Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Posts Tagged ‘Technology

Its not a rarity these days to hear talks about turning entrepreneurship into a lifestyle. As a matter of fact, we – everyone of us who are involved in shaping the startup space in India – are quite glad that thats happening, because it just shows that things are changing, very much for the better.

Even as Barcamps, Open Coffee Clubs, Startup Saturdays and several forms of informal support groups are emerging in this country, one of the biggest problem that we seem to be facing is the fact that we are still very urban-centric. All these meets happen in four or five of the major metros in the country – whereas we probably should be a bit more inclusive about it. There are issues such as the lack of experienced entrepreneurs to share from their life’s tale and help out emerging and aspiring entrepreneurs that seem to be stiffling some of the productivity in some of these informal meets.

Well, technology can solve that problem in some aspect, and we are going to give it our best shot.

We are opening up this Chat Application that we’ve had built, and testing in some occassions to see how we can spin this to solve this issue. Every Saturday between 9am and 5pm – and without fail, every week, we are planning to keep the Chat [Link here] open and anyone can visit the site, and interact with entrepreneurs from across the country. We understand that Startup Saturdays happen on the same dates, so if possible we will get someone who is attending the sessions to live chat in the sessions so that the wisdom share can be spread to a larger audience if possible.

So, we’ve done and are doing our part to solve this problem. Now the request is that you be a part of this, to be there, spend sometime in the channel, interacting with, and helping out one entrepreneur to another, and in truly making entrepreneurship a lifestyle choice for those who wish for it – even beyond the metros.

Looking forward to seeing you there. And spread the word.

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I grew up with a poster in my room saying “The size of your world is as big as your dreams”. It was always there when you woke up to remind you to think beyond the box. It still hangs there in my room at my parents place. It’s the thought that came into my mind when I was browsing through the net, listening to some of the folk’s interpretation of Entrepreneurship.

It seems  to me as if there are a couple of theories floating around these past few weeks.

a) Entrepreneurship is overrated. Entrepreneurship is romanticized, and the often tweeted and retweeted phrase seems to be “My son is without a job, ah! he is an entrepreneur”. Well, That’s probably pushing it far, and yep, perhaps we are breaking the elitism that was once associated with being an “entrepreneur”, but isn’t this what we wanted with all the publicizing that we did and urging one another to chase their dreams? I do see that this could dampen the ones that pride in elitism, but as far as things go, there will always be a gulf between those who can dream, ideate and implement, and those who just wear the badge and do nothing. And really, the more the merrier in this party.

b) There is also this other camp, that seems to think that, Entrepreneurship is too Web 2.0-ised. I can emphatize with this camp.  I dont think entrepreneurship in India is equated with a venture in the web 2.0 world, but most of us derive our first impression from the media that we consume and web 2.0 is essentially Media and new age consumption of those content. You get hit by it in the face over and over again, till you find something interesting. That doesn’t mean that there arent other sort of ventures going on out there. Manufacturing is still one of our strongest sectors and there are plenty of neat things cooking up in that camp. So for those of you freaking out with the thought of drowning in Web 2.0 Gyaan, take heeed, there is a bigger world out there – you just need to step out more.

c) There is a third theory out there that there are a lot of NRIs returning home. And Rajiv Gandhi is rightly quoted that whatever happened a few decades ago was not brain drain, but brain banking. Along with those returning is returning a renewed sense of nationalism, pride, and a whole lot of global interaction practices, that really help us get our quality of work a notch higher to match global capabilities. The complaint is that, along with them comes the baggage to convert the cities of India, into New York and Boston, or London. They do have a point. But sooner or later as these fresh entrepreneurs hit the Registrar of Companies to get their incorporation work done, they will know that things work slightly in a different order in this country.

So, really gentlemen (and ladies), there is not much to fret. You can relax and enjoy the process as our landscape changes before our eyes.

We Really Don’t Dream Big Enough.

