Hickory Dickory Shock by Gorai Captures Drama Around IT Workplace Beautifully

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 24-12-2010

If you use these terms everyday without taxing your brain too much -  terms such as Conference Calls, Cost overrun, tele-presence, Toll Gate Review, Version Control, Source Code, Transitioning, handholding, Resource Crunch, firewall, Revised Estimate, Loop me in, Attrition, Involuntary Attrition, Calendar Request,  Mentoring (or lack of it!), Wrong Version, Knowledge Management, Efficiency, my client, Productivity, start performer, Tools, Please Revert, working from home (really, dude?), Non-billable, solutioning, architecture, Reality Check, Change Request, Frankfurt, Senior Lead, Timesheet, industry experience, relevant experience, domain knowledge, Code Drop, thought leadership, Next Build, we’ll take care in next appraisal, Delivery Head (OMG! This designation rightfully belongs to the lead gynecologist in the town hospital but then industry has stolen it!!), Six Sigma, resolution, Client call (WTF!), KT, Access Control, Reverse KT and so on – then you have truly arrived to be a part of the IT industry. Not just that – you are condemned to be part of it for your life, which you deserve by now!

 

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Industry veteran Sundip Gorai (IIT KGP, IMT Ghaziabad) has woven everyday incidences of this industry into a beautiful thriller that has some ordinary looking characters doing some extraordinary things, such as code theft, sabotage, murder, snooping, applying principles of Vedic mathematics, Fibbonacci sequence (brush up your math!) and the eventual solution of the mystery by a ‘techie’. Then there are  some not so ordinary looking characters in this story who not just do corporate fraud, but their scam gets in public domain exactly on 7th Jan 2009. And it all happens in a company named Shivan Computers, whose CEO is one Raja Reddy of Hyderabad. Rings a bell? The beauty of this book is its ability to string together the granular detail and the amount of research undergone in it. If you ever read a spy novel, this is the time to read it in Indian context. And please don’t blame me for the rushing adrenalin.

Grab a copy as soon as you can with all my recommendations. The book has hit the stores at just the right time as we all find ourselves in the vacation mood. LoRD, are you following this?

Durga Puja in Chennai

Filed Under (Fun) by Rajesh Kumar on 14-10-2010

Lot of people have  misconception about not being able to enjoy Durga Puja in Chennai. In fact, many people ask me as to where the Puja venues in Chennai are. Here are some must visit Pujas.

I happened to be able to visit Bengal Association Puja in T. Nagar this evening.

 

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This pandal is located at Junction of Thirumalai Pillai Road and Giri Road. Bang opposite Suriya Sweets between Vallavurkottam and Quality Inn Sabari. Scroll the below map to check out your location.


View Larger Map
 

Besant Nagar Puja is not at is usual spot this time. In Adyar, this time Puja is being held at Youth Hostel in Indira Nagar. It is about 100 m from LB Road on 2nd Avenue. The below map stands updated and should be helpful to make you reach.  The spot marked A is the youth hostel. It is quite close to MTC Bus Depot on LB Road which comes on the other side of LB Road. If you are coming from MG Road (the starting from Besant Nagar Church and continue LB Road) you must just cross the LB Road signal and look on the left.

 


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Bihar Association conducts Puja and cultural events at No 17, Dhamodaran Street, Cathedral Road. This is right across the road to Stella Maris college. This puja is very well attended, just like the Besant Nagar one, and food is completely vegetarian. The below map should be helpful.


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Of course, there are several other Puja Pandals. I have identified these 3 ones which are almost in the heart of town and easy to visit. Go ahead and enjoy!

Additional Resources: Read this great post from Asit.

Aero Modelling Event at Shaastra 2010 at IIT Madras

Filed Under (Fun, Technology) by Rajesh Kumar on 02-10-2010

This afternoon, I found myself drawn to the IIT Madras stadium, where a housefull was waiting for some classy flight performances by aeromodel enthusiasts. We were not disappointed. I quickly pulled out my camera and took some pictures, and then switched to video mode. Enjoy!

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A model being carried to the runway by the crew as the crowd waits for the action to begin.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC03664 The aircraft is being placed on the runway as the crew prepares for take-off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is the pre flight press conference!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The action begins with this Raptor miniature, which had a jet engine!

