Sunday, July 27, 2008

Inspirational lecture by Randy

Yet another inspirational and incredible lecture by Prof. Randy Pausch. If you have an hour of time, please watch it.

Randy is a professor at CMU and gave the following lecture when he came to know that he was going to die in a few more months. This talk is about his childhood dreams, how he could achieve them and followed by how he helped others to achieve their dreams. Interesting part of this lecture is that it is all fun. Amazing one and I strongly recommend you to watch it.

Similar inspirational lectures by JK Rowling and Steve Jobs are here

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cable TV, DTH, IPTV operators fights is good for consumers benefit!

Recently I came across a news that Aksh Broadband offering IPTV service in Mumbai. More details of it are follows.

Name of the service: iControl
Service launch date: Possibly from 23rd June, 2008
Refundable Deposit: 1000/-
Installation fee: 100/-
Broadband: MTNL connection is needed (which is almost impossible to get a new connection!)
Monthly fees: 100/- for 100 free channels
Pay-channel pricing: 5/- per channel and currently no pay channels exist
Features: Time shift, Video on Demand (200 movies in a year)
Offer: Video on Demand is free for the first year.
Issues: Currently, broadband connection on Alcatel or Ericsson ports is supported but not on SOTL port.
Booking contact number: 1500 or 126555

At last, monthly price for TV channels has come down to 100/- with great facilities.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cash card transactions are much higher in India. Why?

There are two types of e-commerce transactions on Internet. First, the consumer who makes the transaction on his behalf or family or for a friend and secondly an agent (ICT kiosks, Internet Cafes, etc) who completes the transaction on behalf of his customer.

Indian e-commerce industry minus IRCTC is almost like we are still in infancy stage. So it is clear that insights from IRCTC would help us in understanding the e-commerce trends. Fortunately, every month, IRCTC publishes actual statistics on transactions with complete details on its website.

If you observe statistics of any month, first thing is that you would wonder that cash card transactions are like 1/3 rd of total transactions (rest are credit or debit or netbanking). And in fact, cash card transactions growth rate is much higher than all other modes of payment. Then you start feeling like you have never heard of them anyone using it, but how come such large number of transactions?

Being an insider in this industry I would like to you give you a detailed story behind this wonder. First, let us see the business model of a cash-card company:

Platform: It is two sided. Cash-card companies just tie-up with numerous merchants/service providers (like telecom or ticketing etc). And later they start acquiring agents to use their technology platform. Typically these agents are: ICT Kiosks owners or Cyber cafes or computer education centers or the latest PCO/STD 2.0 etc.

Target Audience: Who all can’t goto a website and/or can't pay through credit or debit card for remote payments. This means, those agents become the middlemen between the remote customer and the service provider.

Commission: Most times, cash-card companies get discount from the service providers (usually 3% to 5%), a portion of which would be passed to their agents (for example air ticketing works in this manner!). Otherwise, customer is charged (for example, IRCTC don't give any commission to cash-card guys and so, agents would charge customers on top of the ticket cost).

Other revenues: Of course there could be a small percentage of direct consumers who would use the cash-card on web. But that is not what makes significant cash-flow for a cash-card company.

Future: So it is obvious that cash-card transactions would become much higher than credit or debit card transactions when cash card companies can acquire much more agents (in particular rural areas) along with more service providers (such as electricity/water distribution companies).


Now comes the biggest disclosure: In fact, strength of any payment card system lies with the following three points.
  1. They must tie up with as many merchants as possible.
  2. Technology/process that makes the consumer to use the card for payment.
  3. Card distribution should be efficient.
Now, how are the famous credit card companies (VISA or MasterCard) placed in the above points. Firstly they are accepted with innumerous merchants. Secondly consumer can use the card at merchant outlet or online or telephone or SMS or etc. Thirdly, Banks issue credit/debit cards to the consumers on behalf of VISA/Mastercard. Now coming to the costs of this ecosystem of digital payments is usually less than 5% of the value of the transactions (VISA, Banks, Merchants share this 5%). As the Mobile payments is getting matured, this value is getting closer to 3%.

