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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Summary of Posts-May 2008

This post gives a quick summary of all posts publishing during this month. Thought this might help those who don’t visit on a regular basis
Lists a dozen reasons why network marketing and MLM companies won’t usually last a long term. Be sure to read this post to understand what all goes wrong with these companies.
Gives quick outline of the storyline, tell you some logical and factual mistakes I found in the book.
An experience account of me live blogging at WebInnovation Summit in Mumbai earlier this month
SBI had denied me student account during my engineering days-Recently opened an account with that bank and this post is a recap of old memories.
Excerpts from a talk given at Webinnovation08 Summit giving an overview of challenges involved in finding a venture capitalist for your startup
Lists few new updates which I missed in an earlier post about my participation at MMSC 08
Explains that none of the travel websites are giving cheapest air tickets and one should buy directly at airline website for lowest fare.
A few notes from a quick Mumbai trip I had earlier this month
Few quick lines on importance and usage of Ganji
Few updates from the Pondy visit I had earlier this month with JNVC batch mates
A quick reminder to everyone including myself that this blog has survived for 2 years and rolling...

Monday, May 26, 2008

2nd anniversary-Belated anniversary wishes to my blog

While talking with Raveesh today realized that I have missed second anniversary of this blog. On May 22nd this blog completed 2 years of existence. In one my earlier posts this month I had written about the upcoming birthday but forgot on the celebration day.

Better late than never, belated 2nd happy birthday to my blog...

Here's the first post that was published 2 years ago. Two years of blogging was great experience-Given that there're bloggers around us who are into blogging since as early as 1998-2000, me still an infant in this arena. Nevertheless blogging did take me to couple of places (Coorg, Manipal and Mumbai) and allowed me to have an online identity for myself. More than 200 people visit this blog daily with couple of them leaving their comments behind. (This is relatively smaller number compared to blogs that get thousands of hits every day-still I am happy with this, given that I don't spend much time on this and haven't made any serious promos-for past 6-9 months avg visitors per day is between 200-250-Not crossing that benchmark-don't know why). enidhispeaks.blogspot.com had reached a PR of 4 but lost it after moving to own domain. Waiting for next Google PR revision.

Because of my posts on network marketing etc I am sure there are quite a few souls angry with me as well, but I have also made some very good friends through this and have leveraged the potential of blog for real life benefits, though there weren't any significant income from it (such as by ads).

Thanks to each one of you for your readership, comments and encouragement. Looking forward for your continued support.

Related: Post written on first anniversary * Ups and downs during my blogging

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The 3 mistakes of my life-Chetan Bhagat-book review

Bought the recently released Chetan Bhagat’s “The three mistakes of my life” from Odessy and finished reading in Half a day. Here’s a quick book review and some flaws I found in the book.
Chetan Bhagat
Just like the previous Chetan Bhagat books, 5 point someone and 1 night @ call centre, the three mistakes of my life also makes an interesting reading-Is a story of 3 Gujarati youngsters in first person narration of Govind Patel . Stated to be based on real incidents and syncs with real life incidents like Gujarat earthquake, 9/11 attack, Godhra sabotage and riots etc, as well as some cricket matches. The book effectively portrays the thinking process that goes on in young minds and clubbed with unique style of Chetan’s storytelling and effective customization with local culture, events etc makes an excellent read.
Quick outline of the story:

Story-line runs in 3 tracks:Govind Patel is a young Gujarathi boy who has scored centum in Mathematics and aspires to be a great business man. He sets up a sports goods shop with his friend and partner Ish and Omi. Ish is a cricket fanatic, a district level player turned coach. Omi is from a priest family but not interested in becoming a priest. Track-One is how Govind aspires big, manages to grow his business and goes through its ups and downs. Gujarath earthquake ruining his over 1 lakh investment for a shop in a newly built mall is termed mistake number 1.the 3 mistakes of Chetan Bhagat book cover pageGovind also gives maths tuitions to earn money and he is asked to give tuition to Ish’s sister. Vidya needs some help understanding maths and Govind becomes her private tutor. Track 2 is how their private tuition progresses to friendship, love and more, before finally getting caught by Ish resulting in collapse of their friendship and Govind branded as a traitor. Govind violating an unwritten protocol & falling in love with his best friend’s sister is termed mistake number 2.

Ish spots a young Muslim boy named Ali who due to superfast reflex able to make mental calculations at unbelievable speeds using which he can hit sixes of every ball. The third track of the story line is as to how they struggle to make this gifted boy a superstar, buy coaching him, taking him to Australia and protecting him during communal riots. A split second delay by Govind in making a specific move which could have saved Ali from a hit is termed mistake number 3.

Are these really qualify as mistakes? All of us lose money due to bad decisions and unexpected circumstances. Most of us fall in love (one sided at least) and at some point in our life we do think and act selfish. Not feeling anything unique about these mistakes. What do you feel?
Book gives real near life description of why many students hate maths, a kind of inside view of election politics and Gujarath riots, the challenges and differences people face while chasing big dreams and more, all in all giving you your money's worth. The story begins with Govind writing an email to Chetan after consuming sleep pills as a suicide attempt due to his 3 mistakes. Chetan finds and meets this guy and story begins from a flashback. Excluding the death of several people during riots (including Omi, his cousin and Mama) the story otherwise has an happy ending.

