Archive for March, 2008

BarCamp Mumbai – 29th Mar

BarCamp Mumbai 2 was a big hit with over 200 attendees and a day full of discussions on many interesting topics and ideas. BarCamp Mumbai 3 is now on the cards for 29th March at School of Management at IIT Mumbai. In the true spirit of BarCamp it’s an open platform which anyone can make her own. Anyone can participate, anyone can speak, agenda is drawn collectively at the start and any topic is welcome as long as you have others interested as well.

This time the infrastructure has been extended in view of the overwhelming participation last time. The venue can accommodate around 400 people. In addition, the open spaces within the building will have mattresses which can be used by groups of people to discuss or to just take a break.

This edition will also host a BlogCamp which will have people talk about all things blog and also other aspects of social media and marketing. There is also FireTalk where you can talk about your idea and exhort like minded people to join you – it can be a cool app or a full scale business plan. The people gathered thus prepare a broader blueprint offline and then present it to larger audience later in the day.

Come and make this your own BarCamp. Over a 100 people have already registered.
Register your participation for free at the wiki: http://www.barcampmumbai.org/BCM3_registrants

Register your topic at the wiki: http://www.barcampmumbai.org/BCM3_topics

Tittle Sponsorer of Barcamp Mumbai3 is Sun Microsystem & Associate Sponsorer is Directi.

Please respond directly to Netra Parikh | netra30@gmail.com

Start-up Ecosystem : Mobile Monday Bangalore

I have been participating in Mobile Monday Bangalore for an year and half now. What started as a few geeks in a cafeteria event is currently a huge community commanding respect from everyone. Today, speakers from all over the world vie to be part of of the community !

But that’s not what I call success, there are plenty of such “eco-systems” currently mushrooming in India.
What I like the most about Momo Bangalore is that it has still managed to retain it’s original form as a “By Entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs” organization.

Lot of the credit for that is due to the organizers. They have remained the very friendly and easily approachable face of Momo Bangalore throughout all it’s transitions.

Let me just talk about ourselves. We at Mobisy started as just another start-up with an idea around a year back.
Getting any attention or help in any other “eco-system” was proving a tough task. Momo Bangalore acted like a true “Mentor” to us. Right from finding information regarding standard start-up processes to getting a demo arranged, networking with VCs, Partners, Customers… We were offered help at every single step. All that with a smile and no cost ! How many organizations can claim to provide such a level of altruistic service to budding start-ups in India?

In my personal opinion, we need many such organizations to spur on real innovations here.

May the ‘Momo Bangalore’ spirit live on.

Disclaimer:- I am just a participant in Mobile Monday Bangalore and have no vested interests whatsoever with it ! Opinions expressed here are completely personal.

The Pyramid is actually a Lollipop.

Everyone, and Just about anyone with a background in Economics and can understand the market will tell you that a healthy market is supposed to be somewhat close to what C.K.Prahalad defined and popularized as – atleast here in India – a Pyramid. But is our economy, atleast when it comes to the Industrial sector anywhere close to it? Hmmm… One has to really think about that one.

I am not even for a second going to even go near the point of saying that I am enlightened here with this revelation that our economy is not a pyramid. Infact, this conversation has been initiated, argued, debated, chewed and spat on in most economic forums in the country and everyone is very well aware that we dont have a healthy Pyramid. I am just thinking through, what it means in terms of repercussions to the industry as a whole and to the entrepreneurial community.

Let’s start from the basics: The pyramid usually has about three segments. The 20% of the huge corporations and conglomerates, and the rest 80% which are pretty much the SME segment and the Startups. Now, do the numbers really add up? I’d have to think about that one, yet again.

