Thursday, October 01, 2009

Evil mail !!

Email has integrated with our daily lives so much. In the Corporate world, often we use outlook for purposes for which it is not built for / good at.

When I worked in DBA Chennai, our task allocation, clarification management etc were done only in using outlook. [When I quit, I gave my local PST file to another friend who took over my tasks. It would have been big pain for him to go over all those mails if he wanted to search for something.]

How many times we send a mail to our manager / some other dept and waiting for ages to get a response? I sent a mail to HR for a query on my payroll and he did not care for 1 month. Typical solution was to send a reminder CC ing his this case CEO ...Not a nice solution.

I think Email has been a culprit hiding lot of problems since mail box is not a centralized. When most of the communication is done thro' email, there is not much visibility on what is happening. Reusing any knowledge - an outcome of the communication - is also not possible.

Most of the enterprisey communications are better off using web applications designed specifically for purposes such as Project Managment, Knowledge management etc.,

Most of our requests are support tickets kind. Bugzilla - a Bug Tracker - can replace most of the Enterprisey emails.Instead of sending emails, if we raise requests using a tool like this, top management knows how many requests are pending on every dept and it is better for work allocation (provided the management really cares, that is). All these requests will by default send an email, if we want to. So email will be primarily used as a notification tool instead of carrying all the content.

Of course all the above is the how it has to be. But in reality it is very difficult to change our habit. Recently I came across a tool - Liaise ( in beta - which add tasks with deadlines to specific persons as we type the email text - understanding what we are typing.Very impressive !

Have a look here.

PS: I predict MS would acquire this company and this feature would be in next outlook ;-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Personal MBA - An Alternative to MBA

For most of us, MBA is the ultimate course to do. Most consider that as a panacea of all the career troubles. Once Mech Madhusudhanan asked me - Are you planning to do MBA? If yes, when? - I declared, "I dont know when I will do it. But I will ensure those three letters will be there in my cemetery plaque". Hmmmm !

Recently I have decided not to give so much trouble for those who would be kind enough to build my cemetery. I am planning to slowly learn the management concepts taught in the course in alternative methods.

One interesting option was this.

Personal MBA Manifesto starts like this:

MBA programs don’t have a monopoly on advanced business knowledge: you can teach yourself everything you need to know to succeed in life and at work. The Personal MBA features the very best business books available, based on thousands of hours of research. So skip b-school and the $100,000 loan: you can get a world-class business education simply by reading these books.
Read more:

For most of the Indians, the word 'manifesto' is worse than an expletive, given the way political parties treat their manifestos. Hopefully this will be different!

Of course, this is not going to give the personal experience you can only get when you meet excellent people. Still it can be one approach for those who don't have enough time /money (most importantly energy to bell the CAT)! - like me..

Will ping updates on how things go. First task is to see what books I can get in india and ask someone to transport it, if there is a cost differential (Do I need an MBA?) ;-)

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Longtime (2 years) since I blogged! Determined to keep blogging often (Let's see!)

Lot of changes in life.

Married [Biggest and Boldest change :-)] Swathi. Few Photos r in Orkut. Will post a public link later.

Moved to UK - Changed 3/4 jobs in a year as a contractor.Finally settled in Bristol now. Currently working for Nokia UK with their Music division. For those who are skeptical if Nokia Music can garner a good amount of Share in Music business, watch out !

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Doctors learning from F1 Racing Team

A year ago, I read an interesting piece of information here.
[Post was drafted long back and waittttttttttttttttttting. I will make a perfect neta in Indian Gov.]

This link talks about how Doctors learnt from F1 Racing team - primarily the pit crew - as to how to do better team coordination.

“Initially we went to the McLaren team and then later on we also worked with Ferrari,” explained Dr Goldman. “We spoke about leadership and how to organise the process, who was in charge, rhythm, task allocation, checklists, all of which aren’t well embedded into medicine. They were all very simple things, but they were just not part of our culture.”