My most interesting lines from the book-
Page 86-Vidya and Govind go to market to buy guidebooks for former’s exam
“What is this?-Vidya said as she tried to lift the book with her left hand. She couldn’t. She used both her hands and finally took it six inches off the ground. ‘No seriously, what is this? An assault weapon?” -I will discuss this topic in little more detail in a separate post soon.
Because the story is supposed to be based on real incidents, I found few odd things in the story:
The 3 mistakes of Chetan Bhagat-in this book
Mistake OneThe whole Ali story looks suspicious to me-here’re my points:
a. Can anyone really fool an entire set of stadium officials with one VIP visiting card? Ali is taken to Goa stadium and Govind flashes a visiting card to the security guard, stating he is a rich businessman and wants to get an Australian player as brand ambassador. Security guard in turn consults a set of officials and lets them in to VIP stand after detaining Omi. Isn’t that ODD? When VIPs visit some places do guards detain someone from their team? Stadium officials just let them sit in VIP stand? Why didn’t they introduce these people to someone from the team-say team manager or someone for further talks? When a business man wishes to hire a celebrity for endorsement they approach the celebrity through proper channels-not by bumping into them while they play. Throughout the storyline no one else (Indian and Australian press, neighbourhood elders etc) notices Ali’s ability?


b. 30 mins after the match these guys take over the stadium and let Ali face 6 balls-No one ever questioned them/noticed Ali’s ability to hit sixes? Ground staff, photojournalists, management, Aussi/Indian team members, security...

c. Govind orders passport and visa on phone with a travel agent as if he is ordering a domestic air ticket-That is odd-passport takes nearly 2 months to arrive and includes police verification and other formalities. A schoolboy from a small town goes to Australia and no one around knows the purpose? (local press, neighbors, school staff, friends etc)

I somehow feel Govind might have just told “we tried to show Ali to Australian team” and Chetan cooked up rest of the story, including Australia visit.

Mistake Two
Page 214 of the book says they watched riot scenes on NDTV. Godhra incident and subsequent riots happened in feb 2002 while NDTV 24x7 and NDTV India were launched on 14 April 2003 (Proof)Certainly they couldn’t have seen Godhra riot scenes on NDTV-must have been some other channel but Chetan just mentioned NDTV. 
(Note: New Delhi TeleVision(NDTV)  was operating as a content provider for other channels-they didn't have their own channel in 2002. May be we can give a benefit of doubt to Chetan)
Mistake Three
a. During 2000-2002, mobile phones were not that common. They were just making their presence felt but hadn't reached the mass. Rich people flaunted it while upper middle-class had, may be one cell phone per family. In this story almost all characters carry a mobile, which sounds a bit unusual. 

b. Earthquake is not end of everything-A clever business man like Govind couldn’t think of options like-seeking refund from Mall owner (of advance rent and deposit paid) or compensation from insurance money etc? Or wasn’t the mall built again post earthquake? Govind could have claimed his space then?
Verdict: Read Chetan’s books as if you’re watching Bollywood movie. Might be entertaining for the duration you spend watching/reading but not much room for logic/reasoning. Narration is excellent, retains "what will happen next?" momentum and the book is economically priced (Rs. 95) Keep your thinking hat aside, read, enjoy, move on.

CB is also marketing this book smartly by triggering a referral scheme-Read first few pages of the book and refer 3 friends to read another few pages...

Note: Author's photo sourced from his official website. Chetan Bhagat on Wikipedia here

My other book reviews: 
* Book Review-it happened in India by Kishore Biyani 
* Book Review- Not a penny more not a penny less- Jeffrey Archur 
* Book Review-Merchants of Deception- Eric Scheibler
* Music Book reviewRaga Chintamani
* The Incredible Banker & Devils in Pinstripes(Ravi Subramanian)
* 2 States-Chetan Bhagat
* She's a jolly good fellow (Sajita Nair)
* Calendar too crowded
* Fate, Fraud and Friday -Bhavna Rai

Friday, May 23, 2008

12 Reasons why MLM Companies go bad!

With Chennai Police opening investigations on QuestNet/Goldquest MLM company, operations of such companies which promise an easy wealth creation for everyone involved, are again under scanner. Hundreds of network marketing companies are operating in India, each calling itself unique, genuine and best. Each of them may have their pros and cons and while we may not have specific legal backing to term their operations illegal, caution is advised before getting associated with these companies. In this post, let us see the key differences between a traditional company and network marketing company and some typical reasons why most of the MLM/NM companies face trouble over a period of time.

A traditional business
1.Investors pump money, employees put effort, management uses investor's money, convert's employee skill into product/service, sells it to customer who pays. This money is used to pay salary and dividend.
2.Investor's interest is protected by market regulators like SEBI, employee interests are protected by labour laws, consumer's interest is protected by consumer laws. Each of these stake holder have an option and flexibility of exiting any time.
3.Good management skills are required to maintain a sustainable balance between investors, employees and customers
4.After sometime system becomes self sustainable, without needing additional investment/workforce
5.Usually addresses an existing market demand


NM/MLM Business

1.Members pump in money, promote the business, buy the products, only to get a small fraction of money he and his down liners pump in
2.While member does all work as investor, employee and customer, his interests are protected by none and has no exit option (without losing money)
3.Only motivational skills are required to ensure that new and new members continue to get recruited
4.Continuous enrollment of new members is required to keep the system running. There is no recycling of money-Only collecting it from new recruits and distributing a fraction among up-liners
5.Demand is often created forcefully


Having noted the key differences, here are some typical developments which lead MLM companies to trouble..

