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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Prince is back to the diamond country

Sourav Ganguly has been selected to join the Indian team in South Africa. There are many things to note here. While there have been the lingering doubts on why Ganguly should indeed be recalled, with many fans having written him off completely, there needs to be a bit of a retrospective reasoning on why he is back.

He is here because:

  • He has been performing decently in domestic Cricket, nothing earth shaking, but okay.
  • He has given a clear indication to everybody that he is here to stay, whether it was playing all the domestic matched with all seriousness or the Pepsi add about how he was trying hard to come back into the team or the interview where he says he never thought of retirement.
  • There is no proof that he is out of form, as is the case with those currently in the team - Kaif, Raina etc
  • Indian team is in absolute dumps for many many reasons, so the bar to achieve to get back into the team is too low.
The above points basically outline that Ganguly has not come back because he has proven beyond doubt to everybody that he should be in the team, it is because of lack of viable alternatives. Having said this, I feel there are two very important hurdles in front of him:

  • He actually needs to get into playing XI. This might seem insignificant given that India has no alternatives, but with Ganguly's bete noire Chappel still in charge, I believe it is still a hurdle to cross.
  • He needs to fire and fire big. And big means at least 2 centuries in the 5-6 innings he will get in the series and both should be gracious, elegant, Ganguly-Type centuries.
Add to this, that he has a bad record in SA (Avg of 32 in 5 tests, 2 50s and 49.50 in 25 ODIs). His ODI record might look good, but thats because of a lot of centuries he has hit against Kenya, SL etc in the WC and other multi-team competitions. Having said this, all is not bad.

He has some precedence to follow. Mohd Azharuddin was stripped off captaincy in 1996 and was struggling to retain his place in the team. The result: 3 centuries in 4 matches against SA. He was in great form all over again, managed to wrestle back the captaincy and then lead India to some memorable victories (1998 annihilation of Aussies in India, with the Chennai test being an innings victory; The Dhaka final victory against Pak chasing 300+) uptil World Cup 1999.

His own track record is quite motivating. After getting one look-in in 1992, he stayed out for 4 years before arriving with a bang in 1996. He should know how to do things in style. For me, its going to be infinitely more exciting to see him crack the SA bowlers all around than to rejoice on the fact that he is back into the team. I would again sign off by wishing Dada the best of luck for his SA safari.

ps: My wife is all smiles about Dada's return. :-)
Another comprehensive defeat for the Indian cricket team in South Africa. But the trend is good. The loss margin is coming down all the time giving hopes to the Indian Fans that things are going to turn around sometime very soon. As I wrote earlier, every defeat of the Indian team will give some more hope to Dada fans on his comeback. In a few hours, Dilip Vengsarkar and his committee will select the test team. Dada fans around the internet world are hoping for his comeback. While some news channels and news sites have even jumped the gun and said that Ganguly is "likely" or "almost certain" to make his comeback. I wish Ganguly the best for his D-Day.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The rise of the losers

My wife happens to be an avid fan of Sourav Ganguly and has been fretting over the way he was taken out of the team. She has just been hoping that there would be a miracle and he comes back and even takes over the captaincy and probably wins the World Cup for us.

I am myself an ardent fan of the Tiger from Bengal and have been following his amazing performances over the last decade. But I am also pragmatic, in the sense that my hopes kept dwindling with each bad performance he gave in Pakistan and finally, I thought that the reason to keep him out seems justified.

With Indian team's every success in the last few months, my wife's hatred of Dravid and his men was increasing, as it was keeping out Ganguly. She was of the stern belief that if India does not perform, he will come back and I assured that "if" the current scheme of things continue, he is never going to come back, even if India does not perform well. She said, thats a big "if" you are putting there. Lets see.

These days, India is losing and losing it big. They don't seem like competition to South Africa, and South Africa is just about a mediocre team in the current world order. Australia is the pinnacle for everybody to defeat. But suddenly, in all these defeats, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman are getting their chances. VVSL has been flown in to SA. And Sourav is on the cards to make a comeback, again. I am guessing, maybe wrongly, that this will be his LAST chance. Thats a different discussion altogether.