What I want to talk about really is not the concerns, but my own concern as to how we aren’t dreaming big Read the rest of this entry »

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 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. Read the rest of this entry »

There was sometime back when was doing a rough math on how many live camera streams there are. There are some that are pointed towards the “habitat” of the Loch Ness Monster, there are enough live traffic camera, and plenty of them pointed towards a birds nest or so. And if you take the example of (which seems to be inspired by The Truman Show), even people are willing to play their part in all this.

Ofcourse all of this is a one way broadcast. Apart from adult sites which are apparently making their niche through two way interaction, there is not much that is happening in this space.

Is there any of that, that can be adapted into the “green” scenario? A couple of light bulbs went on and off and here’s the thought (or Idea):

The forest department today plans thousands of saplings every year on barren lands to convert them into lush green forests, but the biggest problem with it has been the case of watering them. There is not enough manpower to do those menial tasks – at the salary that the govt is providing – and there is also the issue of accountability where all the saplings near the roadside stand straight and well watered, but the ones in the interior die away because laziness kicks in for most of these workers. They are not to be blamed either when the scorching sun is merciless on them and they are poorly prepped for all that.

The idea is to basically plant all the saplings as the forest department does and then have water drums which can be filled periodically with water from trucks (much simpler task). The pipes to the saplings will be set on drip irrigation and there will be a soil moisture sensor in the soil which measures if there is water or not. Set a Camera that overlooks this area, connect it to the Internet and create a frontend to a MMORPG (Massively Multi-user Online Role Playing Game). If that’s too much of an acronym, think Second Life. People can “adopt” grids of these fields and take care of them. All they have to do is, once the soil moisture turns a bit low, hit the buttons that will start the drip irrigation and stop them when the moisture level is optimal.

There are already countless number of such “events” that happen in Second Life, where if one plants a sapling in the virtual world, an organization instead plants one in the real world somewhere. This would just be an extension of that.

Now, technically you can take this to the next level. Think of all the Wild Life Sanctuaries. The biggest problem today is Poachers (I am still worried if I have to show stuffed toys of Tigers as our National Animal to my kids someday), and the forest officers are not nearly paid enough to scout the areas – and they are very ill armed to protect themselves from these animals as well. What if we could setup a range of Wifi cameras, stream the videos and let people monitor them. I’m sure there are enough animal activists around the world that some might even take it up while we sleep. All they would have to do is to hit a button which will alert the officer if a Poacher is spotted. And give the front end the control to click a snap if they want to document something and we might capture poachers and exotic wildlife as souvenirs.

I think finally, and its about time that the conscious of having to go green is kicking in. And we are gonna have to do everything – not just to sustain – but positively influence this planet to make it sustainable and even stay on the existential path. Maybe entrepreneurship, technology and the enthusiasm of the global audience can create a network of Global Watchers, to take care of the assets around us – All this while getting to “play” their roles.

There are only a whole total of 14 tasks that need to be done before the event,and given the capable team that we have this time, and the sheer level of enthusiasm flowing, I dont see that to be a problem. The core team from Chennai, Bangalore, and other places are starting to fly in into Delhi starting tomorrow – Our flight leaves in exactly another four hours. The team is busy getting their laptops on datacards so that we can still remain effective, even on the go. We are prepped, geared and all ready for it.

What did didn’t expect is the sheer push of some magical moment that has happened within the community to attend the event. we are nearing 400 attendees for the event, and that’s a “significant” jump from the 250 that we had last time – and trust me when I say that I am genuinely surprised. I always thought that the southern states were more entrepreneur-centric. I suppose it takes a good shot to really prove and debunk theories and myths as well.

In the following two days I am going to be writing to you to prep you to help set some expectations and in terms of some of the activities that we are planning at the event. The Innovation brainjam on the second day is something I am personally looking forward to. The credit goes to Amit Somani of Google, who threw open this open-ended way of brainstorming that they practice at google and as we pondered over the possibility of doing that in a conference. It should be loads of fun.