During early stages, all goes well and it will be difficult to sense the trouble ahead. Because most of the companies will have some products to cover their money schemes, because there’re no laws which declare this kind of operations illegal, because MLM promoters manage to get some high profile persons on board to show their credibility all goes well during early years. As the idea is new it spreads like wildfire and thousands of people would sign up every day. Obviously few early joiners make huge money in this process and seeing them buying luxury homes and cars only propels the greed of new joiners who start promoting the scheme with all new energy and aggression. But then, market reaches a kind of saturation and it won’t be possible to enroll new people, at the rate it was possible in the early years.

This is when the trouble begins. The concept of MLM survives on the belief that the chain continues to grow sine die in a never ending fashion and existing people do not leave. But unfortunately this won’t happen. As the saturation is neared, desperate members start resorting to unethical practices with a sheer greed of making quick money. Some examples of unethical practices are as below:

1 Telling prospects “You just invest the money, I will bring more people and enroll them under you-you don’t have to do anything”-Someone who invested because of assuring words like above of their friends would feel cheated if their friend fails to recruit people under him, resulting in loss of his investment

2 Telling “Use your credit card 1 to make payment now-after 50 days use balance transfer facility and transfer the balance to second credit card-you’ll get 3 months time this way by which you can get your money back” But in most cases the member won’t be earning his investment back within first few months. Besides losing money he’ll also end up paying hefty credit card interest and this results in direct rage against the company and his up line who suggested such an approach.

3 Members investing their own money on behalf of others-Sometime, for specific reasons, members pay on behalf of their down line (Because both legs need to be balanced or because a person thinks his friend is very much capable of signing up people or other reasons) and sign-up people for free. This kind of approaches may not give expected results adding to frustration.

4 Hiding facts: Many people hide several disturbing facts while giving presentation, because their sole objective is to sign you on the spot. Some facts which are never disclosed: Both side needs to be balanced, maximum payable amount, annual charges, cancellation/refund policies, ongoing legal cases and other negative news, minimum amount of money you’re expected to bring in (by referring people under you) to get back your money, what rights you have/do not have as a member etc. Some of these facts people will discover, sooner or later and that will give a sense of betrayal.

5 Forcing people- Ideally you should tell both positive and negative aspects of the business and let the person take his own time to decide. But more often than not, prospects are given only the positive side and are often forced to sign up on the spot. Hypnotic environment conducted by the up-line and faith in their friends may make people sign up on the spot but they may repent later for that.

6 Company not taking action against members involving in unethical practices- Ideally, a company is expected to terminate membership of those who use unethical business to promote the business. But we seldom hear such news. As long as money flows in, company doesn’t really bother about the approach used. (they will have a well crafted fine print to protect themselves in case something goes wrong). Only when things go out of control (like when someone files police complaint), they look for some scapegoats.

7 Drop in company’s efficiency-Most of the companies operate promptly during initial years, by sending out checks and products in time. As members get their check and product on time they build a trust and advocate on behalf of the company to their friends. But after few years, when member base grows beyond control, some companies fail to maintain the same efficiency- Products do not reach in time and checks take forever to come. If this happens, credibility starts falling and bad words spread real fast.

8 Inducing cultism: Gradually, up line try to exercise an influence on their down line even in areas not related to business. Some examples: Encouraging down-line to quit his main job and take MLM full time, setting targets and pressurizing them to meet the same, discouraging members from using competitor products (even when they are cheaper and better than MLM one),forcing down-line to attend meetings and seminars, humiliating those who do not show enough commitment or question things and so on

9 Bad policies-Most of the companies do not offer any of the following- a proper refund policy (If only they can provide a simple option where unhappy people can surrender their membership/product and get their money back, most of the problem would have been avoided), a vigilance team to ensure its members don’t promote the idea in unethical ways by making false promises, an active customer support cell to address member grievances. Add to these, some network marketing cos have rules that stipulate that you need to keep spending a certain minimum amount every year (in the name of membership fee, product purchases etc,) even when you are not earning a penny out of the scheme.

10. Ignoring early warning signs-Because of the unquestionable faith (shall I say Cultism) members develop towards their company, up-line and its business model, early signs of warning, even if detected by few in time, are often suppressed and ignored. Beliefs that “That can’t happen to me” or “he failed because he didn’t work hard” or “there must have been some misunderstanding-everything is fine” or “this is a small issue-we’ll get over it” etc keep members hooked to their dream. Only when things go totally out of control they wake up to the reality. Lot of trouble can be saved if members maintain an open mind to question and verify any negative news that they come across, without any prejudice.

11 Management: When something goes wrong on a big scale, promoters of network marketing companies often prefer to close their business and after sometime open shop under a new identity. They got their money, so it won’t be in their interest to stand up and support its people. When Questnet was banned in SriLanka, company should have offered to refund money to those who joined recently,(instead they silently left and after sometime opened a new shop-Lotus marketing) when Chennai Police are investigating QN, Datuk Vijay Eswaran could have flown in and explain the police and public why his company is legitimate and be allowed to operate. Instead, promoters often chose to stay away, letting some agents become scapegoats sinking huge money of thousands of people.

12. (NEW) Kingpin agents trying to spin off their own MLM company: Some key distributors/members, who are high up in the chain and have made a fortune in the business realize that they could make much more money if they were the owners of a MLM company than be its members. With the experience gained they feel like spinning off their own company- Some exit silently while few may make an attempt to spoil the name of parent company, so that the downline will be discouraged to do business with parent company and join their newly formed MLM company.

Note: All companies may not face all the above issues, must most of them do at some time or the other. These are general observations-some companies may take exception w.r.t. certain points.