But in all this, I clearly see this as one of the occassions when the losers are suddenly being hailed as heroes by my wife. It will after all get the much loved Dada back into the team. :-)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Black Monday Shopping Day

Being an Indian and having never been out of India, I have never really appreciated the "Holiday Season" in the US. It is quite amazing that the holiday season economics can play quite a big role on the bottom line of many consumer ended retail organizations. An article describes how one day - "the monday after thanksgiving" can alone make a difference to whether a online retailer makes his targets for the year or not. Given this background, Ugenie has also been working hard to gain some traction out of the holiday season. With this in mind, we just released a brand new Home Page. Check it out.

If you happen to have any suggestions/feedback/comments, mail to me at shreeniwasiyer {at} gmail.com.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Boring Preface and amazing essays

Back in 1998, when I just joined college, one of my teachers - Mr. Param Dev Sharma (popularyly known as PD) talked about reading a book cover-to-cover. It was the first time I heard of the term. He was referring to doing that to K & R, the very popular textbook on C programming.

Over a period of time, I had got into a habit of starting any book with the preface, the back cover introduction and any forewords. It was pretty good because you often got good anecdotes, got to see how the author got around to writing a book and in general would prove to be an interesting read. You can say the pre-content-reading is often fun. One of the most interesting pre-content-read is that of Freakonomics. It has a bunch of really interesting anecdotes not found in the book, specially about the Absence of Unifying Theme of Dr. Levitt.

Last month, I had picked up the Argumentative Indian by Nobel Laurate Dr. Amartya Sen. I started off with the preface and it was one boring preface about some philosophical perception about Indians argumentative nature, derived by a bunch of academic researches. I was bored to death and I thought the money spent was not worth it. So, last week, after a very long day at work, I was not feeling sleepy and I picked it up (in the absence of any other good read on my shelf) and picked up a random chapter - "India and the Bomb" to read.

To say the least, it was one of the most interesting reads and an extremely well thought-up, deep analysis of the consequences of India's nuclear tests on 1998. I could not drop the book down till the chapter ended, even when I was very conscious that I am going to get only a short sleep before another long day at work.

All in all, I would conclude that I should be a bit circumspect about judging books by their preface and that Amartya Sen has come up with a jewel of a book in Argumentative Indian.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Malaika in Nach Baliye

I have somehow ended up watching Nach Baliye for the last few episodes. Its probably because my wife happens to love it and it coincides with the time we switch on the TV. It also happens to be that time of the day when you are in no mood to get into an argument, so I almost always end up watching Nach Baliye.

I have been seeing the way Malaika, Kunal and Saroj Khan have been judging the performers and for most part I thought they were pretty good at judging. However, I was doubtful if they would ever be able to pay heed to the same issues they were raising against the performers.

Saroj Khan could pretty much be excused from this discussion, her choreography over the years have led to some of the best dances in bollywood discussion. So, I was wondering about Malaika and Kunla. I have seen Malaika in a bunch of filmi songs, but I thought - you have a huge margin of error in those performance and it hardly reflects your ability to do something on stage.

So, Malaika's performance last week in the wild card round, wehere she performed with Shabbir to the tunes of Omkara's songs was amazing. It was a brilliant performance with a lot of energy, perfect coordination with the co stars. I don't there was any short comings I could point out. Of course, its a different matter that I am no expert on the subject.

I am trying to find out if that video is on Youtube and I will link you guys with that.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Anant rescued

Dr. Naresh Gupta's son has been rescued from the kidnappers after 4-5 days. It should be a great relief for the parents. Its almost the first time that I can think off that the law-enforcement authorities have acted in such a fast and efficient manner. Kudos to them. Glad that all the prayers were answerd.