During a conversation with a friend recently, the conversation revolved around which city provides a better atmosphere for a startup, from a perspective of providing that initial feedback, customer insights and etc, so that there is clarity past the ideation stage before the prototype is built. I had this perplexed look on my face trying to figure out if there is yet a city which provides that here in India. While most do cry out “Bangalore”, if you ask me, that city is the most startup-unfriendly territory that I am observing.* Whilst there is a very active group of people, and some with disposable incomes, who have started an entire community of unconference events and discussions that surround that, very little is happening past that. Bangalore, as per the count that we have on the number of startups, measures quite low. Salaries are high, infrastructure is expensive, branding is a very costly affair, attracting talent is a dance on the pole – let alone quality talent, and there a dozen startups fighting for the starving number of resources who are available and will actually provide that high caliber value for a startup. On the number of new startups that are emerging, the city ranks quite low. But at the sametime there is quite an active number of “startups” in the city which have been lurking around for a while – and when I say a while, it means for roughly around a decade. They have neither joined the SME alliance, nor are they really a newborn child. And this is essentially the company of alliance that is available in most places to get “that initial feedback” that we were discussing about. When these companies themselves are struggling to make that jump after a decade, I am not sure what sort of real feedback they can provide their new wave, that is coming up. I do hope that you understand the conundrum that we are facing here.

So that roughly puts things in perspective. If you break down an industry vertical, lets say the internet space, we have the likes of the public sector companies, and then we have companies such as Rediff and Indiatimes which form the bottom hemisphere of the lollipop, and then there is this ultrafine line of companies which are not more than a handful, which are to be the SME and startup companies put together. Lo! and behold, not the pyramid, but the lollipop. And in this Lollipop economy, the upper circle is competition and fiercely guards anything, anyone from the bottom is trying to pull. Feedback, and initial discussions are absolutely out of the question in most cases.

This is a concern, cause in an efficient ecosystem, I strongly believe that Incubators will have much less of a role to play. If knowledge was freely available, and people could catch up over a cup of coffee to vet out an idea, and that validation process could happen over conversations in a much more fluid manner – eventually leading to mindshare, market traction, talent referral, intial client base and even funding, then there is absolutely no need for a third element to facilitate this. Today, Incubators become an essential part of this conversation, since they are the only ones who can moderate and manage the intellectual property talks that are carried out and have any say with these bigger guys, who if they wish could squish these startups in as much time as it takes to blink.

It is quite beautifully put: Markets are inherently conversational. The more conversations we have, the faster we mature, and we need to have them in a much more open manner with all our cards on the table and as early as possible – if you are building a startup, or contributing towards the ecosystem. But unless the economic bifurcation by quantity and numbers is a pyramid, and not a lollipop, it is going to be a tough stroll up that mountain as we grow.

*While it is my opinion that, if a valley-type of ecosystem comes together in India it will be in a tier 2 city such as Pune or Hyderabad, that’s a conversation separate for another day.

Note: Repost of an article.

The Impending Revolution in Production.

Just the other day I met some very interesting folks from the National Institute of Fashion technology and was quite enlightened to know about the various departments they have; Apparently there is design, textile and Production – which on explanation makes a lot of sense. There was a lot of talk about the budget and its infavourability to the textile industry, and how clusters such as Tirupur are going to be affected by it. Personally, I am not too sure.

If you have heard the story, Tirupur, the cluster known for making garments is essentially setting up shops in Bangladesh so that they can produce the same quality at a much lower cost. So what value does the Tirupur cluster bring in? They are moving up the value chain in terms of design and innovation in new material. If you look back at some case studies, It’s kinda the same thing that happened with some clusters in Italy. They used to make a lot of stuff, and then the chinese and asian market started imitating and they were forced to move up the value chain and start designing and innovating every season so that the asian markets eventually gave up. The originals were always the “in-season” trend, and what was coming out of Asia was passe, as far as the fashion savvy were concerned.

I am expecting that the same will happen with Tirupur as well. So overall its good news for us. If there is one thing that we can totally bet on, its the fact that ecosystems, and humans will adapt. Thats what they are built and programmed for. Evolution is part of their natural lifecycle – especially with the changing market dynamics.

So what does this have to do with the title that I started off with? Well, there is.

I believe that production is going to head two ways from here on. Thanks to the freely available networks and the personality traits that people are showing, there are only two ways to go.