Update: Few former Questnet members have started blogging about their experience. Read it here , here

Monday, May 19, 2008

SBI finally accepts me as a customer

Country’s leading Bank, State Bank of India (SBI), has finally accepted me as its customer.

My first contact with SBI dates back to year 2001, when I approached NR Colony Branch (Bangalore South) of SBI with my uncle (who had an account there) and we met the branch manager with a request to open an account. I had just joined an engineering college then and was new to Bangalore. The branch manager refused outright to open an account in my name. His reason for rejection was this-“Students don’t keep any money in their account-it is not economical for us to operate such accounts. We already have hundreds of such dead accounts. Sorry we don’t want another one”. Despite my assurance that I would maintain the required minimum balance he was not willing to listen and we had to leave. May be he was right in his views, but what he forgot was that students of today will be professionals tomorrow and some of them would even reach the status of HNI (High net worth Individuals). Allowing children to open an account is an easiest way to catch them young and treating them well would ensure a customer for life. Unfortunately that respected branch manager wasn’t trained to understand that.

SBI Logo

SBI is not the only bank in town. Eventually I opened my account in the newly opened Bsk 2nd stage branch of AXIS Bank (then UTI Bank). I was one of the first few customers for that branch and bank staff used to remember my name and welcome me with name every time I visit the branch. I hardly had Rs 1000 in my account but they treated me as if I have kept millions there.

An experience: One evening 7 pm while buying some books I swiped my debit card, but no slip came out. Shopkeeper told there must be some problem and I paid in cash. On my way back I checked in ATM, money was debited. I panicked and asked the security guard outside the bank to let me in so that I could complain about this to the bank staff. It was 8 pm and those guys were still working in the bank. After checking with the manager security allowed me in. In full tensed mind (as I had lost around 800 Rs) I explained them that shopkeeper swiped my card, but no slip came out and I had to pay in cash but now money is debited… The bank staff calmed me down (I really feel sorry I do not remember their names now to give credit) and explained me that if I have not signed the slip no payment will be made to the shopkeeper and transaction will be reversed. I felt relaxed and had a peaceful sleep that night.

Unlike traditional banks there was no need to run from counter to counter and one executive would address all requirements at his desk. It was a really great experience dealing with that bank (though after few years the staff changed and with thousands of account holders personal attention is a history now)

Couple of years down the line (me still ‘student’) my cousin opened student account at NR Colony SBI branch (may be the bank changed its policies or the new manager was liberal enough). Because national banks charged much less fee for Demand draft and outstation cheque clearances, it was still economical to operate an account with a traditional bank, despite the inconveniences, vis-à-vis modern banks (I am speaking of year 2003-At par clearance was nonexistent then-Once I submitted Rs 2000 ICICI bank cheque issued in Mysore for remittance in UTI bank Bangalore-UTI Bank charged Rs 125, ICICI Bank ate Rs 50, I lost 9% of the cheque amount- Rs 175 for no fault of mine-Nationalized banks charges much less for such services).I had another account at the Vijaya Bank extension counter in my college but they used to take 2 working days to deliver a DD (as they have to get it from main branch). I decided to try my luck again and went to SBI Padmanabha Nagar branch. The branch manager there was willing to let me open an account but only if I can get reference from a person who holds an account at that branch. I didn’t know anyone having an account there(May be I should have sought reference from Ravi Belgere or Devegowda who live nearby), so opted out. I could have gone back to NR Colony branch and tried my luck again, but I didn’t feel like going there or to other traditional banks which wouldn’t let me open an account with respect.

Next couple of years I managed without depending on SBI or any other traditional banks. After I got my job, Salary account was opened with ICICI and everything is running smoothly since then. Each time a DSA tried to sell me a SBI credit card all the above would flashback in my mind.

Recently I felt like opening a PPF (Public Provident Fund) account. Opening this account gives some unique advantages like tax exemption etc. Unfortunately one can’t open this type of account in any bank-one needs to go to certain designated banks only. For TamilNadu this was SBI Bank, so if I had to open a PPF account I had to approach SBI. With erstwhile memories intact I visited nearest SBI branch. I didn’t have much expectations and expressed my interest of opening a PPF account. The lady at the counter gave the forms with a smile. After few days I went back with necessary documents and the same lady asked if I wanted to open a Savings account also. I told her SBI has rejected me twice from opening an account years ago citing sundry excuses. She smiled and said anyone above 10 years of age can open an account and mantra of the banks these days is to focus on younger generations. (not that I didn’t know that) I said “OK, let me open one” and she held out another set of forms. I filled the forms, made some deposit and in 20 mins I was their customer. No reference, no waiting for weeks, no bad treatment as if they are doing me a favor by allowing me to open an account there. Single window service with a smile, quick and efficient.

This is the saga of how country’s top bank finally got a chance to serve me…LOL. It was a good feeling experiencing the changes in Banking sector.

I just want to meet that NR Colony ex branch manager and show him my welcome kit. Where is he?

Similar posts: ICICI Cashback offer * My teenage investment experiences * Journalism Experiences * Saving money on air travel

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Want cheapest air tickets? -book direct on airline website

Do you book your airline tickets through travel aggregators like makemytrip (MMT), Ezeego1,Yatra, Flightraja, cleartrip etc? All of them claim they give you lowest airfare. Some of them offer an “upto 50% cash back offer” when paid through a ICICI platinum and other specific credit cards. Because these websites book several tickets everyday they must be getting some discount from airlines and ideally should pass on a part of it to end users (customers who buy tickets from them). But truth seems to be otherwise.