Inflation, growth and IT salaries

I recently received an email on a list talking about how "we" (specifically targeted towards IT professionals) can stop inflation by not spending money, by not going to cinemas, restaurants, cafes, by not booking a house etc. He also goes on to talk about how the current inflation is being caused primarily due to high spending by IT guys who earn a lot by working really hard and working night-outs and by being away from family etc. He also talks about how if we decide to not visit restaurants etc for one month, inflation will come down etc. For your reference, a copy of the mail is here. I shot back a mail with appropriate response.

I thought this should make an interesting read and should cook up an interesting debate or two. I have more ideas on this topic and I shall be writing more about this.

I don't know who wrote this email, but I am sure, he knows very little about economics - certainly not about the economincs of consumption, growth, inflation etc.

Firstly, the IT guys earnings is not because we sit in the night away from relatives and functions. A lot other professionals also do that - CAs, Lawyers, Doctors, Journalists etc. We earn higher because of the demand for good software and the way software has been priced. On one hand, many companies made money through licensing, while a lot of others made money through innovative distribution mechanisms and revenue models. Whatever said, it has nothing to do with our night outs. Night outs just happens to one of the many lifestyle choices we software guys have made, nothing to do with how much we earn.

Secondly, India is almost a free market today. Every company has a right to enter the market, exit it, sell and buy goods and price it at whatever they wish it for. Eventually the market is what is deciding the prices for all goods and we IT guys form a very small section of this market. The market is being driven up by a consumption growth fuelled by the Govt choices of keeping interest rates low and it is a result of the low growth 90s that the Govt is pushing for growth.

If you talk about stifling inflation, then growth will also be equally hindered. Growth and Inflation are two sides of the same coin.

As for the real estate boom, it is again the result of open market economy driving up demand and supply is yet to catch up. I understand that there are a lot of people with easy foreign earned money who might be pushing up demand in this section, but it is quite a localized phenomenon nothing to do with what we IT guys earn or do. Real estate boom-bust cycles have been happenning for the last 100 years - nothing new about it.

Real estate pricing is exactly the way any other good is priced. You market it one way and you charge in another. Same when you buy a bike and same when you get a loan. And to be frank, the same way Software companies charge you separately for trial, installation, upgrades, maintenance etc. It has nothing to do with how much IT guys earn.

Lastly, todays rich and the spendy people are fairly distributed among a lot of industries, not just IT. People from Insurance, Manufacturing, Finance, FMCG etc are making as good money as we are, just not in the same volumes. And there is also the big section of business families who still retain and grow their wealth much faster than our salaries. If you happen to hang out among particular restaurants in Bangalore, you might be getting the illusion that software guys occupy 70% restaurants. Thats just rubbish. I would challenge the guy to visit 5 restaurants in 5 metropolis in the country and take a survey and prove I am wrong. I am sure this guy can't.

This mail seems the result of an extremely frustrated IT guy who does not know how to manage his money and most probably fritterring it away. He doesn't know a thing about economics and just shooting off his mouth.

Be careful about such mails.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

IT heroes or IT victims

The unfortunate incident of the kidnapping of Anant (Dr. Naresh Gupta's son) has got me thinking. After careful thought, I believe it is going to be the first in a trend where a lot of new economy company heroes will become victims of crime. Think about it, the people who were victims of crime - specially dacioty, robbery, kidnapping and murders - used to be businessmen or bollywood guys who were extremely rich.

One reason why they were victims was that they were very rich and this fact was very much in the public domain. These people would be involved in high ticket publicised deals, they would buy extravagant apartments, bunglows or imported cars, and would donate large sums to charity. All of this is evidence to the kind of wealth one carried. Conducting crime such as kidnapping on an evidently rich guy can be quite rewarding.

One another reason for these guys being victims was the concept of social justice. Having money attracts all sorts of attention - even jealous attention. People deprived of the same kind of success or wealth tend to have a feeling of injustice against those who are successful. This increases the possibility of crime.

Coming to think of it, both these reasons are valid today with the Knoweldge Economy heroes. If you think of it, even a middle-management professional in a top-notch IT or ITeS company has a shit load of money. They also exhibit their wealth through various consumption mechanisms. They are also victims of social jealously. Every non-IT guy seems to be jealous of the kind of money these guys manke for apparently "easy" kind of work in comfortable environs. I will write a separate blog about it sometime later.