Then begins the action!!!

And more..

The rolls and moves executed were breathtaking. This guy flew very  fast, and even keeping him in the frame was quite a challenge. Unlike most fixed wing models that come with propellers, this one had a jet engine.

 

 

 

 

 

  

This helicopter is believed to be a scale model of a real one.

The helicopter flight was a unique experience by itself. With the smoke and fury that is. The control was amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there were the breath gasping acrobatics.

Even as the sun was hiding behind the trees, this agile beauty took to the skies and stole quite a breath. I want this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And before the event concluded, there were 3 of them in the air together, even as a Boeing passes overhead. Not part of the show so I kept my camera focus on this small beauties. I bet you’ve not seen anything like this before.

 

Honestly, the event concluded, but I felt cheated, because I wanted even more. Somehow, the human urge to fly high became quite overpowering.Hats off to the men behind the machines.

My Country India has Stepped Forward and Seized the Opportunity!

Filed Under (Op-Ed) by Rajesh Kumar on 30-09-2010

Tagged Under :

My faith in India (and in myself) went up several times after the mature way this country received the most awaited judicial verdict in the history of this country. If this is India, then I don’t mind a Kalmadi or a two. We can live with them. Thank God, this is India!

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Now lets move on to deal with the less important things such as  pollution, H1N1 and Lalu. Together!

QR Codes Hold Huge Possibilities in Marketing

Filed Under (Marketing, Technology) by Rajesh Kumar on 29-09-2010

In some of the recent print ads, you may have noticed a rectangular object in the body, something like the one shown here.Chances are that you may have also noticed such undecipherable messages in posters, travel documents such as tickets, in wall banners and so on. Let’s try a closer look.

Greetings from Rajesh Kumar. Should you be in getting in touch with me(sic), please leave a comment behind.  You are right, the image retains an encoded message inside that is not intended for the human eye. In fact, these Quick Response encoded message is intended to be read by apps running on commonly available smartphones such as those running on Android, Apple, Blackberry or Symbian (Nokia) phones.

For purposes of this example, the encoded message can be seen by taking the mouse over the image.

It appears on the phone screen as shown here.

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QR codes were invented by a Japanese Company (Denso), who hold the patent, but believed to have chosen not exercise it for common good. QR codes can be created by specialized software, which are also available as a service over the web.

What’s the big deal really?!

Because of its versatility, it has huge application potential in real life.

Hyundai i10 ad leveraging QR CodeIf you happen to see the Hyundai car ad in yesterday’s newspapers in India, chances are that you noticed this kind of graphic sitting inside the ad. In this case, the encoded message is a telephone number.  The hint to the reader is, go ahead and connect  with the advertiser on the phone number.

 

 Roger’s post talks about his discovery of a QR code in on a banner at the San Diego zoo next to a turtle enclosure.  It contains a URL to a page having more information on the exhibited species, the Galapagos tortoise. Roger has posted a nice picture of the banner he found there.

To read this code, one can install an app such as ZXing (pronounced ‘Zebra Crossing’) for Android phones available free at Android Market, or i-nigma reader (no cost),which claims to work across Blackberry, Symbian, Android and iPhone platforms. Once installed, the app uses the device on board camera to scan the graphic and decode the message, and even suggest the next course of action. Read on.

Some examples of potential applications of QR Codes in Marketing

The purpose of any ad is to get the target segment get attracted by its promise and take the next steps in the direction of purchase decision. Based on the level of involvement in different product categories, an ad may result in information requests, purchase enquiries or actual purchases. This is the ‘call-for-action’ of the ad and remains vital to the marketers. This is what arguably makes an ad successful or failure. QR codes aid the ‘call for action’ process.

Case 1: Call me

Call me - Phone Number Scanning this image by a QR capable application leads to a phone number.It not just reads the numeric value, but suggests options such as whether you would want to dial that number or add that to your contact book. Useful.

Case II: SMS me

Preformatted sms In such a case, you can make the job of a prospective customer easier by precreating a text message and enclosing the number as part of one image. Like we have done in the image here. Once scanned, the application asks for the user’s permission to send that message out. Somewhat like the message encoded on the right graphic that  says, “Hello there, can I test drive the car”. A mere concurrence will send the message out.