If you are a blogger by any means are a little rusty, this is the time to sharpen your skills. It’s going to be a liveblogging marathon this time, and we even have a surprise for the best live-blogged summary of the event. If you are the logical, knowledgeable one, well take heed. The quizzes are there to die for. I’m sure you’ve enjoyed the quizzes on the blog, and you’ll see more of it live in action, and as random teams come together to compete.

We are still looking for folks to take up various activities (If you are a good photographer, do let us know). So if you would like to help volunteer, the mailing list for the same is the first place to start, Have fun, keep your heads up high, and as we get together, let the voice that we always echo, echo once more – may the startups win!

PS: We’ll mostly be lurking around the venue starting tommorrow. Feel free to drop by and say hello. We do take encouragement in terms of homemade cookies too 😛 – Just kidding.

Create. Collaborate. Contribute. I think that’s pretty much the Mantra for the next step of Technology innovation for this country. Whoever came up with those three words must have been a genius 😛

All Jokes aside, those three words actually do sum up everything that we need in this place to build something that lasts and climbs up the ladder in terms of positioning in the global space.

Let me get to the concrete stuff. The Create, Collaborate and Contribute aspects first of all represent the Entrepreneurs, Industry and Investor Community and the Talent Pool. You could call them the three main facets of the innovation ecosystem – Idea. Money/Support. Talent. You have this in place – which is the bare essential – and the rest becomes fairly easier to manage.

There is also a second level of interaction in all this: The Collaborate bit. More than what I could ever say, Atul’s Talk at on what it takes to be a technology leader summed it up. If we want to even dream about getting to a point where we can dare take down some of the assumed leaders, we are gonna have to make a leapfrog in terms of how we think, evolve, develop and innovate. The crucial aspect in achieving that leapfrog will come from collaborating.

To Quote Atul on This:

If a country has to be seen as a technology leader, it would mean that its not in the sum, or the various companies like Infosys or Wipro who do well, and hence decide whether India is seen as a technology leader, but its more than that. It is essentially how various companies interact, how they leverage the resources of each other, rather than each company reinvent the wheel. If you have a strength in a particular area, and someone else in another – rather than sitting in corners and reinventing the wheel, collaborate. The minute you start doing that, you become bigger than the sum of your parts. If you start doing this in a national level, thats when people start to sit up and take notice of a leader.

I think engaging with the Startups, and the need for to bring them all under a common umbrella extends beyond just having the thrill of seeing the energy flow in the corridors of such meets. This is the first time in our history, after a long time, that we are in a position to set standards. This is the first time in a really long time that we are focused on building products and solutions, understanding the needs of the market. And as an entire community of “product centric” companies, it is this generation of startups that will define the next W3C, or GSM equivalent here in India to set the standards. Today we are mere consumers in the underlying technologies that power us. We build, but we build on top of what has already been defined by other markets. In a conversation with Veerchand Bothra, the man behind the MoMo movement in India, I was telling him the exact same words : “No longer do we have to say that we do not have the talent. No longer can we say that we dont have the subscriber base – we are one of the largest subscriber base for the mobile market and growing in the internet space. If we want to define something as to our whim, desire and convenience, we should be able to”.

If we really want to enable regional language SMS, embed regional fonts so that we can natively send them over air – rather than encoding on end devices like how its done – and we do come to this realization that we will need to define an SMS standard with 150 characters instead of the 140 that the world follows, just tell me… who stops us from doing it?

Collaborate, goes a little more than just companies collaborating. It goes to a systematic way of developing on top of what our peers are working on, building on our niches and strengths to deliver a unified platform that is extensible and available for all to use. If you need to think in terms of something which is already out there in the world, think of how the YUI came into place. Think of how the Ruby on Rails framework came into place. Someone developed it, someone else extended it, and a whole lot of people use it. Think about it from the Mobile, internet, and a much larger platform, and you’ll understand that the sum can truly be more than the greater than the parts. We’ve barely gotten there and when we do, there is much more fascinating things that we can expect.