Of course, companies involved in this payment ecosystem also have additional revenue through other value added services such as interest charged to the customer by providing them credit, etc.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Suggestions for Rediff, Sify, Indiatimes etc

For the past many years, I had some ideas regarding how to utilize e-mail service and offer various other services effectively. As I have weakness with my writing, I never put it down until last year. I wrote the following e-mail (November, 2007) to all top brass of Rediff.
I just would like to share few thoughts on Rediff's offerings to make it more competitive over other players like Google, Yahoo, Facebook etc.

The goal of any Internet company is make the users addicted to its services. Counting over 50 Million users, Rediff has great strategic advantage over its competitors having a specialized focus for Indian Internet users. Straight to the point, my observations are below:

1. Rediff should design a service similar to iGoogle where in, logged-in user would have all the offerings as widgets. This page should incorporate Web 2.0 features such as the following.

2. All widgets are available to the user on a single page(or multi-tabbed screens) and moreover he would have control over placing/ordering of those widgets.

3. When a user clicks on a widget for maximizing it, then the widget turns into a full-screened service (similar look of current offering). However on a specific corner, he would see more IMPORTANT STUFF of other services (I would explain this in the following notes).

4. By default, when a user logs into a particular service,say email, he would see the maximized screen of that particular widget (in the example scenario, it is email).

5. Each user would have a public profile and a private profile (this categorization can be increased to 3 or more, however let us stick to two types of profiles for the sake of explanation).

6. Public profile of an user contains all the widgets containing the services those he would like to share. This could be his personal photos, personal videos, Blogs, personal notes etc. Also remember, this includes the favorite stuff such as photos, videos, bookmarks, blogs etc all those but of others (content).

7. Common Private profile contains the stuff which the user would like to share exclusively with his personal friends.

8. Public profile content across all the services is searchable.

9. In any service, user has options to share with others. For example, while watching a video (ishare) he may would like to inform his friends as the video content is good and this should be through a "note from friend".

10. Also each widget can be customized by the user about its position/placing or other settings such as shared/unshared with a specific user.

11. On the usual e-mail screen, when the user moves the cursor over any email id (or on right click menu) he would be able to get many social network options such as "Add as my friend to profile, Scrap him, See his profile etc".

12. "Important stuff" which appear when the screen is maximized to a specific service are basically from the other services are: Scraps, Birthday Reminders, Updates on Friends private profiles, etc. "Notes from friends" could also be included here. This is the minimal line of
the total widgets page. Also these notes includes, chat applet and this could be a default option unless the user opts it out for a period.

13. Subscription to a particular service is by adding a widget. This procedure of addition is similar to iGoogle/Google Desktop gadgets.

14. Ads do appear in a particular fixed location of the screen.

15. When Rediff goes mobile, you can place the widgets as a linear list.

The goal of this is make all your services are interlinked with each other and the best, you would have at least 60 million user base for each of your offering. I believe that Google is having similar plans in mind in launching iGoogle. I came across a news that even yahoo has similar plans in this direction. However, specialized focus on Indian content would make Rediff to compete with global majors.
Surprisingly there was no reply from anyone of the top management at Rediff. Please wake up, don't be dumb!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Incredible and inspirational speeches by Steve Jobs and J.K.Rowling

The following speeches have profound effect on me. I listen them as many times as possible.

Steve Jobs is the founder of Apple, which has release many creative products such as iMac, iPod, iPhone. He has given an exceptional speech at Stanford University. Click here to download and listen it. Although I strongly recommend you to listen it but if you wish to read it then click here.

J K Rowling is the creater of famous, Harry Potter. She has also given an amazing speech at Harvard University graduation ceremony. Click here to download and listen it. Although I strongly recommend you to listen it but if you wish to read it then click here.

Generic methodology for recruitment

I used to hire software engineers, test engineers, documentation specialists, etc for my previous company, ControlCase India. I have followed the methodology mentioned below for all the new hires in that company.