Distributed Production Centres:
Ever heard why the Cheetahs are such a small population? Too much inbreeding and what happens is that you build a culture, and an entire ecosystem that is endangered by a single threat. Single point of failure, as they call it in the hardware world. The entire DNA of the cluster is geared towards one purpose that a slight change in plans affects the entire colony. As much as Tirupur survived because of its resilience, and clusters such as Sivakasi will also survive because of its ability to innovate and differentiate, it is not going to be a long term prognosis for change. Whether we like it or not, we are part of the global economy and a blip in global markets do find its way home, miles away. There is also another reason why this makes sense.

Production doesnt just limit itself to goods. Production also goes for what we call as Knowledge workers, essentially everyone ranging from Programmers to BPO workers. The cost of housing all these workers under one roof is getting too high, with the margins dropping that most centres are looking at ‘work from home’ options. Azim Premji, of Wipro has been talking about this for quite sometime, as Distributed Call centres, and Technology today has the luxury and the opportunity to make this happen. Infact, it is already happening in small scales already. More than all the luxuries of saving costs and managing margins, if you do realize the fact that while our demand for more knowledge workers doesnt seem to be slowing down, our infrastructures arent keeping up.

Distributed Production Centres, are the way to go.

The Second Interesting trend that is happening is essentially Personalization. We might be one among the six billion population, but we seem to want, crave, desire, relentlessly hunt for products that are engraved and suited to our style and taste, at the cost of mass production. Seems complicated? It’s already possible.

Think of the trends that Cafepress, DilseBol, Myntra, Pringoo and all are after. It is essentially that. A friend of mine and I, sat and drafted a very elegant looking business plan and execution strategy along the same lines till we figured that three Indian companies had popped in the same space trying to cater to that need. I am still seeing them missing some crucial elements to hit it big, but they are definitely on the right track.

This is almost a very interesting problem for those who are into fashion technology, especially the production aspect. I came to know that the entire curriculum of the Production department of fashion technology deals with one aspect. How do you produce, ensure quality and keep costs low and keep the machine going. This is certainly an interesting challenge and prospect to tackle for those who are in this line of work. There are no easy answers, but some interesting cues.

For one, nobody talked about customized garments yet. We are talking about personalized products, out of mass produced items. So take the T-Shirt for example. The ordinary black wrangler T-shirt could be mass produced, but the text that goes on it is where the secret sauce comes in.

While this is happening in the textile and accessories space in on side, It is also happening with Publishing on the other hand. Xerox, I believe has launched an entire array of machinery which can print custom work – which means, I can give a print order for 500 calendars, with variable content using the same Template/layout. Think, calendars with the same template, but different images. Essentially the easiest way to explain it is “mail merging” of images and print jobs.

I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear about our friendly computer supplier, who made computers “Personal again” embarks on this route of also styling your machine for you.

The same is also happening with book publishing. Gone are the days when you had to go look for a publisher to print your newly, freshly, insightfully written book *cough cough*. While there was an interim solution to self-publish, it has evolved pretty much into “Print on demand”. There are companies that can give you one single print of your book, for the same price it would cost per unit price if it was printed on the thousands. Imagine that!

Of course, engraving personal messages on your ipod, is pretty much an extension of the same thing. And the trend is going to continue on.

According to reports that foresee trends, personalization is essentially going to be one of the biggest booming markets for this decade. I am almost quite certain about that. More than just printing your names on it, the market and demand will push it to some very interesting limits. Future itself and alone can unveil all those possibilities.

Reposted here from the Author’s Blog.

Fire employees who aren’t workaholics…

There is an interesting post doing the rounds on the blogsphere which talks about 17 tips for startups.

Most of these tips apply to the US, but some are universal, and the one I like the most: fire employees who are not workaholics. I totally agree with this one and strongly recommend that every startup apply it. You don’t need a big team, you need 2 to 3 people working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week with no vacations. Find them and keep them.

Anyway, that post was followed by a Techcrunch post, which was a startup not too long ago and the founder had his own advice.

If you have any additional advise then do share here in the comments section.