[Anyone noticing the irony..(or the lack of it?) ..of medicine - the field saving lives - far lagging behind a field making money- Is it a Sport? - even in the developed world. I don't have enough guts to think about the condition of our Government Hospitals where lot of Indian citizens are treated]

By bringing experts from different fields, numerous problems can be solved. There are many companies which have their entire business model based on this philosophy - Multi Disciplinary IP Creation. They gather Top Class experts from varied fields in a hall and try to solve complex problems. Based on the discussions between experts, various ideas come out. These ideas will be patented. Later these patents will be licensed for other companies for deploying it in the market place.

Hmmmmm! Current goal is just to develop better software ....Multi Disciplinary can wait for now :)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Zoho - Online Applications Suite - Aha Zoho !!

It has been long time since I blogged...Around 8 months..Really toooo late.I was very interested after seeing Zoho and thought of throwing my laziness away and get the word out to increase Zoho's marketshare :-).

I have heard about zoho from ReadWriteWeb long back.I thought this was just another Web 2.0 application suite. I did not explore much. When I visited Chennai WikiCamp, I could see Zoho banners. I wondered how come Zoho reached Chennai..Is there any India connection.. etc? Somehow I forgot about that. Later when I was reading something like Zoho CRM is better than Salesforce's CRM offering, I googled to find out more.

I realised that Zoho is a suite from an Indian company based in Chennai. The company behind this is Adventnet.

Zoho contains many online applications- which are hosted in their servers and offer on demand access to them. This is the same model followed by Google Docs/Spreadsheets and also. The applications available are Online equivalents of Word,Excel, Powerpoint etc - and other apps like CRM, Survey Tool, Mail.

They even have an application creation tool - Zoho Creator - using which you can generate applications. They have created their own script called Deluge using which you can customize the application created. [Read What Suganya - Lead Architect of Deluge Script - says]

In most of the applications they offer, the reviews they have got is very good - sitting almost at the top.Its very good to see an Indian company - [Headquartered in US - CEO, Evangelist, Architects etc are Indians. I think the dev team primarily is from Chennai office]-winning the Web 2.0 battle ..that too in the same business where there are bigger rivals like Google(Google Docs/Spreadsheets) , MS(Desktop Office Space) and Salesforce.

Some of the interesting aspects I noted:
1) They do not spend much money in marketing. Rely a lot on online marketing, Blogs et al.,
From Zoho Blogs

"There is no big secret to our low prices - we keep our costs under control (like any sane business would) and pass on the savings to the customer. "

"typical enterprise software business model where five even ten dollars are spent on sales & marketing for every dollar spent on R&D "

Zoho blogs say that companies such as spend a lot of money on marketing, which zoho is not doing. This is a major reason why Zoho is cheaper.

2) All their Apps have free versions. If you need more users / more projects to be used etc - you may have to pay.

3) Technology behind these apps is JAVA..
[Too bad - I dont know Java - I lose the opportunity to work in a good company and of course the other sentence goes without saying;-)]

Zoho is a good inspiration for those who want to try differently instead of following the usual - linear - IT services model.

Hats off Zoho..

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Small and Medium Companies(SME) and an Indian version of McKinsey

The "India Arrived on the Global Scene" story is everywhere. When an Indian company acquires a foreign company, the news is not raising eyebrows anymore, thanks to some great companies like BharatForge/Tata Coffee. (Steel Mittals added different kind of spice to the India story).Companies like Bharti Telecom are growing very fast and leading the industry. While few of the Indian companies are growing in jet speed, what is happening with other SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) Companies?

What is an SME?
Indian Govt Recent Definition:
Small Company - Those companies which have 1 crores as total capital in plant and machinery.
Medium Company - Those companies which have 1 crores as total capital in plant and machinery.

An European definition has a complex formula considering the revenue, No of employees etc.,

This definition consideres a company which employs about 250 people as an Medium Enterprise and 50 People as Small Enterprise.