There is a Telecom Professionals Group that is already in place which brings together some extremely talented folks in the telecom space to collaborate, share and build on that. Building standards is part of their agenda.

Navjot Pawera was spearheading an Internet Standards Team, and it had quite a bit of response. Will update soon with more details on that.
Update: The name is Gurugeeks. More Info here.

Rajiv Poddar started this group named Voice of VoIP right after the barcamp bangalore sessions with some of the hurdles in the VoIP Space. That’s quite an active group as of now. You can join the group here.

Any other Standards and Technology Collaboration Development teams that you are aware of?

That was the title of a talk that happened at the Fastrack Sessions of January Edition. Since we are sitting on three editions of fabulous talks, I thought I’d take the pains to transcribe them one at a time whenever i find the time so that the larger audience – some who didnt and couldn’t make it – could benefit from it.

Imagine a situation where a technologist is trying to showcase the iPhone. He goes through every step of the features of the phone, the gestures, the various user interface nuances of the device and the audience barely reacts. A little frustrated, the technologist tilts the phone to the side, and the picture aligns itself sideways, and the audience goes wild – almost giving him a standing ovation. We’ve seen this demo before, and we know what all an iPhone can do.

Case in point: Technology alone doesn’t fascinate. How it is packaged, and how it resonates with the audience and customer means a lot more. India lacks in that space, most times.

Read the Entire Transcript at the Blog here.

Hello Everyone,

We’ve been barely vocal about it, but it seems the nominations are coming in hard and fast from all sides this time. We wont be extending the deadline past the 1st of June, since we want to finalize on the finalists and start the mentorship and refining of the pitch, the business plan and link them up with a local mentor who can guide that company from a long term perspective even after is long over. That’s the kind of long term partnership, and association we want to be linked with. I am still involved with some of the companies that came to the first ever edition of, and looking back, I’ve enjoyed every bit of interaction and there is a joy in being part of a company’s journey, than a moment.

So, just as a reminder, the deadline for Nominations are June 1st. Anyday past that, and I doubt we could accommodate you for this edition. You are gonna have to wait for the next. one. For those of you who had nominated, you will hear of some response from us before June 10th. If you haven’t heard from us by the 15th, feel free to call me at my number 9894101373, and we can figure out if by some dreary mistake your nomination form got misplaced or mislodged somewhere.

Also as a note, I do want to remind you folks that companies that did submit in previous editions of and did not get selected can reapply. I am not sure how many folks are aware of this, but there are quite a few companies that had presented in the second and third editions of that got rejected in the first edition. We worked with them over time, and once their business and intentions were much more clearer, it makes for a much stronger case. The only thing that I’d like to ensure for the company is that they take the stage at the right time, when they have a strong case for them. So just a reminder, that previously nominated companies can most certainly reapply and we will take a look at it. Infact, we strongly encourage that evolution. But that said, do ensure that compared to the last time, you have progressed and you can count a few good things going for you, so that we wont be wasting time and building frustration rather than glee moments of going places.

The registrations for Attendees are already up and the seats are filling up fast. We’ve priced the entry fees quite appropriately this time so that we can invest into students and those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to make it to startup events. So do make a reservation for your seats fast. You can register here.

The upcoming week would be quite interesting as we announce the topics for the Fastrack Sessions, The lineup of companies, investors, bankers and prominent figures who would be coming for the event this time, the sponsors, the supporting organizations etc etc. There is quite a bit of excitement this time, and it clearly shows. There is a brand new spanking site which is coming up, which should also be up next week. Interesting week ahead. Do stay tuned.

Posted from: The Blog

So I’ve been through this roller coaster of a ride so far in these past four years working with Startups here in India. There seem to be seasons of issues that seem to “plague” an entrepreneur from starting off. First it was the funding, then it was the lack of mentors. Lately it has shifted to the struggles everyone is going through to hire people. But if you really think about it, none of these issues are unique to India alone. Everyone in Europe, and Asia are going through the same issue.

