Archive for October, 2008

Call for Nominations – NASSCOM Innovation Awards & the 100 IT Innovators…

Innovation AwardsSet off in 2004, the NASSCOM Innovation Awards 2008 will mark the fifth edition of the Awards. With several organizations realizing the value of Innovation and actively nurturing it, we are sure that the past year has been one where the Indian IT Industry has broken established precepts with path breaking ideas that have brought value to both its customers and itself. If your organization has been a part of creating value through new ideas and their commercialization, we invite you to share with us what you have created and achieved, so that it can be recognized and shared with a greater set of people and institutions.The award categories this year are

  • Market facing innovation – New technology advancement – Creation of ‘new to the world’ or ‘new to the market’ technology that will help a customer realize value. E.g. Products and solutions for 3G telecom networks, Natural language processing solutions for customer care offerings
  • Market facing innovation – Business model and business process – Services and products that have enabled customer value creation through transformation of business model or business processes or other structural change E.g.Software as a service offering, Design processes and business models for system-on-a-chip hardware
  • Business innovation – Business model and business process – Innovations to company’s own business processes, models, inputs, go-to-market strategies, delivery models etc. to realize significant value to itself. E.g. Extreme programming (XP) or Agile techniques1 for software development, Talent sourcing, training and retention approach and strategies 
  • Start-up
    • Market facing innovation – new technology advancement
    • Market facing innovation – business model and / or business process
    • Business innovation – business model and / or business process

Some of the benefits of participating are:

  • NASSCOM support through suggested partners, providing maximum value to these companies
  • Mentoring, to be offered by industry leaders or someone nominated from the larger players who can spend time with the finalists
  • Extensive coverage in both domestic and global media
  • Participation in trade delegations where these companies will get showcased 
  • Visibility of finalists among NASSCOM’s peer associations in other countries
  • Spotlight on the companies at the annual NASSCOM India Leadership Forum
  • A listing of 100 IT Innovators published on the NASSCOM website at www.nasscom.in/100itinnovators with a detailed profile of your innovation
  • Visibility on NASSCOM’s web site, which will showcase and promote these companies

Finalists for Innovation Awards 2007 are mentioned below:

  • Comat Technologies
  • Financial Technologies India Ltd
  • Mango Technologies Pvt Ltd
  • MediaLab Asia
  • MindTree Consulting
  • Mistral Solutions Pvt. Ltd
  • MeritTrac Services Private Limited
  • Texas Instruments

Hurry up! The last date for nominations is 5th November 2008. You can submit your Innovations online

Lessons in Service Management – The Airtel mChek fiasco

(UPDATE: Sanjay Swamy has posted that they have fixed this problem)

This is first in series of posts where I will share some of my (unfortunately, mostly negative) experiences with brands, with a purpose to highlight my learnings in designing services and managing customer experience. Will welcome contributions and experiences from others as well.

This one has to do with Airtel and there newly launched slew of mobile payment services (yes, the nice tv campaigns) through mChek. One of the services they have is that a postpaid subscriber can topup another prepaid account using credit card through the cell phone. My mom still uses a prepaid account, and I decided this was a convenient way for me to top her account up – so I paid Rs 250 (the signup and payment process was a bit clunky, but this post is not about that), promptly got a receipt for Rs 250, and then on my mom’s cell, got a message that her account had been topped up for Rs 50! I thought the software had missed a leading “2″ somewhere :)

I called Airtel customer service, and they promised to have a call back to me in 24 hours. I didnt get one for over 48 hours when I called them back. I was promised a call back in 1 hour, and again didnt hear back for over 2 hours. I called back – unfortunately, no one there seemed to have a clue what had happened. The supervisor suggested different options – I could wait for my credit card bill, and may be it was charged only Rs 50. Or perhaps call the prepaid customer service line (its a treasure hunt trying to find the operator option there). Or may be take my sms receipt for Rs 250 to an Airtel outlet and show it to them (with no idea of what they would do once they see it). Almost saying, “Just get the monkey off my back!”. He promised he will have his supervisor call back, and by now I knew what that meant.

So I figured I had to resort calling up friends in Airtel and mChek. What I heard back is this – for Rs 250 payment, the talktime is only Rs 50 – Airtel deducts Rs 195 (including tax) out of Rs 250 as service charge! 80% service charge and no mentioned of that on the web site!? Sanjay from mChek clarified that if I had recharged for Rs 100/255/300/500, there would have been no service charge – what was this? A game of roulette? And tomorrow, these zero service charge promotion price points may change with no intimation to customers. Will there be an invisible service charge tomorrow for other payment services – you’ll never know until you pay and figure it out!