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Case III: Email me: The fun gets better

Email Message Most of these smartphones have inbuilt email apps. It is possible to make the job of a prospect to get in touch with you even more easier, since people prefer to share their email ids more than their phone numbers. Once the phone acquires the data, it understands it as an email draft, and saves the prospect the task of typing out an email and the email id. An Android device, for example, could even give the sending the option of sending the email from his/her personal account or official account. Talk about choice!

In the above example, the message is :

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Notice that a tap on send email will send this message out.

Case IV: Come to this location

Suppose you are conducting a fun event or a conference and issuing passes/tickets/invites for the event. It would be so much fun, if the participant just has to scan the image to open the map of that location so that it takes the pain of figuring out the driving directions by manually typing in the details on the browser.

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For example, in the image on the right, we have captured the location of Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Delhi, which would come so handy for the spectators holding the Commonwealth games tickets.

 

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Case V: Save my card for later use

Would you like to give the contact details of a representative in an ad and let the prospect decide whether he/she would like to connect back to the advertiser – by email, phone, in person or by post? In such case a business card could come in handy. We created a business card based on the below data:

Tom Kumar

Example Inc,

Street1, Northbound Cheercity

Mod, 99112, Xanadu

1-234-567-88

Tom@example.com

www.example.com

Tom's Contact Card

This is how the phone reads the data.

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In our example here, the device understands that it is a business card, and offers the following choices

  • Add Contact ( To phone book)
  • Show map (of the store location, for example)
  • Dial the number right away
  • Send email on the id specified in his/her own words.

Case V: Come visit my site or my social media page

URL Imagine you want the customers to come visit a page to know more about the product, or read reviews of your restaurant in the popular restaurant review magazine for fill in a response form. Customers may feel more disposed to act  if the action required minimum effort. Embedding the URL in the image may help do the trick of getting better response rate. The image below, which if scanned using a reader, will take you to my this blog. Upon reading the URL, the device asks whether the site should be loaded on the browser. Just click yes!

Case V: This is fun!

Greetings from Rajesh Kumar The QR code adoption is rising with the increase in the number of smartphones. It might surprise you to know that it can capture over 4000 alphanumeric characters. That is more than an A4 page typed in font 10. While you may not want to use the whole 4K characters, decoding a punchline message an on a desktop gift item or a print ad can be a great fun by itself. I am concluding this post with an image for you to have a got at it!

And nothing stops you from creating a cap or a T-Shirt with a QR Code on it, just to convey that you are ahead of the curve!!

Volkswagen Audio Ad in Newspaper – Thoughtless

Filed Under (Marketing) by Rajesh Kumar on 21-09-2010

Volkswagen was audacious enough to attach an audio device to their full page print ad in the Times of India and the Hindu (Chennai edition). When it came in, I first felt a sense of curiosity followed by disgust, both as a marketer and as an private citizen.

DSC_0184 Lot of people told me since the morning about the ad. Tonnes of blogging has happened raving about the ‘buzz’ created by this crazy device. I asked several people what they thought of it and there was unanimity about this being unconventional ( or more dreadfully, the new conventional). However, I asked several people to tell me which specific model of Volkswagen was the ad for, and no one could answer. Some people could merely say it was some car company, and not even (unaided)recall the brand, forget the model ( it is ‘Vento’, just in case you need this assistance).

The second thing appalling is despite the money blown, the message is the same staid message (in content and delivery both). Imagine the signature BMW roar coming from the device and it would possibly become a collectors item, at least for a few.Look at the message payload itself – Best in class German Engineering..So, what is the call for action? Danke.

Jessie Paul points out the standalone nature of this campaign, due to which effectiveness could be questionable.

The third appalling aspect is the lack of a shut off button. After a few seconds the device is a nuisance on the table. How are they supposed to be shut off? The device batteries are supposed to die down? If that’s the case, that’s quite crazy indeed. I could not find any instruction on how to shut it off. The damn device kept repeating the same one line ad-nauseum till I had to do this to it.

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Would it have exploded if I had put this in water ? – I did not take a chance.