This seems to be more logical for me.People count may be easier metric to get.It is enough if you just stand near the gate for 10 minutes around 9:00 AM :-)

Some statistics Gyan From Google:
In India, SME companies account for a 45% of Industrial employment and produce 50% of the industrial output.

What are the major problems faced by them? If we take a closer look, the situation is not very encouraging. In core sectors like manufacturing the problems are aplenty for an SME.

While there are many perspectives about the problems these companies have - from Regulatory issues [Allow more FDI in this sector etc., ] to Lack of Access to Finance, I talk about the organization internals / managerial issues in this post.

I had opportunities to personally see how some of the Small companies (in Chennai) operate [in industries such as manufacturing, publishing and s/w development] - most of them headed by first generation entrepreneurs. Some(or Most?) of the SME Management do not understand that running a company of different sizes (10+ Vs 100+) demands different approaches to the same problems. There is a lot of scope for improvement in every sphere of business- be it recruiting, training, marketing or vendor management.

Some of the problems I observed were in these lines...

a) Lack of vision - Not able to see the bigger picture and prepare the organisation

b) Stone age people practices – “if this guy leaves the company I can get someone else cheaper…”

c) Build everything from scratch mentality – Companies do not partner with other small companies who can provide a niche for a low cost. Vendor relationships are pre-stone age.(how do they call it? Soil Age? )

While Jim Collins talks about how to make a good to company a great one in his book Good To Great, we need (seemingly commonsensical) practices to make a Bad company to Good.
(Will try to provide more info about some of the books I read recently in a follow up post) Effectively using internet / google may itself help these companies a lot.(Forgive me if I believe too much in googling. Blame my job – the ever googling SW Dev!) for identifying business partners or provide access to useful free software tools which may enhance productivity.

[By using better Desktop Publishing software, a publishing company can publish a book faster and cheaper. By using a better Mech Design tool, Mech Product companies can do better prototyping and avoid mistakes early in Product Development Life Cycle]

There is a great scope for collaborating with institutions / other companies who do not have a clash of interest.

Here comes MayaKinsey:
If an Indian version of a McKinsey- [can we call it as MayaKinsey? - Mayan + McKinsey - I think there is a character - Mayan- in Hindu Mythology who architects buildings for Heavenly Gods. If I am wrong, blame my grandma, who told stories from epics, who is now in heaven(hopefully!) ] is started to provide consulting to the small companies - to help the SME to adopt the latest practices in various business spheres.

Some areas where MayaKinsey can operate .....

a) How to use IT to increase the velocity of business / communicate with your suppliers / capture the knowledge using workflow capturing tools etc.,

b) Better practices for People management

c) Global outlook in marketing and new approaches like matching the available skills vs new avenues.(What are all the NC machines you have? Why can't you manufacture Product Y instead of Product X ..blah..blah)

What do you think about MayaKinsey and what are all the challenges MayaKinsey will face[apart from - "Hey! Nobody will allow you to enter the premises of the company? :-) ]?. Comment here...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

IRTT Revisited...

Went to IRTT after a gap 5+ Years for a Mock interview cum GD Practice session for 3rd year students with Aravind, Concept, Balaji and Ramesh.All of us were there in a weekend - 9th, 10th of this month.Aravind and myself stayed back on 11th too.

When Balaji and myself were walking uphill, we counted how many things we could clearly identify as a change along the way.We could just count 3.
1) NameBoard indicating where respective hostels are.
2) Cement applied in the pathway nearby the Vinayagar temple.
3) ..forgot by now :-(...
Some things were pretty same.
1) Bread in hostels
2) Fallen tree in the pathway between F Block and Mech Block[Hope this is another tree, not the one we have seen when we left.]

Went to Hindustani to have dinner on the first day.One major difference is this time stomach, not heart- not purse, decided when to stop eating :-(.