Though there is a no way to compare the status of a bollywood director with a VP in a IT firm, I would tend to believe that both are equally good targets of crime. They both would roughly be in a position to pay the same amount if their kid is kidnapped. They both would roughly have the same amount of cash/wealth at home.

So, I think the unfortunate incident of Anant's kindapping should act as a grim reminder of the reality that all IT heroes could be victims of crimes. If you happen to be a rich guy in the new economy profession, be careful.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Prayer for Anant Gupta

I spent a short time - about 10 weeks or so - at Adobe India's Noida office in 2003 as a summer intern while studying at IITK. I had the good fortune to have acquiantance with Dr. Naresh Gupta, the pragmatic co-founder of Adobe India and the present CEO. He was always full of energy within the office and used to spend time with the engineers in the evening playing Volleyball and Tennis within the Adobe office. From what I have heard, he was instrumental in getting high quality work for Adobe India and has since built a very good engineering center out of the Noida office, while simultaneously expanding the operations and assimilating the India part of Adobe's take over of Macromedia.

His background before Adobe is also excellent. He happens to be co-alumni of IITK with a President's Gold Medal to his name and then he completed his PhD, conducted high quality research with many patents to his name before joining Adobe.

With such admiration for him, it was extremely disturbing to read in the morning newspapers of his son - Anant's kidnapping from his house in morning hours of Monday. My heart-felt feelings are with him and his family in this hour of adversity. I have offered a chanting of Hanuman Chalisa for the speedy rescue of Anant. Lets all offer our best wishes and prayers for his rescue.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ugenie beats Darya Ganj

I studied at SGTB Khalsa college, University of Delhi (DU) during my bachelors. A lot of people did not hold DU in that great an esteem for technical or engineering studies. But I would say I was blessed to have spent 4 years in DU. The reason why I liked DU was that somehow, the structure of the courses was such that left you a lot of time to a lot of others things.

For me, the extra time was primarily spent in taking tutions ($pocketmoney$), having long rounds of debates, discussions and dumb charades at International Student's Hostel (ISH), watching HBO (yes, during those days, HBO programming would beat Star Movies by a mile and a half) and reading books.

Of all the things mentioned above, the last activity was particularly expensive. From the 3 maths tutions I would take, I only earned Rs. 750 (later on I used to get Rs. 1050) and a good part of it was spent on canteens and eatouts in the campus. So, exchanging books with friends and using the library to the maximum became the norm. In spite of the all these arrangements, the craving to browse through a book market and picking up a not-so-popular but interesting read remained.

It is this gap that Darya Ganj Sunday Book Market used to fill up. It was a market held every Sunday on the stretch between Ambedkar Stadium and Jama Masjid and used to primarily sell books. These wouold be run down second hand books that could not be sold from the normal used book shops. These were bought for a pittance by the hawkers and used to be exhibited/sold at the Darya Ganj market.

The price at which you bought these books was directly proportional to the bargain you could drive and it was always a pleasure to negotiate out a good book. It was here that I went down to hunt for Bjarne Stroustrup's "The C++ Programming Language" second edition. I couldn't find the second edition, but found a good condition first edition (List price. Rs 220 or so) copy. The price of a brand new latest edition was Rs. 350 in the market and this guy quoted this for Rs. 80. I started bargaining at Rs. 20 and we finally closed the deal at Rs. 40. I handed him a Rs. 100 note and since he did not have change, he accepted the Rs. 34 that I had as change. So, I bought it for Rs. 34 or $0.75.

That was in 2000 and now, in 2006, I work for Ugenie, the next generation shopping comparison engine. I thought it might be worth checking out the price of the same through our site and see what I get. Surprise of surprises, I found it at $0.38!! Of course, that is exclusive of shipping, but neither did I pay any shipping during my purchase. This is the first time in my life that I have seen somebody quoting a lower price than quoted by Darya Ganj.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Nice of IITK

My alma mater - IITK has nicely put up a page with many versions of their logo. Its very handy when some one wants to reuse them. :-)

I thought I will put one also....