After preliminary inspection I found that booking direct on airline website is cheapest option, as most of the travel sites quoted slightly higher than airline website.

Some random sample data for your quick information:

One way trip- Origin: Chennai , Destination: Mumbai, Date 23rd May 2008 Indigo flight 6E-422

Fare at airline website: Rs 3174 MMT- Rs 3249 Cleartrip-Rs 3276 Ezeego1-Rs 3301 Yatra- Rs.2,959 (Rs 99 + Rs 2,860 taxes & fees)

One way, Origin: Mumbai, Destination: Kolkata, Date 31st May 2008 Jet Airways 9W-211

Fare at airline website: Rs 6800 (4075+2350+225+150) MMT- Rs 6855(4050+2805)Cleartrip-Rs 6855 Ezeego1-Rs 7025 Yatra Rs.6,835 (Rs 4,075 + Rs 2,760 taxes & fees)

One way, Origin: Delhi, Destination: Chennai, Date 26st May 2008 Kingfisher IT 234

Fare at airline website: Rs 5200 MMT- Rs 6325 (Rs 3525+2800) Cleartrip-Rs 6352- Ezeego1 Rs. 6472-Yatra-Rs 6335 (Rs 3,575 + Rs 2,760)Flightraja

Feel free to explore on your own to see if they really offer lowest fare.

So, in conclusion, none of the travel sites give you lowest fares. So why are all these site claiming of cheapest offers? The 50% cash back is even bigger joke. Cash back is on base fare only-you’ll get 49 Rs back on Rs 99 base fare, after few months. Even after cash back the fare is expensive than airline direct quote.

My advice: Refer to any of the travel site, select the flight you find convenient, then go to website of that airline and do the booking. (you may also use ixigo.com or yahoo fairchase)

Most of us won’t have patience to check price at multiple sites and chose lowest one. We blindly select one of the above sites and book the ticket. The only advantage, if any is that these travel aggregators may save some time (which otherwise might have been spent typing credit card number and other details at multiple places) as you can do multiple tasks at one place. If you don’t mind paying a small premium for that then go for it.

Also note: If you had to reschedule/cancel the flight, getting a refund from these travel sites will be a nightmare. Those who have used IRCTC for online railway ticket reservation know that IRCTC has an extremely efficient cancellation mechanism. Amount will be promptly credited back within days if you cancel the ticket. If IRCTC can offer such a smooth technology enabled reservation cancellation facility why can’t these travel sites (including most of the airline websites) give the same? Why customer is expected to make several phone calls (STD calls in many cases) to travel sites customer care? Why the advanced technology (like online payment) is used only to take your money and when it comes to refund your money why should you use age old idea of calling through telephone?

Same with hotel rooms- Call the hotel directly and insist on a corporate discount-you are very much likely to get it at a rate far cheaper than what is offered on the travel sites.

March 2009 update: I made an attempt to communicate with cleartrip through their twitter account. But didn't get any reply to my question in which I asked why cleartrip rates are 5-10% expensive than airline fares... Ixigo.com and Yahoo Fairchase (http://in.farechase.yahoo.com/) seem to give exact fares from airline websites.

Similar: Caution about Super markets * Hyderabad-Bangalore-Chennai by bus * My Kingfisher Experience * Fly for free on Indigo

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Manipal Visit – Other updates

This is a sequel to my previous post on visit to Manipal for Manipal Bloggers’ meet and Manipal Media Students’ convention, MMSC ‘08

Some photos of the event are available on Flickr here.

Some random thoughts:

Mohan spoke about the idea of Blogathon (coined from Blog+Marathon), where all bloggers would blog about a specific issue on a given day. Do you like that idea? I couldn’t see much merits in it-yes, it may give thousands of different perspective on a given issue as thousand minds would key down their thoughts, but as a reader, will you have patience to read thousands of blog posts on same topic? One would get tired/bored before finishing 5th post on same topic. I certainly don’t want to read same topic on all blogs. Will it succeed in creating some awareness (as all blogs try to draw your attention to a specific topic)- I don’t know. As a reader if I see same topic on all blogs that day I would probably close the browser and do something else-what is your idea on blogathon?

Another person (sorry I forgot the name) spoke on why people stop blogging- Anne Zeidi asked a simple question-what is the problem if someone stops blogging? I too don’t see anything wrong if people stop blogging. Do you? With 80 posts being published every second, let us not force people to blog.

Nobody talked on SEO, though it was part of agenda. If there was a requirement I could have talked on that.

Due to time shortage KenneyJacob volunteered to opt out of his talk on Campus Blogging. Nithya Dayal talked about piracy (she runs a music website muziboo.com) Talk on piracy resulted in statements like several singers gained star status as their songs reached millions through piracy and that companies like Microsoft unofficially encouraging piracy and more-great topic to debate upon. Siva spoke on Internet Society Chennai Chapter-I registered at their website but yet to explore the potential of this organization.

Unlike Webinnovation08 where sponsoring companies took good amount of stage time, presence of sponsors was hardly felt here, except some banners and brochures. On day 2 I asked for Times Of India (a sponsor) and I was given The Hindu. All participants were sent a campus18 registration mail-me yet to open that. In fact Mr. Kamat appreciated these students ability to get funding from so many companies-“Next time I want money for a event from sponsors I’ll call you guys” he said in an appreciative tone.

