Thursday, April 26, 2007

re: bangalore becoming too expensive for startups?

This is in reply to Mekin's post "Bangalore becoming too expensive for startups?".
I feel what he is talking has farther reaching and more important consequences than just what is apparent. My reply is a bit long and something I have given thought to of late and thus I thought of making a separate post out of it:

I actually think what is happening is for the better. Like he mentions, correction is already underway and these are some of the visible effects.

Cost of living in large cities in India has gone up considerably. When people calculate Indian salaries, they often use purchasing power parity which is an Indian average and not reflective of the real cost of living in large cities. Life and its costs are very different in cities like Bombay or Bangalore. For example, people buy Nike shoes and those cost exactly the same here as anywhere else in the world ($100 = Rs.4000). And one really can't counter this with an argument that Nike shoes are a luxury and ask people to buy locally made shoes. The IT industry is like a global economy - salaries here are more equitable across countries than in any other industry. Indian salaries were bound to go up.

There is a real shortage of talent globally. Pay scales for real talent are definitely not due for a correction anytime soon. But one may argue that salaries purely in the Indian context may be inflated and perhaps about to see a decline in their rise.

Another correction that will happen, or is happening is in the minds of the people. Like it or not, India is a hot-bed for skilled labour but not for real talent. The kind of people that the IT services companies need is not the same as that required by startups. The quantity and quality of talent in India is overrated. It could have been a different story but in the last 20 years of an impending IT boom, the people involved or responsible for education here have nursed their myopic vision instrumenting syllabi and processes for churning out armies of Java developers instead of computer scientists.

Indian talent can hardly compete with global talent. The 80-20 rule applies here too and it is not hard to see why expats here are so highly valued.

A third kind of correction I see is also intangible. The Indian IT workforce is very young - most of them only a few years out of school - and the immaturity stares at you in the face. Money is an easy attraction and so we see the job market driven mostly by salaries. Startups can hardly depend on this pool of workers for the stolidity and stability that they need. High enthusiasm and the capacity for a lot of hard work are not sustainable by themselves. The correction I am thinking about here is not really a correction but a process of maturing - in the next 5-7 years growing maturity of the workforce will automatically lend itself to stability.

India is not the ideal place to incubate a startup - it never was. It has just become more apparent now because there are so many startups here. One of the biggest reasons for this is the general lack of passion towards anything. People are by and large indifferent as long as they are getting to blow up money at the malls on poor quality branded clothes, unfunny comedy movies and fancy restaurants with bad food. The "chalta hai" culture is so ingrained that is scares me. With it comes an acceptable mediocrity that falls miles short of being able to give birth to what my manager calls "The Wow Effect". I do not know what it is in the culture that is responsible for the lack of passion and I do not know what the remedy could be but until this gets fixed, the new and the unexplored will face insurmountable obstacles here.

whether the weather

I came across this piece of news and found it very cool.

The company that owns the
Weather Channel has a product to predict what the weather forecast is going to be! Sort of forecasting the forecast. They say they're right about 70% of the time and know the biases of the weather forecasters. For example, European weathermen underestimate temperatures in Western American in spring and autumn.

And they charge $90,000 for a year's subcription! All this so when the weather forecasts play havoc with commodity prices as traders bet on how much gas will be needed for heating, their customers can have an edge.

You can read more at if you have a subscription.

Monday, April 23, 2007

web history

After many occasions to pull out my hair and a (rather civilized, i must add) rant about not being able to find what I had only recently seen, there is finally something claims to be your anodyne at least in this regard.

Whoever had to has already blogged about Google's latest - So I'm not going to do that. These are just the first few thoughts that crossed my mind when I read about it.

A little voice in my head told me that it might not be a wise idea to jump into it. I know this doesn't make sense and probably sounds paranoid - but Google already knows too much about me. This is really personal and private data and I will have no control over it. Hell, I'm all for gathering data and trusting organizations when they say the data will be use cumulatively and all that. Has my Google usage crossed some threshold in my mind?

Give me a desktop solution and I'm all for it. Why can't this be a browser plugin? Or similar to Google desktop? The data and the index sits on my desktop. Yes, the data can grow too large; yes, I could possibly lose the data. Okay, let's work this one out.
What is important is the index. The data can reside on an open server for all I care. So, as I browse the pages get cached locally and indexed. As the data gets older than a day or two, it gets pushed off to the server freeing up space on my local hard drive. The index stays on my desktop and refers to data on the server. This solves the problem where the data can grow too large. What about the index? Wait a moment.. I have only 24 hours in a day to surf the web. How much can the index grow? With desktop hardware today being almost as powerful as the hardware powering the "cheap commodity hardware" solutions the internet behemoths love to brag about, I think I can self-sustain. As for losing the index - well, I should be allowed to take backups of the index regularly on to the server and the backup should be locked up with a key provided by me.

The problem with this is that you cannot put together data of hundreds of thousands of users and come with really powerful analyses and intelligent software. Which is the whole point of having something like Web History.

If only some other company had decided to build it....

Sunday, April 8, 2007

re-heated mail

I don't think I know anyone who uses Hotmail. Except for myself, that is. And it's a well kept secret so don't go telling everyone this. I think the only mail I get there is tons of spam and a trivia newsletter I'd signed up for ten years ago.

So I was in a habit of dismissively signing in every week diligently to catch up on the trivia and clear up my inbox. Until I noticed they had a brand new flashy (or is it ajaxy?) UI.

Surprisingly the UI was fast - faster than Hotmail had every been. It was neat and very intuitive. The one thing I didn't like was the huge Windows Live banner right on top taking up precious real estate. But ofcourse, Microsoft is driven more by marketing than product development.

And I found it much better than the new Yahoo Mail. And faster. Some one should take the Yahoo Mail API and teach those guys a lesson.

Perhaps Microsoft will finally find its feet on the web in an old fiefdom - user interfaces. They'll need to make their software smarter and faster though.

magic elixirs for business

As one explores the dark and dangerous corridors of business one sometimes chances upon magic elixirs that can reduce monstrous challenges to a more manageable size....

Read the rest at