, and sometimes portrays them as criminals. But Tamil Nadu abounds in gurus, both low- and high-end. The Anamalai Hills in Coimbatore is home to several ashrams patronised by films stars, industrialists and the rich. Jaggi Vasudev, practitioner of Isha Yoga, and new-age guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar both hail from Tamil Nadu. With more than 15 magazines devoted to spiritual matters and astrology, and TV serials and cinema promoting spirituality, this is a state steeped in religiosity. What these swamis represent is a relatively benign, nonconformist—if freaky—fringe.

Taking blogging to the masses

CNN-IBN’s Tech Show Connect dealt briefly with blogging in their show, which was telecast on Saturday. I believe the timing of the story coincided with the launch of Blogeverywhere. To add jazz to the show, the comperes termed Blogeverywhere as a tool, which will take blogging to the masses. I’m still wondering as to what was on their mind while they said that.

The IBN Site also has a series of articles on various aspects of blogging. IMHO having your own domain can improve the personal branding, but it should not be considered the be-all and end-all of professional blogging. Most of India’s leading bloggers still use free blogging services like Blogspot.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Travel segment dominates e-commerce spend

A recent report about the online spending trends in India indicates that the travel segment is way ahead of the other segments. Although railway and air ticket bookings constitute close to 60% of the total online spend, the hotel industry (a related segment) has not cashed in on the boom. My understanding is that the hotel industry is still following the booking system they used in the pre-internet era. Further, with a huge supply constraint in the hotel sector, there may not be too many last minute deals (in online hotel reservation sites) that might be appealing to the travellers.

K Vaitheeswaran of Fabmall said in a recent interview that he wants Bangalore to get more congested so that more people will order online. It would have been better if he had talked about the benefits of online shopping (like cheaper prices) instead of hoping that the traffic congestion and lack of infrastructure works to his benefit. The boom in multiplex and malls can actually work against players like Fabmall, as people might want to go out and experience the new retail culture that is taking shape.

TN Elections: Captain’s Campaign

All throughout this campaign, Vijayakanth has been taking a dig only at the DMK front. This gave way to rumours that Captain might join the ADMK camp. Although there are no indications on this, one can’t rule out last minute realignments in the poll line-up.

Ganesh Nadar, a Rediff columnist, happened to witness one such poll campaign of Vijayakanth and he writes about the general feelings of the people who had come to see the actor-turned-politician.

Then he arrived. A huge crowd gathered. Prabhakaran remarked ' It looks like Amma is here. Only she could attract such a large crowd'. Another Amma supporter added ' You cant compare this man to Amma'. A third remarked ' Amma translates to votes, this man's party will loose its deposit in all places, these people are here because he is a film star'.

Vijaykanth spoke for almost half an hour. He attacked the DMK saying that they were a rich party. They had TV channels, FM radio, newspapers and magazines to propagate their views. He was a poor man and had only the people's support.

One wit remarked 'After this election you will be poor'.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blogs - The New Fourth Estate?

NPR has a podcast about the Chinese Blogosphere. If numbers are anything to go by, they are witnessing a Blog Explosion. It is said that there are some 13 Million blogs in China. Given that bloggers constitute the majority reader base of other blogs, chances are that these blogs could be enjoying a decent amount of readership (the fragmented blogosphere could actually work against pushing up the traffic). The podcast also mentions that 50% of all office-goers have blogs.

Wanna give a shot at the Blooker Prize?

Lulu.com, a site aimed at promoting writing talent is coming out with the first ever Blooker Prize (an award for bloggers turned bookwriters). Lulu’s business model is interesting as it serves as a platform to showcase new authors. Lulu provides online (e-book) and offline (print-on-demand) distribution channels to budding authors. Established publishers could act pricey when it comes to promoting new writing talent and Lulu.com aims to fill the void in this segment. It helps you to create your own audience for your own writing.

The Week interviews MK

Kavitha Muralidharan of The Week has done an interview with MK. I doubt whether anybody is going to buy this statement:

Q: Your comments on Stalin’s growth.