Met Priyam Malhotra who is building muftware.com a website which promises to list free alternative to every paid software in the world. He is a Microsoft beta tester and happily calls himself a geek. He showed me an interesting video on how Linux is better than vista…

The talk on "why new media is not new" by Lawrence Liang was interesting, though his slides were full of small sized text and difficult to follow. What he said was basic sense-what is new today will soon be old someday and those we call 'old' now were new once upon a time...but he gave several interesting examples in this context

The event continued till late evening but I had to leave to catch my train. Missed some action because of this.

ಮಣಿಪಾಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಕನ್ನಡ ಎಲ್ಲಿದೆ?

ನಾನು ಗಮನಿಸಿದ ಒ೦ದು ವಿಷಯವೇನೆ೦ದರೆ ಮಣಿಪಾಲ ಪರಭಾಷಿಗರಿ೦ದ ತು೦ಬಿ ಹೋಗಿದೆ...ನೀವು ವಿದ್ಯಾರ್ಥಿಗಳ೦ತೆ ಕ೦ಡು ಬ೦ದರೆ ಅ೦ಗಡಿಯವರು, ಆಟೋ ಡ್ರೈವರ್ ಪ್ರತಿಯೊಬ್ಬರೂ ನಿಮ್ಮನ್ನು ಹಿ೦ದಿಯಲ್ಲೇ ಮಾತನಾಡಿಸುತ್ತಾರೆ.
ಹಲವು ಸ್ಥಳೀಯರಿಗೆ ಈ ವಿದ್ಯಾ ಸ೦ಸ್ಥೆ ಮತ್ತದರ ವಿದ್ಯಾರ್ಥಿಗಳಿ೦ದ ಉದ್ಯೋಗ ದೊರೆತಿರುವುದು ನಿಜವಾದರೂ, ಇಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಬ೦ದಿಳಿದ ಹೊರಭಾಷಿಗರು ಒ೦ದಕ್ಷರ ಕನ್ನಡ ಕಲಿಯುವ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನ ಮಾಡದಿರುವುದು ಖೇದಕರ.


Related: Endpoint Manipal| Karkala Photos | Bekal Fort, Kerala | Dual TVs in coastal karnataka buses | Speed Governors in Mangalore - Udupi -Kundarpura buses | LiveBlogging at WebInnovation 08

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mumbai visit- Quick notes

Mumbai Auto meter

Morning: Sat in an auto and saw that minimum fare is just Rs. 1.00 Felt something must be wrong somewhere. Asked the driver why it is showing  Re 1. He couldn’t see anything wrong with that and after some discussion I learnt that I need to pay 10 times whatever this meter shows. If it shows Rs 2.5 at the end of the journey I need to pay Rs 25…Was a nice experience this but why can’t they have a proper meter that shows correct amount?

Evening: Rented a car for to drive around Mumbai to make use of few hours I had during the evening.

Saw Shivaji park-driver told me that Sachin Tendulkar used to practice in this ground in his childhood. Saw Bandra-Kurla complex from a distance, saw Rolce Royce Phantom on display at Navneet Motors in Atria Mall, Haji Ali. Saw Marine drive, Hilton Towers and Taj Mahal Palace & towers. Ferrari cars were on display infront of Taj and had a close look. While the Phantom is known for its luxury and elegance, Ferrari on the other extreme is worshiped for its speed.Ferrari on display at Taj, Mumbai Which one shall I buy?

Gateway of India was under renovation and since it was night time couldn’t see much. Saw BSE building from a distance-felt secure that my shares are safe inside. May be I could have asked the security- बाबु, अ०दर् मेरे कुच् शेर्स् पडे हे, जरा जाके देख्के आउ?? (Some of my shares are inside-can I have a look at it?)

Requested driver to let me drive a bit, enjoyed driving on Marine drive. Victoria Terminal and Church Gate looked magnificent from outside. Missed experiencing a journey in Mumbai’s local train and also getting a glimpse of Dabba waalas. As we neared Zuhu beach driver said “साब् आपका हाथ बहुत साफ् है जो मु०बइ मे गाडी चला सक्ता है, वो भारत् मे कही० भी चला पायेगा” (You drive very well-one who can drive in Mumbai can drive anywhere in India) but he was quick to add “साब् आगे बहुत् ट्राफिक् हे, मुज्हे चलाने दीजिये”(there's heavy traffic ahead, let me drive)

on a fast lane

Juhu beach was very flat. Siva Sagar restaurant near the beach (on Juhu-Tara road opp Ramada Palm Grove) served some good food. I just wanted a small piece of pickle but they served a bowl full. The mango pickle was so tasty, I felt like taking the rest with me to home. Why do they serve side items in excess quantity?

Autos are allowed only in some specific areas in Mumbai. Elsewhere over-aged Fiat taxis rule the road. Also felt that number of two wheelers in Mumbai is relatively less.

Will be looking forward to visit this city again.

Related posts: Live blogging from MumbaiHyderabad-Chennai-Bengalooru-Comparison of 3 cities

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Event Blogging at WebInnovation08-Experience

It was a good experience attending webInnovation 08 at Mumbai this week (8th May 2008). Live blogging the event was even greater experience.

Live blogging was a good new experience for me. Enjoyed every bit of it. But there were some challenges too- the conference room didn’t have any power points where I could charge my laptop. It is impossible to live blog whole day on battery- I had two of them- a 4 cell one and another 6 cell one, together I could manage for half a day and by charging during lunch time I could extend life of laptop for some more time post lunch. Still, if Hotel could have provided electric sockets (which I asked but they said they don’t have) it would have been good. Tata Indicom Plug2Surf was performing decently during initial hours but post lunch the connectivity was very bad. Because of these limitations and because the fact that I had to take down notes while speaker is speaking, I had to sideline several activities like approving comments, editing/improving posts etc.