The last concern is quite serious – environmental. I looked all through, there is no safe disposal instruction included. No talk of collection centers that would take these devices back. Also, there is no mention of the radiation coming out of the device. I would consider both these as hygiene factors in today’s environment. It was bad enough to cut so many trees to print full page ad, and it was much worse to add plastic, batteries, circuit board, IC Chip, magnet, wires and so on to the whole mix.  Wish they had spent a few more pennies and made a reprogrammable device, that for example, it could work as a media player. That would have made sure tomorrow morning garbage bins in many houses do not have this chirpy piece of hardware, as I suspect would happen in large numbers.

Volkswagen Vento, thanks for coming over, but your folks let you down!

Exercise Your Right to Information, It Works, But How!

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 10-06-2010

Tagged Under :

I had heard of Right to Information Act as a powerful tool so when a premier academic institution delayed issuing the certificates to the course participants, I filed a query using RTI. My query was as follows:

Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, in association with NIIT Imperia conducted a certificate programme called Executive Programme in Supply Chain Management (or EPSCM). The first batch of the programme completed its requirements in January 2010.The institute has chosen not to inform the participants of the programme about the status of the certificates. The undersigned is one of the participants of the programme.

Please provide :

· the status of the certificates of the of EPSCM batch that finished the exams in Jan 2010

· the reasons of the extraordinary and ongoing delay

· The reasons for non-communication by the institute regarding the reasons for the delay to the participants.

Sure enough, I received the response soon enough. Reproduced below for your reading pleasure.

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Look at the way the non-specific response has been craftily drafted, which defeats the purpose of seeking information.

Let’s examine:

Q 1: Please provide the status of the certificates of the of EPSCM batch that finished the exams in Jan 2010.

Ans 1: Certificates have been either dispatched or are being dispatched  (Oh God, why did they invent present continuous usage in English language at all?!) depending on(variable – it depends, you see) the status of the students(rich, poor, what?).

Q 2: Please provide the reasons of the extraordinary and ongoing delay.

Ans 2: The delay is routine (A 4 month delay is just ‘routine’, you see. Reminds me of passenger train somehow). There is no extraordinary or ongoing delay (Really? The Chandrayaan took only few days to reach the moon) in cases where students have followed the proper procedure(conditional if, and what is an ‘improper’ procedure, pray? Isn’t a procedure a procedure?).

Q 3: Please provide the reasons for non-communication by the institute regarding the reasons for the delay to the participants.

Ans 3: The service provider (NIIT Imperia) (Blame it on them) had been informed regarding the reasons for the delay(Finally, they accept, there was delay, but then, what if it did not reach us).

PS: Curiously enough, between the filing of this RTI query and the response, I received the certificate!

If you would like to access some quality discussions and resources on how citizens can use Right to Information Act to your situation, please check out  RTI India portal.

Why iPhone 4 is a Great Opportunity for Sonyericsson and HTC

Filed Under (Marketing) by Rajesh Kumar on 09-06-2010

Tagged Under : , , ,

About 2 years back, I had argued in my blog post that the about to be launched iPhone would fail in the Indian market . While I leave it to your judgment to decide how my audacious argument performed on the time scale, here I am back with another set of observations for the Indian market, this time on iPhone 4.

The fact remains is that Apple has created the worst possible marketing mix, when it comes to the Indian market. The price of an iPhone is prohibitive in the market. While it sells under USD 200 in the US (with operator lock and under a long term plan), it costs over Rs 30,000 in India. Translated into dollars, that costs over 640 dollars at today’s rate. That is expensive even by purchasing ability of customers in the United States. For Indian customers, that’s even more in terms of impact. Besides, there’s barely any marketing campaign and even the operators such as Airtel and Vodafone who supposedly offer iPhone, remain lukewarm about the promotions.

The distribution of iPods has taken a slightly mass route, with even bookstores keeping it for sale. However, how does one see iPad? Where does one go for it? I am not sure, apart from the mental recall that there is an Apple iStore on R.K.Salai in Chennai. Moreover, in the US, the launch on the device is an event by itself, and that itself is the biggest promotion, that is widely covered by the media. No such thing in India. We’ve to get contented by watching Steve Jobs launch videos in USA.

 

That kind of impact is not available in Indian market, where its launch mix is much weaker than a Nokia phone that costs Rs 2000/-.

Moreover, where’s 3G in India? The frequency auction for 3G is on as of now, and the networks are ages to go. So, no video calls, as Steve Jobs demonstrated at WWDC.