A: Stalin has made sacrifices since his youth to become what he is today. As a school student, he organised meetings with leaders like Rajaji, Sanjiva Reddy and Anna. He was arrested for over a year under MISA during the Emergency and roughed up by policemen. His success is independent of me.

Poll Time Press Ads

S R Ramanujan of The Hoot has a timely article (via) on how the government departments splurge money on press releases featuring photos of politicians totally irrelevant to the event. This is somewhat related to my earlier post titled "Private Gains in the name of Public Good".

XLRI Comes Calling

After IIM-B and SPJain, it’s XLRI’s turn to unveil its Singapore plans. I doubt whether the market is big enough for three Indian B-Schools to co-exist in this city-state.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Blogeverywhere but not in Firefox

As you all might be aware, Sabeer Bhatia has launched this new tool called Blogeverywhere. Although I wanted to check it out, their site says that the Firefox version of Blogeverywhere is still in the making. Did Bill Gates instruct Bhatia to go slow on the Firefox version?

NDTV and RSS Feeds don’t go together

Antrix Deepak wrote to me yesterday to say that he is unsubscribing from NDTV’s RSS feeds. The problem is that NDTV’s links are dynamic and by the time the feed is delivered into your feedreader, the link doesn’t work anymore. NDTV is not giving a permanent link to each of its news items. This problem is not just restricted to NDTV. I am facing similar problems with Exchange4Media as well. It is high time these guys attend a crash course on RSS feeds.

Sometime ago, I had also alerted about the security threat which a NDTV RSS feed subscription poses. They had tried to embed your email ID and password into the RSS feed subscription. Looks like they realized their mistake and changed the feeds to more generic ones.

An Evening with Na Muthukumar

I had the opportunity of attending a talk by Tamil film lyricist Na Muthukumar about 10 days ago. Laziness prevented me from writing about this event. Now that somebody has done a comprehensive coverage, I thought of going straight ahead and linking to it. Baalu Manimaran, the compere of the event gives a ball-by-ball account of the proceedings. My only grudge was that the organizers took up too much time and gave only 20 – 25 minutes for Muthukumar.

Na Muthukumar has been climbing the ranks quite steadily. He has had many hits including Manmadhan, Sandaikozhi, Ghajini, 7/G Rainbow Colony and Kadhal Kondaen. The Selvaraghavan – Yuvan Shankar Raja – Na Muthukumar combo has been churning out some good numbers recently. I hope their winning streak continues.

Monday, March 06, 2006

State of Online News Media

Sunil Saxena of New Indian Express has an interesting article on how the Indian online news media (like Rediff and Sify) has not created much of an impact so far:

The Indian advertiser has kept away from media sites. The advertiser realises that the largest chunk of traffic flows from Indians living abroad, but these Indians are not his customers. India Inc may be right. But in the process it has further hobbled innovation on the net.

The obsession with photographs has also created an aberration. Respectable media sites have started using half nude photographs of women to attract traffic. These photographs are mostly sourced from international photo services like AP, Reuters or AFP, and comprise of young women cat walking in western and Latin American countries. The booming fashion industry in India, and the Page 3 culture is another source of these photographs — a most unhealthy trend for any news site.

I don't think the Indian advertiser has totally stayed away from the media sites. IMO, ads by matrimonial sites are targetted at residents and non-residents. Ads by remittance services like ICICI Bank and Citibank are primarily targetted at the NRI community. Apart from these two prominent category of ads, there are other ads by sites offering to send gifts to people back home. These are also targetted at the expatriate community.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Dubya’s Net Practice

I’m not sure whether Bush got to face Shoaib Akthar, but if he did so, there are chances that Bush would have added him to the anti-terror list. The entire photo album is available here.

(via BBC News)

DesiPundit Dilemmas

I have been a contributor to DesiPundit since it’s early days. Over the last 8 – 9 months we have seen the Desi blogosphere grow by leaps and bounds. This kind of growth has brought in some variety and also added to the clutter. Due to the range of topics that get covered on DesiPundit, it is impossible for us to expect everyone to like all the posts that get featured.