Below: Myself with Kaushal Karkhanis, fellow event blogger.Shrinidhi hande with Kaushal event blogging at Webinnovation08About the event: As I was a sponsored delegate probably I am not supposed to speak negative, but don’t want to suppress my observations. Participation was good, but many speakers were from companies that had sponsored the event. That happens with all the events- you can’t deny 10-15 minutes of presentation time for companies who have shelled out lakhs of rupees to sponsor the event. But a delegate who has paid Rs 7000 is, in all probability, won’t be interested in attending advertisement sessions of products/services being promoted by the sponsors (as the information will be available on the company website, why should one pay to attend such sessions?). Nevertheless, most of the sessions were good-the one on raising VC money by Bikas Birai of iViZ, on demysitifying the web 2.0 by Amit Somani of Google India, about email marketing by Dominic Powers were personally interesting to me.

Don't know what happened at other 2 tracks. In this event there were three tracks- Business, Technology and Enterpreneurship, all running parallelly. Since I cant be in 3 places at once, I chose to attend Business track. Don’t have much idea what happened at other 2. There were supposed to be 6 event bloggers (me one of them) but I guess only 2-3 turned up. Only Myself and Kaushal live blogging and Siddig live twittering the event. As 3 tracks ran parallelly, any delegate is guaranteed to miss 2/3rd of the event. If organizers can arrange for transcripts of the talks given by other speakers to all delegates it would be good.

The event didn’t get much visibility in print media- I was in Mumbai airport next morning and couldn’t notice event reported in any of the leading papers- DNA, Indian Express, Free Press, BusinessLIne and Asian Age. Infact Yahoo launched its new gen search features "GLUE" in WebInnovation 08 event [details] but they held a press conference in Bangalore to release this news, so all papers reported this launch, but without any mention of the webinnovation08 event. Would have been good if Yahoo could hold the press con in Grand Hyatt, Mumbai (where the event was going on)

Shrinidhi Hande with Kiruba Shankar at Webinnovation08 MumbaiMore photos of the event
http://flickr.com/photos/tags/webinnovation08

I spent most of my time listening to speakers at the Business Track, noting down key points and publishing it as a blog post next moment. Now I feel it would have walked around and interviewed few people as well. Will try this next time.

Right-with Kiruba Shankar at the event-He giving admin rights to us so that we can approve comments that were pouring in on the event blog site.
I wish to thank Kiruba Shankar and other organizers for this opportunity (of contributing as an event blogger). In fact I was answerable to two stake holders in this-The organizers of Webinnovation who invited me with a complementary registration for which I was required to live blog the event and another stakeholder who has provided travel and accommodation, to whom I had to take back some value out of the summit. Hope I will be able to meet their expectations.

The conference bag sponsored by WebEx was good.

Be sure to watch this video on start-ups

Event ended a bit ahead of schedule and I could go for a drive around Mumbai City.

Update: I mailed Kiruba seeking some feedback on my work, so that I can identify where I can improve next time. Seems he is too busy to respond. It doesn't feel good when you're denied some basic feedback on your work.

Related: Manipal Media Students Convention * Mumbai visit-Other observations

Friday, May 09, 2008

Start-up woes-how to raise money from VC?

This post was originally composed for WebInnovation Blog and shares some key extracts one of the speakers (Bikash Birai of iviz) shared about dealing with venture capitalists, in one of the most humorous sessions at webinnovation08, Mumbai.

Felt this might be of some use to my blog readers, hence cross posting here with oral permission.

Here’re few notes from his talk: How to go about while seeking funds from VCs?

  • Have a strong team-VCs bet on jockeys and not horses. People who lead a startup are scrutinized more than the technology or business.
  • Identify customer pain to understand what would a customer want. Customer is not always bothered about security, but is naturally concerned about the impact on his business continuity. BC, Compliance and Trust building sells.
  • Develop a pain killer-you may be different, but how does that matter to the customer?
  • Stay focused and ask for advice- if you ask for money, you get advice, if you ask for money you get advice-(lol!)
  • First impression is best impression
  • Make a point to tell them who you are not-that might help them not to generalize you
  • Persuasion doesn’t work-seduction does. Early traction, global recognition, leveraging influences, phased excitements (not revealing all excitements at once but in phases) and moving fast are critical
  • How to chose a VC?- You don’t. They chose you. See if you can make VCs chase you.
  • How to negotiate? We don’t negotiate-create options
  • What to do after raising money?- reset expectations (joke)-meet and exceed the expectations
Similar: Start-up saturday at IIMB, 12th July 2008

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Pondy Trip, QN, Liveblogging & Other updates

5 days since my last post may look like a long time considering I have been publishing new posts every alternate day so far. Have lots of stuff to blog about but running on a very tight schedule. So compromising a bit and giving quick updates.