  1. Understanding of concepts: Check the candidate whether he could understand well-enough which he claims to have been.
  2. Explanation skill: Can he explain the things which he understood?
  3. Problem solving through construction: If he does not know a concept, can he pick-up things when given hints?
  4. Drive for quest: Does he wait for hints when stuck-up or he has passion for do-it-self?
  5. Suitatability to Job profile: Does he have sufficient skills for the job that he applied?
  6. Matching candidate aspirations: Does ControlCase match his aspirations of learning new technologies?
  7. Suitability of pay-out: Is the candidate worth of his expectations monetarily?
  8. Ethics: Does he follow ethics?
  1. Passion for experimenting: Does he have interest in experimenting new things?
  2. Helping tendency in non-core: Can he help us in things which his job profile does not require?
  3. Timing flexibility: Is he available as and when need arises?
  4. Friendly nature: Is he interested in collaborative environment?
  5. Adjustable mentality: Can he adjust with our facilities if we can't provide of his choice?
  6. Minimal dependency: Can he take initiatives way-forward or waits for assistance?
  7. Long-sighted philosophy: Does he want to collaborate with ControlCase for short-term or long-term?
You may then like to ask me how I should check all these in such short interviews/tests. For more details in this regard, you may contact me (my contact details are mentioned on the top of the side-bar of this blog).

Soapnut: The best soap & conditioner, also natural!

Note: This was originally posted in my other blog on Rural India. As it seems to be very unrelated to the context of that blog, I am posting it here.

I have been using Soapnut (or Ritha or Kunkudu kaaya) from my childhood. It is simply the best. It is very popular in South India. In particular, rural andhra pradesh people use soapnut for taking headbath (a bath that includes washing the hair on the head). Many other parts of India, soapnut is used for cleaning the jewelery or precious metals.

I have seen small companies selling soapnut powder but it is not effective. I think, innovation is needed in order to extract the juice of soapnut and preserving it. So it is a wonderful business opportunity to make soapnut into a liquid format for selling it as liquid soap/shampoo.

Other personal observations:

  1. Telugu & Tamil people take headbath once in a week unlike elsewhere wherein bath includes washing the hair as well!
  2. Soapnuts available in Andhra is fine for eyes however, soapnuts of elsewhere may hurt the eye during the bath.
  3. I did an experiment for the past 12 years by not drying the hair after my headbath. Traditional belief is that one may face the risk of catching cold then. However, my observation is that one may face the risk of dandruff but not catching cold.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Copyrights of the contents of this blog

For the past few days, I have been writing regularly on this blog (I do have many more blogs). Can you believe this? Even though I maintain such a large blog, I don't know to write. Reason is simple, I avoided writing from my school life. However I had a good habit of reading Telugu (my mother tongue) books (I am damn far from English ones, even now!). So it becomes very difficult to write my thoughts. Although I speak with friends on various things but never had the habit of writing.

Two years ago, I found few ways to my problem. I felt like text-chatting with someone would make me to write more and more in order to get used to it. However, chatting made me bored except with my closest friend, who has purchased a mobile on my insisting and so my dream of practicing 'writing' ended. Next, I thought I would tell all my thoughts to the same closest friend, who would write them. Unfortunately that person has written some of those what I mentioned but never revealed to me. Later I thought I would have an assistant. I could not find one due to my laziness. Technology is so poor that voice recognition softwares are not yet ready. And so, the problem is remained till few days ago as it was.

After all these days (a little less than 30 years of life), seriously I decided that I will learn to write. Again reason is simple. Reading and writing are the two things which can make any human so much powerful on both accounts, inside and outside. I am always very slow in learning, practically anything. I learn stuff using the method of repetition. 'It is never too late' is the statement many times we hear. I don't know how many practices it but I am, on most occasions.

Can you believe my trick here, going forward, I have stopped talking much. As I love talking, I continuously do it all the time. But from now, I would interact with people using writing. If you are a regular reader of my blogs, then you must be aware that I do experiments on myself. And yes, this is also one of such experiment. You will see the results of this experiment by observing the date/time of the posts on this blog.

