Showing posts with label Information Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Information Technology. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Satya Nadella - A defense that is not one

One more treatise on the Karma guy’s woes - couldn't resist the temptation to jump on to the bandwagon, my bad!
One cannot discount for the fact that as a male he could potentially have some level of bias and foggy view of gender-equality which may have influenced his initial response which in hindsight does sound a tad too casual for the kind of platform it was – I’m not still going to pursue that angle here since enough debate is already happening out there.
My focus here is on some obvious racial backlash against Nadella using this incident as a ruse/ excuse & what's said here is relevant only to the section of netizens whose foremost view of Nadella seems to be that of an Asian-Indian & not as a successful, self-made American corporate/tech executive.
This current racial slur is evident in the following refrains;
  • Calling into question his competence (Indian) to handle the top-job of an American corporation vis-à-vis other more 'deserving' (European?) contenders
  • His ethno-cultural, rustic! (India, Hindu?) roots perpetuating his patriarchal, rigid approach to gender
  • His (in)ability to articulate his position well during the initial comment & in his subsequent explanation (non-native English speaker?)
Ironically, many pursuing this angle seem more cock-sure about the meaning of 'Karma' than Nadella himself who, whether or not a practicing Hindu, will still understand better the context & consequence of Karma at a subconscious level given the all pervasiveness of it in an Indian context – this is not to say he’s a saint who knows his pearls of wisdom, but to underscore that misinterpretation of karma is a distinct possibility if the meaning has been merely googled up.
Given his upbringing in an multicultural urban set-up, in a socially sensitized & progressive familial environment; my own understanding of the shared cultural ethos & social metric he'd have been exposed to & going by the fact that he made it to top on his own steam in a foreign country, I'd believe Satya Nadella understands the implications of discrimination at work of different types, is perhaps more gender sensitive than many mono-cultural tech-executives in the US of A and as articulate in English, if not more, than most native speakers of that language. Ponder this, if the Indian, Hindu angle were absent from his profile, he'd surely have been interpreted far more reasonably by the currently raving minority out there & here.
By all means, rip him apart on what he said or didn't for weeks & months to come, but only while treating him an ‘American male tech-CEO’ & NOT as a ‘Indian-Hindu male & a compromise CEO of an American corporation’
Like any, this too shall pass. But let this not leave a bitter aftertaste of racial prejudice for the hard-working aliens in the land of opportunity.
POST THOUGHT: 16 October 2014
In Telugu, which is Satya Nadella's native tongue (also mine), the term 'Karma/ Kharma' is typically used in the context of acknowledging consequences of one’s action. The most commonly used phrase is Naa kharma, anubhavinchaka tappadu, which can be translated as 'I have to bear the consequences that come my way' – It should be noted here that the individual doesn't clarify if the consequences are of his/her actions or someone else’s. Another common usage is Evari karma ki vaarey baadhyulu which translates as 'an individual owns complete responsibility of dealing with consequences of his karma'.
Effectively, in Telugu, the term Karma is used as a philosophical refrain/ reproach (to self or others) that conveys the sense that "an individual has to own up & deal with the consequences of his karma, be it good or bad". So after all, If not his initial botched-up response, Nadella's subsequent patch-up message to his employees does seem to have some influence of his linguistic roots :-)
Image Courtesy: Seattle Times

Sunday, March 17, 2013

IT & ITeS Enterprise in India: an Outsider Perspective based on trends in Investment & Technological Evolution

Why should an outsider perspective matter?
I tend to believe that way too many people have taken Steve Jobs maxim, ‘customers cannot tell you what they need’ at its face-value and in the process probably haven’t realized fully that the very user-experience guidelines Apple Inc., so vigorously pursued, propagated to the developer community made the tech-consumer an integral part of the technological evolution & hence an “insider” for all practical purposes – After all within six months of launching iPhone, Jobs recalled his earlier decree of ‘No third-party apps on iPhone’ :-) - I rest my case here.
Life, tech & the metaphysics of a cyber-quest
The exabytes of sheer information thrown up by an internet-query and the consequent collateral learning at times gives a radically different perspective of the principal quest &/or changes the very course of the search/ research.
That’s precisely what happened when I set-out with an innocuous query ‘Life+Tech’ to check-on how the marriage of life sciences & technology is working out as indicated by the quality of innovation and the investor sentiment towards this emerging IT subset globally and, if India is in-sync with these trends – I strayed off-course quite a bit soaking up some non-serious gyan on gamification, cross-application potential of game mechanics to health & wellness, dallying a while with the first ever ‘drug discovery’ game, Syrum & eventually decided that I’d do good to first understand how the IT & ITeS enterprise is poised in India & then go about speculating on where it could go from here, towards life-tech or some other direction altogether.
The quantitative & the qualitative sojourn

As I looked into the openly available, mostly undifferentiated data** & the trends, I used the following assumptions in order to get as close to reality as possible;
  • Wherever the VC activity has been clubbed under PE, I considered all early-stage & some growth-stage deals as essentially venture deals
  • Where I depended on individual alerts of certain deals, I considered funding up to series-C as venture funding & series-D too if that involved at least one VC 
  • No acquisitions, Mezzanine funding rounds have been considered as Venture capital (which of course wasn’t much)
  • Since I was looking into IT sub-category trends & the only categorization ‘Industry Codes (VEIC)’ by NVCA is surprisingly devoid of some well-understood terms such as “Cloud”, “Apps” etc., I decided to use my own simplistic terminology that’s hopefully self-descriptive
**My primary source for the data was which derives its own info from Venture Intelligence alerts & reports. In addition to this I have also used, primarily for cross-verification of primary category figures, the MoneyTree reports by PWC & NVCA from data provided by Thomson Reuters ……. phew
True to my enlightened detour, the not-so-cursory analysis of the available information on IT & ITeS related investments in India in 2012 drew an interesting picture;