Here are some of my tips:
1. Try and outsource as much as possible. You may not be able to recruit great people because you are a startup, but you will find fantastic entrepreneurs who are available to work on your project in an outsourced capacity.

2. Cash is a very scarce in a startup. Try and do equity deals with outsourced companies, this will bring down your costs. You will be surprised how many are willing to take equity if they like your idea

3. Don’t recruit employees. Recruit co-founders. The best people no longer want to work for companies, they want to own them, so recruit co-founders. You will be amazed at the quality of people you get, far better than if you advertsied for employees. You will need to give them some stock, but that can come from the ESOP pool. Goto www.salary.com to see how much you should set aside for ESPOS

4. Drive the costs down of everything. Don’t be shy of bargaining.

5. Work like crazy, don’t relax, get everything done at 5 times speed. You will run out of money faster than you think. You customers will come later than expected. The only chance you have of beating the system is keeping costs low and working faster than money runs out.

Is location a constraint for start ups ?

More than a year ago there was a post on contentsutra and an article on Live mint on the same subject. Both the articles covered few startups, in cities like Nagpur & Trivandrum ( Including my earlier startup) and echoed the opinion that its not the location that matter but the product & the people that matters.

Let us take the example of a Start up , a mobile game developer who was among the first few companies to develop games and other applications to Reliance. Based out of Trivandrum , this company was the only one till date to win the Dhirubhai Ambani Developer Program ( DADP) twice in a row and many other awards including best mobile application from Nasscom, also they were the first to port games for reliance colour handsets. Other players in the market during this time where Nazaara & Mauj . While both Nazaara & Mauj was able to raise first & second round founding from leading VC’s , this startup remained as a small player in the market irrespective of it’s strong tie-ups with Reliance & Tata Indicom as well strong media coverage ( CNBC , leading business mags & blogs, every body had covered them). So only reason why they where not able to grow in the same pace as that of Nazara or say a Mauj is becuase of it’s location and their founders also preferred not to re-locate. Being in the mobile VAS space & being not close to the VAS head who is sitting in Delhi or Mumbai means you are loosing out on a lot of things. Firstly it requires frequent travel, presentations & follow up which could be a costlier affair for a startup if they are not located near to the operator.

Coming to my own experience, most of our alliance partners ( who forms a major part of our value chain, where located either in Mumbai or Bangalore or other big cities), which forced us to initiate discussions & finalize things over mail, phone or online conference. But most of our partnerships got delayed because we couldn’t travel down for an eye-to-eye meeting or presentation due to a lot of constraints. Again frequent travel also eats up valuable time which in turn affects the productivity of the organization ( especially if the startup is really small), leave alone the financial burden you incur for flight tickets ,stay etc. Again as we started growing from a 10 member outfit to a 50 member organisation we were searching for experienced people in senior management positions like Banking Alliance, retail etc. Most of whom we approached where not ready to move to Cochin even though they were looking forward for challenging opportunities in startups.

But being in Cochin has it’s own advantages especially on running costs,HR etc (In Cochin you can get an office space for rates ranging from Rs 27/sq ft to 80/sq ft for rent…what about say a Mumbai or Bangalore?).

Being in a small city or town has got it’s own advantages as well as disadvantages. My suggestion to startups facing similar constraints would be hold on in your existing location
( this has it’s own advantages like support from parents, network of peers to support you..etc) till you become stable & parallely you can use a one seater office + virtual office from Regus or DBS which will reduce cost as well as serve the purpose.

Sramana’s Challenge: Kyunki ‘SaaS’ Bhi Kabhi…

Just about an year ago, I started thinking about the last big thing in security. This industry has reached a stage where disruptive technologies have virtually hit the glass ceiling. The market has violently regurgitated from any attempts to shove myopic product solutions down their throat. While industry old-timers sulk at it, I believe it’s a justifiable act. However, there are still a few acid-tripped security startups aiming to sell pure-play product solutions which only solve a part of the problem. I think their belief lies in the fact that there are still a few paranoid clients and pseudo-geek CISOs, who will buy their FUD-mongering and save themselves from the impending security doomsday. I think they are badly mistaken.