Seen Mayil and Dharvesh Mohideen in Mech Dept.HOD was out of town.So could not see. Met most of the 3rd Mech guys in a Q&A kind of a session. Most of the Mech students were in a dilemma about which field to choose..Mech or IT. ...Some were worried that they may not be able to sustain in the long run in the field.(If they know which kind of great intellect is being used in this work... Hmmm...). After the session one guy asked "Anna! Mech field la ennadhan nadakkudhu...Neenga Gold Medal vaanguneengalame... Ongalukke velai illaya".I laughed for a while[he must have thought this guy is weird :-)] and then tried to dispel some of his notions and pointed out the latest opportunities in the Design s/w field which is as high paying as s/w.

Met some very good- intelligent and sincere - guys from 3rd and final yrs who were organising this. Hmmm..If at all I was this good while in my third /final years....Life would be a little better now.

We conducted GDs and Interviews for 3rd year students and provided the feedback.This was a great learning for us[and hopefully for the students too :-)].We have identified some things for them to work on.

Some Serious Stuff:

We have requested the Final Year students to help in developing / providing individual attention to the Third Year students in their activities like Communication skill enhancement, Aptitude, Programming Skills etc.

The idea is to have a structure where around 30+ final year students(can be called as Mentors) from all branches will mentor 10 third year students each. Every Mentor will guide around 10 guys of his own branch. Every branch will have 6 or more mentors.[All of them are placed.So they will find some time :-) ].Third year students will select the mentor whom he wants to work with.

We will have separate Steering committees to focus on various knowledge areas such as communication, apti etc., Individual assessment of the 3rd year student will be done and the mentors will help in the development. The Steering committees will help in providing content/organising training etc in the respective areas. Later there can be contests for teams in various areas.

We will host a forum, probably in IRTT alumni website, mainly to connect the alumni and the students.Alumni may be able to help out in providing industry knowledge, connectivity and career planning.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oru Pazhangavidhai

Due to the Release mania(of my team), I could not blog for 3 weeks. Will try to catch up..

I was browsing old notebooks(those that are not yet sold to Old Paper Mart, either bcos they are Tooo old or I think there is some gyan(?) in them..). In one of my notes which I used around 2001-02 time, I have found a small kavidhai(OK! You need not to call it as Kavidhai..some

This one was about the Employers I was exposed to(Either I worked somewhere or my friends told abt..).At that time, I was just out of college.Lot of dreams and lot of enthu..I expected key decisions makers in every company to be very perfect, thinking long term..value players ...blah blah...[Oddly, Still I retain most of those beliefs. My current team manager must have got bored by my lectures during the weekly team meetings. U have to see me talking in a voice ...a bit emotional...slightly noisy to ensure none sleeps..talking as if my company expects the strategic direction from me..Only me..Thank God, I have started the lectures after becoming friends with everyone in the team.Otherwise they might have misunderstood me..].

Coming back to the old story...At that time I just could not tolerate the way the companies are run[companies I know abt..:-(]

The lines below were written in that mould...This conveys(?) my frustration about the lack of imagination of some of the decision makers I met early in my career.

சக்கராயுதத்தால் புல் வெட்டுபவர்கள்
பசுமாட்டின் கோமியம் மட்டும் விற்பவர்கள்
பொன்முட்டையிடும் வாத்துகளை சூப்பு வைத்துக் குடிப்பவர்கள்

ஆகாய நிலவினை தெருவோர சிக்னலில் அடைப்பவர்கள்
வெண்பட்டுத் துணியால் வீதி துடைப்பவர்கள்
நல்லதோர் வீணைகளின் நரம்புகளை காயலான் கடைக்கு அனுப்பும் காரியக் காரர்கள்

I just thought how my face might have been, when I had just wrote this..I can't stop laughing :-)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Blog Monitoring – Managing Perceptions in the Blogosphere

Blogs / Social media has become a major force in the media world. We can see blogs playing many roles. Some roles which seem to be very promising are

a) Knowledge Sharing
b) Changing opinions of people – against individuals, companies and even countries

While sharing was always possible thro’ web pages, finding a relevant blog and reading posts/ following up makes learning quick and effective.