In the midst of all these dubious claims and silly excuses, I think there are issues that are unique to India and to the emerging market and we seriously need to think about it in terms of how we are going to tackle them. I think an Indian startup’s nightmare is not with funding, mentors or with talent. Its with the Early Adopters. Or the lack of them.

The theme of the sessions that we are planning for the upcoming edition of are all surrounded around the topic of Selling. I strongly believe that we’ve lost focus on actually making money and have decided to instead focus on the wallet of the investors that even the dead rat in our closet isn’t smelling anymore. Startups, or any company for that matter, need to sell. Sell their products or services and make money. If they don’t then we do have a problem – web2.0 or not.

But how does a startup go about doing all that? Do we understand as to what ‘cost of sales’ means? Do we know what is the differentiation between sales and marketing? Do we have any idea as to what is the acceptable marketing budget that a startup can afford to allocate? Do we know the best means to engage our early adopters? Ah, the last one is the killer and let me focus on that for the moment.

Whether you are a company who is building something for the web, the telecom sector, robotics, anything related to consumer hardware, you have a slight issue of gaining traction here in India. The mammoth of the corporates are essentially using their financial muscle to entirely skip the part where “the early adopters turn into influencers and create traction” and are heading directly to take up that responsibility on themselves. But can startups afford to do that? Can a startup even dare ask an investor for that sort of money to match up with the marketing power of the reliance and the likes? I hope not. In a sensible world, a startup cant.

The early adopters are always that 1% of the population. So in a country of a billion people, there are 10 million early adopters running around. Where are they? How do we get in touch with them? Is there a common access point where they all gather around? Is it the web? Is it the mobile platform? Is it television? One really doesn’t know.

What differentiates the Silicon valley from the rest of the world is not the money, the experience, the risk-appetite, the greed for quick bucks, the talent or any of whatever else you might say. or it might. But What really sets the Silicon Valley, and the US for that matter, apart is the density in which you find early adopters and how thanks to the revolution of the personal computers, the software industry, the two generations of internet applications, and the plethora of communication channels available, that it is a possibility to reach them.

So does focusing on the US instead of India solve the problem? Actually not. Most of the services and products that are built in India are also built for Indian customers (which also applies to all of the emerging markets). As such we need a emerging market which can adopt this technology/product early on and provide the relevant feedbacks which will go into the building up of that technology.

I cannot stress this enough, but if India needs to get an edge in innovation, it HAS to build this network of early adopters. We have already in someway made that possible in the pharmaceutical industry, also since health is personal and the network of closely linked doctors and hospitals make it relatively simpler. We are gonna have to wreck our brains to bring together a similar arrangement for the technology community. I know that the community of barcamps, MoMos, etc do have a relevant role in this scheme of things, but this is a topic that sure needs some thought.

Lets see, if in two months I can wrap my head around this, I might even talk about what I think needs to be done at, and even set a couple of things in motion to make that happen.

Related Articles:
Wikipedia: Early Adopter
Technology Adoption Curve

So, I need a new phone. That’s a given. Which one, is the issue.

As Always I’ve tried going through the list of things I’d like on the phone, and here they are:
1. I do check mail on the go, and do very much need it.
2. Ability to hop to a wireless lan when available would be great.
3. Should be type friendly.

Now My options are to go with an Apple Iphone, a Blackberry Curve, or a Sony Xperia.

I love the Apple Iphone, because its an Iphone – does anyone need any other reason than that? It obviously has a slick interface, and gmail on an Iphone is a dream come true. It is not quite push email, but I guess do whatever I am doing currently, and logon whenever I do find the time and catch up with emails. And the fact that it can hop to a wireless lan, and has an awesome screen space, is tempting enough.

The Cons:
1. Given as to how many text messages I shoot out – its much simpler to co-ordinate, remind and respond – the iphone’s interface seems very hard to do that. I have been practicing on the interface of the Ipod Touch, but its still very irky. Do things get better? Is there a way to calibrate the touch? Would like to know.
Read the rest of this entry »