On a more calmed down note, customers have realized their mistakes and are suffering from existential angst. They understand the current threat landscape, the actual security risks looming over their business – they see the bigger picture and they know what they want. What customers don’t want are solutions which fragment the security problem into minuscule, mind-numbing, schizoid entities like botnet mitigation, security incident and event management, change control, client-side security, intrusion prevention, virtualization security, spam protection, endpoint protection, network behavioral analysis, identity management, fraud prevention, threat intelligence, compliance management, yada yada yada. Customers have failed to quantify any tangible RoI on such expenditures, they have had a hard-time managing the gamut of deployments over their networks, and above all – they don’t have any god-damn clue on how to gleam actionable information out of these products. They have stopped being carried away by this cryptic industry. So consolidation was a very obvious Darwinian step.

Mind you, the consolidation is happening in two ways. One, the established bigger security vendors are acquiring smaller companies and creating wholesome, turnkey solution offerings which cover everything under the security umbrella (Symantec, McAfee, Cisco). Secondly, enterprise software and solution providers, which are generally exposed to maximum risk are integrating these security technologies right into their very frameworks (EMC, Google, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, VMware). Thirdly, the coming innovation will be in the solution offerings and not in the underlying technologies. Fourthly, the security outsourcing industry is lagging by around 5 years.

So now comes the million-dollar question. What about ground root entrepreneurs and Schumpeterian innovators? I think, there are some opportunities on the horizon. The opportunities lie in re-innovating product technologies which failed just due to their higher operational costs and lack of business clarity. A quote from my last post which will help in elucidating this point:

…enterprise security expenditures became more and more justifiable in business terms due to regulatory compliance, cyber-crimes becoming a grim reality and the changing threat landscape. So now, security was not some obscure handy-work limited to network administrators; its need had trickled down towards the pin-striped pants of the management.

Opportunities also lie in security solutions which can leverage the cost-arbitrage. With the ongoing consolidation, security solutions have become more and more service-centric and productized-services is the way to go. When it comes to services, we can definitely exploit the well-proven Indian offshoring model. The case in point being, that although the bigger security players are merrily striving to provide wholesome solutions, integrations of such diverse acquired technologies leads to a lot of quality-loss thus raising the cost of the service offering.

Let me a take a few ideas very specifically. A few months ago when I read this seminal article by David Cowan, my immediate thought was, “Why not try outsourcing+SaaS!!?”. An excerpt from my brief commentary.

Absolutely credible and intuitive assessment of the consolidated and de-productized information security market by David Cowan of Bessemer Venture Partners. David has hit the bullseye here, beautifully explaining the current and underlying bottlenecks ailing the business of information security. Personally, I feel this is a brilliant take on the future of the IT security industry. People have already shunned the idea of another killer security product and information security outsourcing (infrastructure management/MSS – whatever) is going nowhere.

Now, imagine the proven Indian offshoring model combined with SaaS! Companies like Wipro, which has a well-established security consulting services arm, has this whole market for the taking if they can streamline their messy operations. However, this is a tough bet for ground root entrepreneurs as it requires an elaborate operational setup and infrastructure.

And just a few weeks ago, when I read the Challenge to Indian Entrepreneurs posted by Sramana Mitra (written in Feb’07), I became more and more certain.

In the recently concluded Philippe Courtot interview series, we discussed at length the various ways in which India and China could undercut US companies, and Philippe acknowledged that in his business (Qualys is an outsourced managed security service provider, a SaaS play), it is quite possible that an Indian company could come up with a vastly lower cost structure, and customers would switch immediately, if they are convinced about the reliability of the service.

Just to set the economics in perspective, Qualys has invested $65 Million to build an infrastructure that “is at the scale of the planet” to monitor, audit and report network security problems.

Let me throw a challenge in the direction of the Indian entrepreneurs: Go figure out how to build this same business for $30 Million, and I can tell you, you will have an absolute winner in your hands.