When a blogger finds an issue with your product, he can quickly spread the message and drive your future customers away and make your present customers suspicious.

[This means - I will be able to spread the (obviously real) message that Anna Nagar - Vasantha Bhavan's Idiyappam is far better than Chinthamani Balaji Bhavan’s Idiyappam and in turn change the Idiyappam sales in Balaji Bhavan and Vasantha Bhavan.
Dear Vasantha Bhavan – Wait for some more years (and retain the guy who makes the Idiyappam in your payroll, if your KM practices are not good enough ). ]

People like Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine generate lot of interest on the issues they focus on.

I think any company will want to know what the blogworld is talking about it and its products. An application which helps companies to track the blogosphere will be a must for most of the companies in the days to come.

After some googling, I found that IBM has already released a software in Nov 2005 which they call as Public Image Monitoring Solution (That’s why they are IBM!). This solution gives better insights of the comments about products/companies appearing in blogs by using techniques like text mining.

Cost of the above S/W: For minimum config - 1 Lakh USD + IBM Consulting Fees.
If the consulting fees is included and if the client wants more than a minimum config , it may even reach around One Crore Rupees(How many zeros are in a Crore?) Definitely not affordable for even a Medium size org.

I came across this excellent link which offers many ways to do this by setting up alerts in various sites / accessing many services manually.

An application with a basic crawler/ways to consume the available services and a decent mining will be enough for an SME. There is a scope for developing an application affordable for SMEs and may not have very advanced features IBM offers.[Of course there is a risk that at some point of time Google will say they are releasing the Beta of Google Perception:-)]

I think in the days to come, Application Service Providers / BPOs will offer Perception Monitoring as one of the services.

Knowledge bridging Vs Code Sharing – Where are we?

Recently I read an article in ET about Knowledge Bridging – a technique of trying to solve complex problems in a field by using the knowledge from totally different fields.

This is the link ET was referring to.

People are trying to solve problems by getting out of their disciplines and innovate by drawing knowledge from unrelated disciplines. I pondered about Indian companies. Where do we stand? How much effectively we utilize knowledge here?

Let us think about what is happening in Indian IT Services industry. Many companies don’t even use the knowledge of the all the employees of the company itself to solve the issues. Most IT projects are run like small companies themselves with very little inter-team cooperation / sharing happening.

In most of the IT projects, effectively sharing code/ best practices within an organization itself is a huge challenge. Though the IT Services model spells that Clients own the code and any code sharing may have potential to bring IP issues, most of the development time is spent on mundane code which is not really involving the client’s proprietary business logic. The time spent by developers for fixing typical, day to day issues is very high. Developers face the same problems and do the same googling and waste lot of time. Any effective means of capturing these issues in an application and sharing it effectively will cut lot of inefficiency.

The best place to start is - monitoring the google searches made. From the Google URLs, Search terms can be extracted on a regular basis to add content to the Knowledge Management applications.(Those who make not-at-all-technical searches beware!!)

The linear growth model (More-people ==> More-revenues) brings enough headaches for the management to worry about in managing scale. Companies will be better off, if sharing is done in a better manner. Without effective sharing, project cost and risk is increased. Project teams lose an opportunity to add value to move up the chain [Instead of thinking how he can improve the calculation logic, this guy is more worried about fixing the “C” pointer issue – the same issue has been fixed by lot of guys before – will be fixed by lot of guys after..]