Friday, November 03, 2006

CSE : IITK gets a new look

I don't know when the transition happenned, but CSE:IITK has a brand new website, and so does IITK. Some time back I used to be a student at CSE:IITK. The CSE:IITK page has a bunch of new links like the Research Papers link where my publication in 2004 (along with Prof Mukerjee and Pradeep) is listed. They have also neatly listed latest news stuff including ever lengthening list of Neeraj and Nitin's achievement. My congratulations to them. They are nice pals and were very good company during my stint at IITK.

However, the research reports section, which used to active till some time back seems to be down with a nice error message. I would love to have it back - then I can show off my MTech Thesis also... :-)

Dr. Mukerjee also seems to have updated his page after a long time. And for some very weird reason, he does not include me or my work on his page. That is quite unfair, let me write to him..

Thursday, November 02, 2006

uGenie Launched

The company for which I work - ugenie - went live for the public last night. We have some reviews at Techcrunch and some comments thereafter. There is an interesting podcast interview with one of the founders: Harish Abbott by India’s Podcaster Kamla Bhatt at http://kamlabhatt.com. Red Herring has written about us, so does GigaOM. StartupSquad writes about our coupon search.

Play around with it and if you think you want to contribute to uGenie's dream of building a great shopping comparison site, then join us.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Unlock Hidden savings

About a few months back, I quit Trilogy - reasons being roughly the same as for everybody else who has been leaving Trilogy over the past few months. I then moved to uGenie. Its a startup in the online retail space founded by very experienced professionals from this domain. uGenie is a continuation (from yourbillbuddy) for me in some sense - it is also bringing to lilfe the concept of market effeciencies and I am proud to be part of this team. We recently launched a private alpha and you can find us at www.ugenie.com

If you want an invite to check out the site - mail me at shreeniwasiyer at gmail dot com. If you are interested in working with us (we are actively looking for engineers), check out www.ugenie.com/careersplain.jsp.

If you want to sit down and discuss the concept of market effeciencies and why I love it, write to me. Would love to sit down over a cup of hot tea and discuss it... :-)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Telecom Tariff Plan Confusion

I am currently employed by Trilogy Bangalore and am involved in developing innovative services in the Telecom domain. For the past few months I have been very busy on my latest assignment in Trilogy. I have been writing the engine for a website called Your Bill Buddy. I want to introduce you to the site.

While at Pune, due to the pressing demands of calling my then-fiance-now-wife Nidhi who was in Delhi, and the high variation in the cost of calls across various plans, I used to have a great fetish towards finding the cheapest tariff plan for mobile phones given a specific requirement. So basically, I along with other friends at Trilogy presented this idea to our management and we decided to build a service for everybody to be able to find the best plan for themselves.

So, http://www.yourbillbuddy.com/index.html?utm_id=292 is a FREE service where you can upload your latest e-bills (PDF) and you can get a recommendation. Currently, we are supporting ALL plans in Karnataka and Delhi and ALL NATIONAL plans in all the others states.
As of now, a good 80% of the users in the trial runs have found a better plan to switch to. One guy even discovered a possible monthly savings of Rs. 800. If you have any post paid mobile connection, it is worth at least one try. So just click on http://www.yourbillbuddy.com/index.html?utm_id=292 , go to Register and check out the service.

For disclaimer effect, the service has no motives of calling you or using any of the information provided in your bills for purposes other than calculating the best plans for you. If you still wish to refrain from providing your bills, you can still register and use our recommendation wizard and get the recommendations. This service takes only 3 minutes flat from registeration to recommendation.

ps: One real user who found it good and has written a blog is:Confused about Telecom Tariff Plans?

Administrative note

All tech posts have now moved to http://tech.shreeni.info or you may subscribe to its RSS feed. In due course, I shall be moving it out completely, so if you follow my tech posts, please shift to following that blog.