There hasn’t been a better time to disrupt the current dystopian order. In fact, a few Indian companies like iViz an Aujas (both backed by IDG Ventures) are trying something similar to Qualys. But they have a long way to go. Their product technologies are in nascent stage, they are trying to re-invent the wheel in solving most of the problems, they lack in technological maturity needed to understand the services model, they don’t have solid sales and marketing channels, and above all, they don’t have the kind of Ãœbermensch team which is needed to pull this off. There are only a handful of people in India which have worked on such intrinsic areas like security product management, so talent is a big scarcity. I think, there is a timeline of about 1.5-3 years – until when the bigger consolidated players fix the rough edges of their offerings – where such startups can still think to leverage this big opportunity.

Okay, one more idea for the taking. I think, service-provider/tier-1/backbone security is one market which is still in the experimental phase. There are some great opportunities lying there. Indian companies like Guavus and others like PacketAnalytics are working on it.

Then, opportunities also lie in capturing the contemporary security services market by transforming them into the fashionable on-demand model combined with offshoring. Example being – Veracode for application security.

That day is not far-off when some Indian entrepreneur will make Sramana and SaaSu-Maa jump with joy. Whad’ya say? 🙂

Happy SaaSu

ArcSight IPO: A positive vibe

So ArcSight, the enterprise security and compliance management company, went public a couple of weeks ago. Market watchers and industry analysts had always held mixed views about the company, and the same story goes with its IPO too. The hints of a listing came to be known publicly in September 2006, when the Valley kahuna Ray Lane chaired a meeting on ArcSight’s future and how it could be a worthy competitor in the to-be-consolidated information security space. The talk of the town was that the company’s decently solid sales record and struggling competitors is a positive sign of a stable future; thus broader solution offerings can be built by leveraging the IPO moolah which can be used to target some of the bigger players. This puts them in a better spot than other myopic security startups which only target a small part of the ‘security problem’. However, the festive mood was dampened a bit as the listing raised around $54M, slightly below expectations.

ArcSight was started during the hay days of security when companies with angel-eyed security administrators were really keen to visualize and monitor their security posture on an enterprise-wide scale. Termed as Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) solutions, these systems were aimed at picking out useful and actionable information from all network and security devices, rejecting unwanted notifications and false positives which had become a pain in the neck, metaphorically speaking. These were the times when intrusion detection systems had just gained wide-scale acceptability and deployment but they were prone to generating a lot of alerts, and on an individual basis it was hard to make sense on what was going on in the network, thus defeating their whole purpose. But when it came to the actual implementation and tweaking, SIEM could make the client’s espresso-machines run out of coffee powder. Moreover, their visualization and anomaly detection systems didn’t really prove that effective and had a high learning-curve. I remember working for a SIEM vendor on a contract when I came to know about the dreadful effort of installing this gargantuan solution, which could easily take a couple of weeks or even months. So ArcSight being a smarter kid on the block, took a slip road like so many others. During the same time, enterprise security expenditures became more and more justifiable in business terms due to regulatory compliance, cyber-crimes becoming a grim reality and the changing threat landscape. So now, security was not some obscure handy-work limited to network administrators; its need had trickled down towards the pin-striped pants of the management. SIEM vendors like ArcSight, with some magic and lot of rework, were able to provide respectable offerings in compliance monitoring, fraud prevention and identity management. Fast-forward a few years and we got a company sending out positive vibes in a niche market which has drowned itself in pessimism. It would be interesting to see how ArcSight will fare in this industry witnessing some epic shifts and large-scale consolidation.

Some thoughts of this article are derived from: ArcSight Security IPO, Not So Hot

Ever dreamt about managing failures!

Have a dream, believe in it & work towards it and it will happen, well this is the
mantra we all chant in our mind while we initiate our journey to pursue our
ambitions.But have any one of you ever thought , how you will manage the situation if things won’t happen as we dreamt.

Managing failure is one of the most important feature an entrepreneur should possess, becuase the more you fail the more are the chances of attaining a huge success. Becuase each time you fail, you learn a lot of things which no business school will teach nor any mentor can advice. But if you don’t manage your failure, one may never get back to entreprenuership ever in your life.