One should understand that it is impossible for us to read everything that is written in the desi blogosphere. All the contributors have time commitments (all of us have daytime jobs) and we try our best to scout for good posts. The logic behind having contributors spread across time zones was to ensure that the site is live throughout the day.

A quick glance at the Bloglines / Feedreader reading lists of the DesiPundit contributors will give you some idea about the quantity and quality of blogs that we read. We also rely extensively on Technorati, Google Blog Search and other search engines to cover opinions and analysis about breaking news. Inspite of all this, we might miss out on some good posts. Ensuring the quality of posts is a two way process. Readers are strongly encouraged to write to us about the quality of posts that get linked and also point us to posts that we might have missed. We have a Tip-Off option to encourage people to send us links to posts that are worthy of being featured on DesiPundit.

Patrix summarizes some of these issues and expresses his thoughts on the current state of DesiPundit in this excellent post:

Mostly we are a reflection of your tastes and preferences and we try to temper it sometimes by pushing up content we think deserves attention. You cannot blame us if you prefer to click on some blogger’s personal life and pass up on posts on science, politics, and other ‘serious’ stuff. Heck, we care less. We try to give you a mix of everything. If you think DesiPundit is not doing a great job, the blogosphere is wide open. Do your own searches, build up your own blogroll and surf without raising your blood pressure (and ours too); probably that would lead you to appreciate our time better.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Vaiko’s Volte-face

In a shocking move, MDMK’s Vaiko has decided to shift loyalties and join the ADMK alliance. Just a few days ago, after much speculation, Vaiko announced his decision to stay put in the DMK-led alliance. This would be a definite jolt to the DMK-led alliance, as it has always believed that having more parties in the alliance would help in the ultimate numbers game. MDMK had wanted parity of seats with PMK and was quite disappointed with the number of sets (and quality of seats) allotted by the MK. MDMK had asked for 25 seats and MK had announced yesterday that he could give only 22 seats. MDMK was also alleging that the DMK was allotting seats, which had very low chance of victory. MK had jokingly remarked that he doesn’t have the Akshaya Paaththiram to give in to all the needs of the alliance parties.

After a 45-minute meeting between the two, Jayalalithaa told reporters that all other matters like POTA issue were things of the past. (Vaiko was detained under POTA for over an year during her current regime).

"We are here on a positive note, on a positive matter and we will be making only positive statements," she said.

Vaiko said the AIADMK-led alliance would "sweep" the polls. "This is the finest hour in the political history of Tamil Nadu. The alliance is a formidable one".

It remains to be seen whether DMK can woo back Dalit Panthers from the ADMK-led alliance to restore some balance. From the beginning, DMK has been categorical that it doesn’t intend to form a coalition government if it is voted to power. Having set such an expectation, the DMK would definitely go ahead and retain adequate number of winnable seats under its control so that this can be of use at the time of government formation.

With Vaiko auctioning his party to the alliance, which offers the highest number of seats, he would definitely lose credibility. MK would have fully known that he runs the risk of losing MDMK from the coalition if the seat sharing was not acceptable to MDMK. So MK has himself to blame.

Something tells me that this is going to cost dear for MK. It’s Advantage Amma right now.

Related posts: Vijay Krishna terms it as a Shameless move.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Three New Launches

A slew of new launches have hit the headlines recently. Let’s take a look at some of them:


No prizes for guessing that SeventyMM’s business is related to the film industry. On the lines of popular US online movie rental services like Netflix and Blockbuster, SeventyMM plans to launch an online movie rental service in India. It will launch its service in Bangalore and and then slowly extend it to other metros. Few attractions are the huge database and the free shipping. IMHOT he average film viewer who normally watches only recent movies (of the popular variety) might not graduate to this kind of service at the moment.

Members have the choice of two subscription plans, starting at an introductory price of Rs.199 per month for a Basic Plan of 4 movies a month. With the more attractive and popular Unlimited Plan at an introductory price of Rs.549 a month, members can rent as many movies as they want and keep them as long as they want. We ship you two movies at a time with both the plans.The best part is that members can get the service for free by getting six friends to sign-up under our Free-for-Six program.