Here are my learnings:

  • Don’t rip customers off – it never pays.
  • Establish trust – will I use this service again? or will I see every Airtel promotion and think of what the catch is? My friend at Airtel told me this is the same service charge that is applicable offline. But the point is – when I go to the retailer, I can have a conversation regarding this. Here, I can’t.
  • Be transparent – why was there no intimation of service charge either on the website or during the transaction?
  • Train customer service – these guys had no clue as to how to handle calls relating to mChek. The people who designed the service knew instantaneously. The fact that they never lived up to their call back commitments made things worse.
  • Control damage – my friend at concerned organization asked me to hold off writing this post for a day. I did. No communication.

Actually, another learning – I landed up waiting for three days instead of one. It helped – instead of a vicious customer complaint, it helped me think of what I can learn from this experience, and the lessons certainly have been worth more than Rs 200! Feedback welcome.

Entrepreneurs/Startups Event at Bangalore IT.biz on November 7

Government of Karnataka is organizing an International Conference on IT called Bangalore IT.biz on 6th.7th and 8th Nov in Palace Grounds, Bangalore.

This year, we a new segment called YESSS-(Young Entrepreneurs’ Start ups in Soaring Spirits) is introduced, aiming at bringing together young entrepreneurs, successful entrepreneurs and VCs on a common platform to discuss the various aspects of entrepreneurship.

YESSS – Event Details

It would consist of highly focused & interactive sessions on various aspects of entrepreneurship by high-profile successful entrepreneurs and VCs. The target audience would be focused and consist of budding entrepreneurs and various start-ups in IT/Hardware/ITES sector from all over India and the Venture Capitalists eager to invest their money.

Entry is by invitation only to make sure that the audience is focused and relevant to the event.

Date/Time: Nov 7, 2008. 9 AM to 4 PM

Venue: Palace Grounds

For details, please visit http://www.bangaloreit.biz/BangaloreIT_yesss.htm

How Startups can Participate?

1.      Nominations are invited from startups in IT/Hardware/ITES space for participation.

2.      Interested companies should fill the participation form (in word format only) available at http://www.bangaloreit.biz/pdf/YESSS_participation_form.pdf and send it to Nandini at nandini.gharpure@gmail.com. Participation form is attached with this mail as well.

3.       Participant companies will get a chance to listen to VCs, successful entrepreneurs and interact with them

4.       Top 10 selected startups (short-listed on certain criterion) will get a 15 minute slot in YESS to make a presentation showcasing your company.

Last date for submission of participation form: October 31, 2008

Entry Fee

The entry fee is Rs.3,000/-, which entitles you to-

1.                  A 15 minute slot in YESSS to make a presentation showcasing your company, if short-listed.

2.                  A chance to listen to the mentors, mingle/interact/network with VCs, Angel Investors, Financial Institutions and Successful Entrepreneurs

3.                  Entry to International exhibition

Alternatively you can pay Rs 7,500/- and enjoy the benefits of the entire 3 day Conference, and attend Awards Night on 8th (Networking dinner with who’s who of the IT industry)

How VCs/Angel Investors can Participate?

Interested VC/PE firms should fill the participation form (in word format only) available at http://www.bangaloreit.biz/pdf/YESSS_vc_registration_form.pdf and send it to Nandini at nandini.gharpure@gmail.com

Contact Info

For any queries, please contact Nandini Gharpure

E-mail: nandini.gharpure@gmail.com

Ph: 98867 48973

Paul Graham on starting at a bad economy

Paul Graham on starting at a bad economy.
The context is – technology startups in USA etc

http://www.paulgraham.com/badeconomy.html

Please note:-Indian economy is NOT in bad shape yet.

Top 10 Disruptive Techs for 2008-2012(Gartner)

According to http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=681107&format=print

Top 10 Disruptive Technologies for 2008-2012

  • Multicore and hybrid processors
  • Virtualisation and fabric computing
  • Social networks and social software
  • Cloud computing and cloud/Web platforms
  • Web mashups
  • User Interface
  • Ubiquitous computing
  • Contextual computing
  • Augmented reality
  • Semantics

TiECon 2008 Delhi

TiEcon Delhi 2008 scheduled from October 22nd – 24th, 2008 at Hotel Maurya Sheraton would be one of the largest conventions for entrepreneurs and is the eighth consecutive TiEcon hosted by TiE Delhi. The theme of this year’s conference is “Entrepreneurship Comes of Age”

TiEcon’s in India have attracted people who are CEO’s, successful entrepreneurs, industry professionals, venture capitalists, investment bankers, policy makers, academia, leading law firms and MNC’s from across the world. In addition to the main agenda certain dedicated activities have been initiated for delegates to maximize their participation.

Mentoring Clinic-Mentoring is a key value proposition of TiE and is a one –one interaction between a senior entrepreneur or professional and an individual who needs advice/.guidance.

Guru Sessions- Provide an opportunity to interact and hear successful entrepreneurs and investors who are role models for the society at large.

Networking- Through the online collaboration tool, delegates can network and connect with each other even prior to the conference and take their ventures to the next level.