This presents a great opportunity for Sonyericsson and other smartphone manufacturers. In short, Apple is leading the innovation threshold, but it is way behind the expectation threshold in market approach to markets such as India, where others such as Sonyericsson, HTC, Nokia continue to lead.

According to me, the best estimate could be of an Indian market of less than 100 pieces, if and when the model gets launched. That does not mean only 100 iPhone 4s will be used in India. In fact, there would be much more than that, despite the restrictions.

Till then Apple will only be news in India. If wants to be taken seriously in India, it needs to have a clear market strategy, which seems to be lacking at this point.

Obtaining Your Credit Report in India is Easy

Filed Under (Motley) by Rajesh Kumar on 02-06-2010

It is commonplace to have a dispute with a service provider and cancel a service, but if the service provider happens to a financial institution, there’s always a possibility of silent damage – at least in India. That’s because one can never be sure of how that reflects in the credit bureau records. In fact, India has Credit Information Bureau (India) Limited (CIBIL) established just few years back by a group of Banks and Dun & Bradstreet.

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A big drawback for us Indians is that we are not used to seeing our banks looking at our credit score, and therefore, do not care what is written in there. Many of us do not even know about the existence of such a bureau.That means the credit report available to your bank may have some subjective elements inserted to your adverse impact, which you may not even realize. The best way to keep track of such obnoxities is to watch your credit report. Yes, very few of us know that it is possible to get access to your credit information report(C.I. R).

The process is fairly simple. A very basic form to be filled and sent along with a Demand Draft of Rs 142/- to be sent to CIBIL through the post office only.While many identification documents are allowed in the application, it is recommended to provide the PAN number, since all bank transactions require the same.

If you notice a discrepancy in your C.I.R, you can take that up with the concerned financial institution as the credit bureau cannot update the records at your instance.

Link: The CIBIL Site can be reached here. The report contains details of which institutions have asked for your data, maximum amount you ever borrowed, and how much outstanding you have with each bank.  To see what a typical report available on yourself and what information it contains, click here. Below is just a snapshot for quick reference.

Credit Bureau of India Sample Report Snapshot

Updated June 04, 2010: Learnt offline from my professional colleague Chinni Krishnan that the report does not carry a credit score, (as credit reports in US do). He feels that this is a good start and there is much scope for the report to have ‘less English, and more Math’. His experience in getting the report was marked by very quick response time from CBIL authorities.

Cloudy Cloud Computing: Find it very nebulous?

Filed Under (Technology) by Rajesh Kumar on 12-05-2010

Every Tom and Jane in the business of IT talks about the cloud strategy these days. Some see it as panacea to managing a server room or a data center, others think it helps them reduce their dependence on irksome IT staff, yet others think Cloud is fashionable, and there’s need to adopt it, without thinking much about it.

I think many CIOs take this decision without a serious evaluation. The resultant consequence – often ill-thought out adoptions that do not bring in the right efficiencies.

It is a fact that there is no copybook definition of cloud computing.However, there’s clearly an infrastructure stack, and an application stack. Often, this application stack gets referred to as ‘service’ or by another much abused term ’SAAS’! Quite simply, the application uses the computing power of anonymous machines sitting in some invisible data center managed by someone else. Amazon is a typical example of this.

Coming to the applications now. Adopting organizations often get swayed by terms such as multi-tenancy of applications. Frankly, multi-tenancy comes at its own price. A multi-tenant application, mostly, cannot be tailor made to your requirements. Take it or leave it.  Think about your apartment in a skyscraper. You cannot go grossly out of line with the rest of the building. You can maybe, change the colour of the walls if you like.  It is standardized customization, if you so like.

That of course does not mean business processes cannot be in cloud. Business Process applications are rapidly maturing too. Force.com is an example of organizations that are moving forward in a rapid fashion. Zoho is yet another example.

That begs the question – should I, or, shouldn’t I. My suggestion is as follows:

- Have your own reasons for moving to cloud.

- Don’t think everyone on the cloud is on cloud nine.

- Have your own starting point.

- IT problems will remain, even after you move to the cloud – only the nature will change.

Take YOUR call!


About Rajesh Kumar. Rajesh is based in Chennai, where he works for Defiance Technologies in Marketing. The views on this blog are his own. Rajesh Kumar