Quick JumpPondy Trip | Questnet Scam update | Live blogging @ webinnovation.in |

Enjoyed a one day trip to Pondy and surrounding areas covering MatriMandir at Auroville (an under construction spiritual township some 15-20 kms north of Pondicheri (130 kms from Chennai)), Puducheri (Pondy) and Mahabalipuram last Saturday with Krishna Shastry, Gulshan Raj and other classmates from JNVC. [Related: JNVC memory snaps] The places we visited were nothing great (in fact many were disappointed as Pondy and Auroville had nothing exiting to offer and it was evening by the time we reached Mahabalipuram) but had some great time with old school pals- all are doctors and IT professionals now. We also sang lot of songs we were taught during JNV days. The best thing I enjoyed during the trip was me driving the Tavera for about 60 kms. (A review on this vehicle by me can be read here on Mouthshut)

Photos of this trip are available as a slideshow below. (Trouble viewing it? Try http://enidhi.slide.com/)

Branding tender coconut
Observed that some coconut vendors in Pondy have started branding the tender coconut they sell, by attaching a sticker to it. To me this looked like a cheap and useless imitation. A detailed post on this I have guest authored at Churumuri blog. Read that here. I think it is a good idea to guest blog in other blogs once a while. Your regular readers will be seasoned to your way of writing and may blindly agree with whatever you say. Also well known friends may hesitate to give negative comments. Guest blogging at other blogs bring whole new set of readers and gets new new perspectives and also some sharp criticisms. Some nice debate has already triggered there...

Wanted to write part 2 of Manipal visit but that is still pending. Some updates are too small to qualify as blog post, so posting them at my twitter account-you can keep an eye on my twitter page for quick updates.

QuestNet International and its members in troubled waters
Chennai police are cracking whip on Quest Net, a multi level marketing company which has spread its tentacles all over India (mainly among IT folks) and many other countries, spreading false hope that everyone can become rich by buying coins and referring others to do the same. Now several victims who were lured to invest in this pyramid scheme coming out to lodge complaints against QN. We need to see if law enforcement agencies can do something effective to stop this kind of companies. I had written earlier about this company in this post but due to time constraint unable to keep track of the latest developments. Mohan BN is following this development effectively and closely in his blog. Keep an eye on his blog for latest happenings on Questnet scam. 
May 17 update: Mohan used to follow this story closely but recently has deleted several posts related to this issue. I don't have great expectations from the police investigation, but the negative publicity is going to make it very tough for QN to sign-up new people. May be they would go for a name change again-let us see.

Live Blogging at WebInnovation.in Summit, 8 May, Hotel Grand Hyatt, Mumbai
Leaving for Mumbai this evening to take part in a one day summit on Web 2.0, called Webinnovation.in. Taking '1 minute manager' for inflight reading. With the complementary registration offered by the organizers I’ll be live blogging the event on the event website. I enjoy journalism (read my journalism experiences) and live blogging will be akin to live reporting. I am sure I’ll be able to enjoy that. Keep an eye on blog section of event website for my live blogging posts.

Each of my trips generate enough content for atleast 5-10 blog posts but not sure when and where to write and publish them all…

Friday, May 02, 2008

Rice, in its most nutrient form...

It is quite a common scene in Chennai roadside to see carts selling unpolished rice with its gravy. Called KooLu or Kanji in tamil and Ganji in Kannada, they sell nearly 500 ml of this for Rs 5. Many of you will term this as roadside and unhygienic , but this is the most nutrient form of rice available and is certainly worth having. I sampled it twice and don’t see any side effect or harm in this. Mixed with buttermilk and onion and served with fried chilli and raw mango slice, you might actually enjoy eating it.

The highly polished white rice we eat sans most of the nutrients, more so with the liquid filtered out. The original, unpolished version of rice takes extra time to cook and not that tasty, hence most of the hotels and households never use it. If you can think of any hotels in your locality which serve this variant of rice in their meals, please drop a comment. Kamat hotel in Milagris, Mangalore is one place where I have enjoyed such a meal.

Any thoughts on this issue?

Similar posts: Toddy Palm * Coco Fresco Hyderabad * Ragi Mudde

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Few updates & some random pictures

Poll: The poll I ran to find out what kind of contents my readers like has given results which I had suspected. Majority of you liked personal observations and experience accounts, followed by Business posts. Thanks to each one of you for casting your vote.

Unable to comment? Send it by mail.

Many of you conveyed your inability to write comment here as blogger is blocked. In case you wish to write a comment but unable to, send a mail to admin at enidhi dot net. I will manually publish the comments.

I have created a twitter account sometime back. If you wish to follow me, you can do that here (Twitter is a micro-blogging platform where one can give quick updates about anything) (links to LinkedIn and orkut profiles are available in sidebar, if you’re interested)

The legendary Club Mahindra post, the most popular one so far in this blog, has scored 200 comments (includes about 80 comments from me, written in response to other comments). Last time when the post crossed 100+ comments I did an analysis of the comments [read that here]. That post didn’t receive much of response so not planning to analyze the comments again for 200 posts. Will consider at 250-300 comments

Even the quarterly summary of posts I used to do doesn’t appear to have any takers. Do you find it useful? I feel once in a month summary of posts, written on the same month, will be more appropriate, as this post will be available in the archive of same month. Any thoughts/suggestions welcome.

I feel the sidebar is getting crowded. Need to simplify the same by removing not so critical elements- which one do you think can be removed without a second thought?

May 22 will be 2nd anniversary of this blog. 3 weeks to go.

Installed second life client and logged in for the first time… Realized that it can be extremely addictive and time consuming, if taken seriously. Decided to stay away from it for now.

The mobile version of this blog was not working for sometime and is up now.(http://m.enidhi.net)

Some random photos taken in near past

Flower vases
Yellow water melon. A bit uncommon.
Happy journey ! ! !
Pineapple that grew in our garden