For more details do visit: http://www.tiecondelhi2008.org/

The Startup WorkForce : A Proposal to the Community.

This is a wonderful time to be starting up. You will come across very few people who will give comparisons to all the benefits they get working for big corporates. Its one such time. Hiring will be slightly easier, and retaining them will be even more easier.

Even in the midst of all that, it does seem that a lot of the Startup Companies are hardpressed for resources here in India. Here’s a solution.

A few of us have been talking about putting together a centre that trains people (as blank slated as freshers) on the common technologies that people use while building Web related products – the usual PHP, Python, AJAX, MySQL, etc etc and getting them upto speed on mashups, APIs, documentation, and moving forward. That is the level of skill that most of the startup community folks are looking for it seems. Or am I wrong here?

If I am right, then there is a simple way around it. Every chapter of OCC in the country is doing quite well. I heard from Santhosh that Pune is a 300 people group now (though I do suspect that the turn out ratio would be still less), but who knew Pune had 300 people who would be open to being part of a community right? And the same case has gone on with Bangalore, Kolkatta, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi, and even now and then with Mumbai.

Here’s the thought. What if in one of the OCCs a dozen of the startup companies, especially the folks who can code and code really well, commit that they will run a two month training program for people in these languages? It is going to take a bit of time and commitment, but there are a lot of resources already on the web, and with a couple of screencasts, and proper documentation, you could essentially also use it as training material for the next batch of people that you hire in your company later on.

What I am proposing is that a batch of technology entrepreneurs, each taking a week to cover different aspects of the course, could put their hands together to collaboratively solve an issue which is haunting a great many of them.

Continue reading ‘The Startup WorkForce : A Proposal to the Community.’

Top 3 Reasons to use LinkedIn Answers

LinkedIn AnswersLinkedIn Answers is one of the most powerful and under utilized Professional Networking tools available today. Here are my take on top 3 reasons to leverage LinkedIn Answers.

1. FREE Expert Advice: Obviously, the most common reason to use LinkedIn Answers is to get free advice. Almost contrary (you still need to put effort to ask the question ☺) to “there is no free lunch”, LinkedIn Answers offers an awesome opportunity to get valuable answers from experts. So far, I’ve asked 4 questions on LinkedIn and without exception I’ve always received tremendous response from industry experts. My recent question “Are you a blogger? Did you reach your 100th post milestone?” has received close to 30 answers.

2. Build Your Professional Network: Your participation (either asking the question or providing the answer) on LinkedIn Answers is guaranteed to support you in enriching and growing your professional network at LinkedIn. Coinciding with my asking questions on LinkedIn, I’ve always received invitation requests from other industry experts from across the world. LinkedIn Answers must have contributed significantly to my crossing 500+ strong professional network on LinkedIn.

3. Contribute to Your Network: Without this reason, the above two values offered by LinkedIn Answers won’t exist. Share your knowledge and contribute to your professional network by answering questions in areas of your expertise. You don’t just get the satisfaction of contributing to others profession but also stand to grow your network and take your expertise to the next level (teaching is still the best way to learn).

So, what are waiting for? Don’t tell me that you don’t have questions for which are looking at expert advice. How about experiencing the power of LinkedIn Answers yourself?

Please do add your reasons to use LinkedIn Answers.

For those of you who are yet to take the plunge on LinkedIn, I recommend checking out “Ten Ways to use LinkedIn” by Guy Kawasaki and ‘LinkedIn in Plain English‘ Video:

Tighten up

I had done this post six months back with some experiences from the bust, and a promise to come back with more if things worsened. That the financial world is in turmoil is old news now. Recapping some lessons for startups from a crunch:

  • Cash is king – raise money if you can; don’t vacillate on valuations. The first impact of the overall liquidity crisis on Indian venture capital market is beginning to show up – some funds have decided to go slow or not invest in near term. It will get worse before it gets better. Nice explanatory post here.
  • Cash is king – make the money you have go extra mile. Trust me – your company has flab – cut it out. Cut costs with a zero base analysis – there’s more than you think. Watch your receivables hard.
  • Get your blinkers – focus on your existing lines of business, focus on customers. Postpone the more uncertain and long term investments if required. Think about how this downturn affects your customers and your partners – how does it affect you?
  • Keep your team together – share and celebrate successes, be transparent about challenges. Invest in your best people.

Its again one of those times in which some great companies will be built. Make sure yours is one of them!

PS: Canaan continues to be excited about opportunities in the Indian venture space, and continues to invest.

partial approaches to present economic scenario

These may be partial approaches to present economic scenario for technology entrepreneurs.

  • Embracing Business Models for Open Source Software
  • Embracing Open Innovation

These are my recent talks in OSS Camp delhi.

http://www.slideshare.net/prady/oss-business-models-presentation

http://www.slideshare.net/prady/open-innovation-and-opensource-software-presentation