My understanding is that pirated versions of popular English movies are easily available and VCD / DVD containing 2 – 3 movies can be obtained for a price of Rs. 50 – 100. People interested in classics and rare movies would really be keen on joining this. Given that it is India, we can expect people to form groups of 2/3 members each and join the unlimited plan. Lot of video rental shops went out of business because of the entry of Cable TV (particularly the popularity of channels like Star Movies & HBO). The entry of 70 MM might not spell doom to your neighbourhood video rental shop, but he might just offer cheaper rentals and longer rental period just to retain you.

Hot Male is back with VoiFi

HotMail founder Sabeer Bhatia has launched a new VoIP service called VoiFi. Although it looks like yet another Skype / Gtalk / Yahoo Messenger kind of service, I hope that their intention is not to offer a similar service under a different name. I did download VoiFi to test it out, but got an error message saying that the server is not reachable. Calls at Re. 1 / min seem to be the flavour of the season and VoiFi is no different.

VoiFi Beta, is an instant messaging (IM) service and a peer-to-peer telephony software that also offers calls for Re 1 from any part of the world to India.

The software has gaming content like “War Zones”, “Snakes and Ladders”, “Tic-Tac-Toe” and a version of the Indian poker called “Teen Patti”, enabling users to play games while on IM or voice calls.

Although the news report says that VoiFi offers calls to India at Re. 1, I could not find any information about VoiFi’s PC-to-Landline and PC-to-Mobile services in their website. If Sabeer Bhatia is really serious about providing calls to India at Re. 1, I’m sure it will prove to be an instant hit.


The founders of BharatMatrimony.com have launched a new online classified site called Indialist.com. Given the fact that popular international classified sites like Craigslist started their Indian editions recently, its natural to expect Indian players to act fact so that they grab a piece of the action. The power of an online classified service comes from the strength of its database and one should say that the Craiglist editions for the various Indian cities have not really made a mark so far. Classifieds for matrimonial and jobs have already moved online and it is just a matter of time before which other classifieds for properties (rental and resale), automobiles (resale) move online. It’s still unclear as to how they intend to make money through IndiaList.

Back in the good old days, print media had total control over classifieds. Getting up at 5.30 / 6 on a Sunday morning and making calls to landlords regarding the rental classified (I’m referring to The Hindu here) was the only way one can even aspire to get close to renting a home. I have heard stories of people (potential tenants) making calls to landlords at 8 am and getting to know that somebody has already paid the advance / token advance. With the arrival of online rental classifieds, ads will be posted at regular intervals and hence tenants and landlords can have a peaceful sleep on Sunday morning.

Another interesting trend is the gradual shift of rental classifieds from the general dailies (The Hindu, Indian Express) to neighbourhood newspapers (Mylapore Times, Anna Nagar Times & Mambalam Times).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Reading Habits Of The SMS Generation

In this excellent article, Sushila Ravindranath of New Indian Express writes about the reading habits of youth and the social issues that interest them:

Papers conduct their own readership surveys and the National Readership Survey published last year has also tried to figure out what the younger readership wants. The conclusions are far from clear. But from what I observe around me, some things are apparent. Let me also add that these are not scientifically researched conclusions. Strangely, as we are getting more and more globalised, we are also getting more and more local. Our preoccupations are about how bad our roads are, where we shop, where we eat, where we work out, and so on. This is possibly common to the young and the old. That’s why city supplements are becoming increasingly popular and get wider readership. Who reads the editorial pages? “Those who take IAS exams,” a young student enlightened me.

The younger lot is more technologically oriented. Most of them have access to the internet. The per capita internet usership is growing very fast. And the young are focused on the information they want. Which is actually a strange mix of local and global. Ask them (those living in the South) who the chief ministers of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are. See how many know or really care. But then all of them respect and trust our President Abdul Kalam. (Incidentally, many young people I talked to didn’t know the name of our Vice President!) To the young, the President is an embodiment of what can be achieved in this secular democratic country.

The young will read anything on the internet. More so, they get their information from their peers rather than from the press. That means from blogs. These blogs may not be objective bastions of news reportage, but they do speak to the youth in a way few mediums ever do. It’s like learning about the world or the country from one’s buddies.