Due to this weakness of mine, I have not been replying to comments for long time on most occasions. One of such comment made me to write this post. That is about copyrights of this blog.

You can freely copy or distribute any of the blog-posts here and moreover you can even remix them but with one condition that you must attribute the original source. Yes, you must have guessed it by now. I am talking about Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 India License.

All is well that ends well. So be happy for the change in license.

Tricks to interact with females

I used to feel that anyone can interact with females as one does with males. However, I was grossly mistaken.

For the large part of my life (27 years), I always kept myself away from females. However, during the last three years, I have interacted with many many females which I started as an experiment. Most of my interactions are on mobile phone or over Internet. So, in some sense, I had restricted relations. However I learnt a lot during those interactions. Here I present them as tricks in order to make you comfortable during the communications with any female.
  1. There are formulae to impress girls. Start believing this ;)
  2. Girls like reading more than talking, so start writing them (in particular, whenever there is a trouble)
  3. Girls like references. So you must note your experiences with her in order to recall them later (in particular, during troublesome days). Yes, you must have guessed right! they live in web 2.0 world, wherein labels are most important.
  4. Never insist girls to share unless they voluntarily do. However you can try to find out through puzzle/quiz sort of games.
  5. Girls love to share so many things if they start becoming close to you. Never underscore nor comment. But just listen.
  6. Girls usually like any of ice-creams/ toys/ music/ chocolates/ books/ arts/ pets. Try to impress them with these.
  7. Whenever possible, learn to gift her. It could be any simple thing like "writing a poem" or "a physical gift" or "doing small things for her". Also don't forget to mention them as gifts!
  8. Learn to praise.
  9. Girls usually are sensitive and get moved by the social problems (surprisingly, not many love to solve them). So you need to have concern for social issues.
  10. Although girls provide full support to their counterparts but you should never be dependent on your girl and on the other hand, you must assure her full support when she needs you.
  11. Usually girls believe in sentiments. Never hurt them.
  12. What they tell and what they mean is different. You must understand the actual meanings through the experience.
  13. Girls love surprises. You must find a way to do them regularly.
  14. Girls love dreams/imaginatory or childish world. Never comment on them and take them as sportive.
  15. Girls like to do things multi-tasking mode. Never bother about it.
  16. Girls like someone who is very different. However, we can't guess that the qualities, which make you to be a different one, can be liked by a particular girl or not!
  17. These days, most girls are aspirational! If you support them in their interests, you would be highly regarded in their life.
In my previous post I did explain a major reason for difference between males and females. Please understand that these observations are generic and your girl might be a different female.

Acknowledgments: I must thank all those girls who helped me to learn some of the most interesting lessons in my life. I did more like an academic experiment and in any case, I would also like to say "sorry" for the inconvenience caused during my interactions. Best thing is that I stopped such experiments.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Health Tips

I usually do experiments on myself. In a way, I learn a lot of things. I would mention some of those related to health here.
  1. Psychology is the most important thing in any medical treatment. I have written a detailed post on this in my rural India blog.
  2. After having bath, if you don't wipe off the water then you feel fresh for longer time.
  3. Sleep and food are two critical things for your health. You need to have them at right time and regularly.
  4. It is very easy to have good food in my case, I asked my maid to cook everyday a different "curry" (subji) for continuously 15 days. Then repeat happens.
  5. I always take fresh fruit juices or salad whenever others prefer to have soft/alcoholic drinks.
  6. Instead of going to Gym, I rather would love to play or go for a trek just because I love to do them.

Friday, June 06, 2008

How to find number of blog subscriptions via Google Reader?

Today, I came to know that this blog is not subscribed by single person via Google Reader :( . However, my Rural India blog has 31 readers (Via Google Reader). You may wonder how do I get these numbers!

First have a Google id, wherein Google Reader subscriptions are lesser than 40. Goto Google Reader website and click on Trends on right menu. They you find "Subscription trends" for the last 30 days. Under this, most obscure tab provides you the number of subscribers. And finally click on 40 tab to view more.

Update: I observed it can also be seen directly after subscription by clicking "Show Details" on right corner.