Dotnet IDE – Visual Studio 2005’s Code Snippets feature is a good way forward to organize frequently used code. MS provided Code blocks for some of the standard tasks in this. I believe it will be possible for developers to create their own snippets and share with others in the same organization. I will check out more on this and post any updates.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Kuzhambu Kadai – Tasting a new business model [Kuzhambu- Stew]

Some days before, I was talking to my Mom. The conversation revolved around my friends’ families in my native – Cudalur, a place in Tirunelveli dist - TamilNadu.I asked her what my friend's brother-in-law is doing? She told "avan madrasla kuzhambu kadai vachurukkan". What? Kuzhambukkadai? I probed further.

This guy – our hero – ran a provisional store in some part of Chennai – a kuppam where some hundreds of families lived. The store was run in a rented premise and was reasonably successful. Then fate intervened in the form of houseowner, who owned the rented premise. The houseowner wanted to run a provisional store himself in the same premise and wanted our guy to go out.[If this is a Tamil film - there will be a big fight and houseowner's beautiful daughter may also fall in love with our hero.But our hero is already married.So not much luck :-)].This guy was looking around to see what he can do for a living.

Then he got an idea of starting a Kuzhambu kadai. The place has hundreds of families who go to work early in the morning and return very late in the night.They do not find much time to prepare their food.Even when they prepare there may not be much variety in the stews.Cost also may be a major factor.Our guy capitalizes on this.He prepares many type of stews in his home[From Rasam, Different types of Sambars, non-veg - Chicken, mutton etc] and sells them in parcels for a small price.His customers purchase these stew parcels and prepare only rice in their home.Probably due to economies of scale, they can afford to taste their favorite stew more often now.Eveyone in a family can now opt for a different stew now.This may not normally happen before.This sounded interesting to me. Does the management jargon call this as "business model innovation"?

When I was thinking abt this, I went back to the 2001-2002 - Thiruvalluvar Kudiyiruppu - Kaiyendhi Bhavan days. I remember the big meals parcels(big for others only- not me) we used to get from a Kaiyendhi near Anna Nagar West bus depot. We got Meals for 10 Rs, Dosai for 3 Rs, Idli for 1.5 Rs.One day Ananth and I were discussing about a computer course or something. I asked, "Course Fees evvalavu matchi?". He told 10000 Rs. I exclaimed. "Dai, 3333 dosaida !!"

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tools(?) for Bloggers – Part I

As I promised in my first post, I was thinking abt developing some online tools useful for online community.

In many web pages where a person mentions his mail ID,the mail Id format will be such that, only a human can understand it and not crawlers - softwares which reads the web content.

The format of the mail IDs is something like this(instead of

PersonName at yahoo dot com

This kind of text reduces(if not avoid) the possibilities of spammers getting the mail address from web pages by automatic crawling.

I thought we could create an image containing mail ID text and replace the text with the image.This will ensure that human visitors can see the mail Id and crawlers will not be able to understand. (Some people use s/w which understand image also. For this, blurred images - do they call it Anti aliasing or something - or images with tilted characters are used).I thought I can create an application with this functionality of generating images from text.

I googled about this to know more. (As usual)This had already been thought by lot of people long long ago :-(. Whom do I blame for giving me free net access and free time to think - so late in my life? Big Sigh:-( .

Some of the applications available- where you can give any text and get the image containing the given text ...

Anyway, thanks guys for reducing my work :-).

I am thinking abt some other tools. Will update later on that. (I need to go so weird such that nobody has already thought about it. I am good at that- going weird. But the tool has to be still useful. That’s the challenge. Lets see.)

If you have any specific tools/ideas in mind, you can ping me. You can retain the IP :-).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Entering the blogosphere...

After a long sleep, I have suddently woken up to the world of blogging. I will try to post my thoughts on technology, business and some of my other interests. Nowadays I reddit more. I will try to provide info on links that interest me. I may also try to offer one or two online applications useful for bloggers.

Would like to see this blog within Technorati 1000 some day. First task is to claim this @ technorati.

For those who do not realize the importance of my entry into blog world and still hate me for not being very informational in this post:
Myware - is a s/w which tracks online actions/behaviour of a person with his permission.
Read more here