Now how does one manage his/her failure . Well for this i believe one should foresee the possiblity of the same much in advance like the way you foresee your profits or success ( This could be like how you will pay back Tom, Dick and Harry who had lended me 1 lakh each to start the business or how you will face uncle Sam who warned you thousand times not to venture out into the business ). You should have a strategy in place for meeting people, your clients , partners , angry customers , investors if your business flops. I think such a strategy can reduce the magnitude of your failure a li’l bit so that may be after coming to terms with tragedy, you can get back and try your luck again may be after a small gap.

Again such a strategy can also help you foresee certain risks which you might not otherwise have thought off . This will also  increase the level of confidence among probable investors about you and your company.

Entreprenueship is all about risks, but it doesnt mean that you should go for blind risks thinking that you will never fail.

Anyways would like to know your thoughts on the same!

DRM or Content Protection

The debate around protecting content from ‘unauthorised’ downloads / usage has intrigued me right from the beginning both as a consumer and a content creator. While iTunes (more recently even sections of Bollywood) have been able to sell DRM protected content and reaped moderate benefits introducing the idea of ‘paid’ digital media to consumers, DRM implementation is still hobbled by lack of universal standards, high costs and overstated efficacy.

A new medium needs a new idiom. The success of the quirky creative endeavors has been fuelled by a viral internet platform. The content creators allow users to viral (embed) their content and share it with the rest of the cyber world. For content creators like Will Ferrell (funnyordie.com) and the team behind Lonelygirl15, this scale up comes at very little cost in terms of marketing dollars and even better allows them to do what know best – create quality content. Add to this the power of social media and you have a potential one to one connect with all manners of niche audiences.

So what exactly are we trying to ‘protect’ here?

Short Form content (SFC) on New media platforms hinges on four value propositions for the end user –

a) Anywhere, anytime
b) Low or no cost
c) Viral – lightweight, easy to share, mash up – personalize
d) Freedom of choice – search

So how does DRM play out in the context of such a democratic media landscape? – DRM, SFC & the New Consumer

• Never 100% protected – Given the well entrenched grey market (especially in countries like India) and the easy availability of technology resources, it is a fair assumption that the threat from piracy cannot be fully mitigated using technology.

• Digital content production is already encumbered by multiple platforms, operating systems and hardware protocols. A typical production cycle involves shooting (Digital cameras – more than 1000 options depending on the desirable end output), digitization (transfer from shooting tape to hard disk), post production (editing, special effects etc.) and publishing (preparation of broadcast masters or web formats).
DRM solutions do not plug into this pipeline. Typically a DRM wrapper is a separate component at the end this cycle (although popular editing softwares like Final Cut Pro do offer DM features, they are not efficient). This further prolongs the time to market and often leads to a downgrade in the overall quality of the product caused by conversion (especially in the case of Video).

• Since there is no single DRM protocol across devices / operating systems, a DRM wrapper around the content restricts the content and customer to proprietary platforms (e.g. sa re ga ma, an Indian music label recently launched their DRM protected online store that has content e.g. songs, compatible only with Microsoft platforms). This limits portability of media across devices.

• DRM limits / stunts virability of content – good perhaps for super brands like spiderman and big ticket Hollywood productions but prevents an organic growth and online community-based seeding for a small content producer.

In summary, protected short form content does result in some degree of negative impact on customer delight (and therefore uptake).

DRM becomes critical for a range of content producers partially because of the high cost around producing branded content especially when above the line costs like actors fees add to the budget. A Producer/Label is forced to look at multiple markets and long tail to drive profitability, revenue sources that are obviously impacted negatively by free availability of their products in the digital world.
The Internet is a beautiful medium to help content travel to various markets and demographics. Instead of locking it down be prepared to re-purpose / re-orient your product to any distribution channel, such as Mobile or even Print. Let’s make content available via easy, well-priced and simple interfaces that allows a consumer to purchase/download any version of the desired content suitable for their device at a rational cost.