  • Commerce sub-category (B2C e-commerce) hogged the largest share of 45%
  • Services sub-categories (B2B BPO, Cloud, Edutech, IT Services, Telephony) cornered second highest 22%
  • Analytics sub-categories (B2B Internet & Mobile Advertising; web-analytics) that are focused on the increasingly crucial data mining, analysis and consumer demographic profiling gathered 20%
  • Product sub-categories (B2B Mobile apps; PaaS; Software; Health-IT & Gaming) managed only 13% share of investments, helped in a large measure by the Mobile Apps category

From the above observations it can be inferred that the investor sentiment in India is very strong towards Commerce, strong towards Services & Analytics and weak towards Products. This also could mean that the investment in IT & ITeS in India is driven more by the local than the global potential–while this statement may sound altruistic, the statistics seem to support it;
It’s an irony that my initial interest ‘Health-IT’ is very insignificant at 1% of funding – a cursory review of the ‘mobile apps’ companies also doesn't indicate any healthcare component being pursued – so much for my principal quest!
Takeaways for the investing universe, primarily for the VCs
There’s only as much space to jostle around on the e-com super express
  • The e-commerce opportunity while looks tempting is surely reaching the tipping point wherein differentiation & achieving of critical mass is going to be a huge challenge
  • Compounding this is the fact that the global biggies like Amazon, eBay et al that could’ve offered a superior exit option by way of an acquisition have started to get-in on their own (, – banking on the relative ease of establishing a virtual enterprise
  • It’s also apparent that the likes of Amazon are now gearing up to ‘Walmartify’ their online shopping and go physical to enhance user experience! – If not anything, this points out to the cyclical nature of consumer preference of a buying experience & hence the caution one has to execute in putting too many eggs in one basket.

The Quants will rule and later they won’t & then again they would
  • The monetization of analytics opportunity will surely out-pace e-commerce & services given the eventuality of any business is to understand consumer & maximize the consumers buying impulses.
  • Quite interestingly the innovation quality of Indian companies in this domain seems to be pretty high – probably since analytics combines Math & Jugaad, skills Indians inherently seem to possess.
  • I’d also think it makes business sense for the quant in consumer analytics context to be essentially an ‘insider’ &  hence Indian analytics enterprise could always showcase an edge, a value-add
  •  Eventually, while the ‘insider advantage could work in favour of Indian analytics enterprise in the shorter term, the Math + Jugaad + Semantics combination could open the world to India in a big way, touch wood.

Hop onto the Gravy (app) train early on & dish out by the dime
  • Mobile apps development is essentially a platform (OS specific SDKs et al) based innovation that enables small & Individual pools of expertise to emerge quickly & thus very amenable to garage innovation
  • While building of apps is innovation per se’, it is more ‘applied innovation’  (owing to the afore mentioned platform technologies) & hence India won’t necessarily face a quality-of-innovation prejudice
  • Added to this is the global trend of healthcare going mobile progressively, there’s an open opportunity of cellular network providers tying up with local app developers, for the service & transactional ease they’d bring in.
  • Apps are evolutionary products with a limited shelf-life (before being reinvented in a different version) & hence inherently man-power intensive. Given this context & given the explosion of engineering education making available qualified young (& economical) tech work-force that can think in English, India has the potential to become the ‘China’ of mobile apps – if only the rough edges of campus-to-corporate transition can be smoothened out sooner.
  • Using this & some of the 'local' advantages i mentioned under Analytics, I'd think there's no reason why Indian enterprise shouldn't give an India flavor to its Gaming?, after all, all nationalities like to play by their own rules :-) - this would also expose the average indian youngster to the game mechanics that from whatever I read, is poised to dominate every tangible domain in the years to come.
  • And finally, a domain where VCs can play evangelists, stoke the fires of enterprise & seed the self-sustaining revolution of mobile apps – all with minimal risk & funding :-)

And hey, is Mobile Hardware IT too? – thought NVCA said so…
  • Is it me or wasn't there really any investment into the super accelerating mobile handset Indian enterprise in 2012? Unless this is already reaching saturation which I seriously doubt, there’s still a good open investment opportunity. But of course given the capital intensive nature of these start-ups, the scope for venture funding may be low and only at very early stages, but if successful this could turn into a multi-X return by series-B funding itself.

After Thought:

What’s with financial analysts & their compulsive fetish for quarterly reporting? – I’d agree quarterly trends do matter in consumer markets, but I’m utterly confused about their utility in a long-decision-cycle B2B environment like investing – enlighten me folks, I’m all ears!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

USER TRUST, the dope that can't be ignored in the race to monetizing cyber-social engagement – A commentary in light of the recent revamps to LinkedIn user experience

Okay, here goes…


With a market cap of over US$16 billion & revenues forecast slated at US$1.4 billion and supposedly* out-pacing the original social media biggie Facebook in terms of revenue v/s user base, LinkedIn is surely fanning the flames of market expectation of an aggressive performance coming year (*the revenue per user as of last financial year is ~ US$5, coincidentally for both LinkedIn & FB)

As a part of this expectation frenzy, the analysts have been postulating various acquisition targets based on LinkedIn’s need to grow faster, hence inorganically through acquisitions, though not all necessarily as pricey as Slideshare buyout and generate more revenues & earnings that’d justify its two years into public listing - In a funny kind of way, I feel the financial markets almost want LI to compensate for the laggard performance of Facebook J


As a regular user, I’ve been wearily noticing the rapid dilution of what used to be the core value-add of LinkedIn platform (vis-à-vis’ other social media) – its high quality user-experience!

While a major portion of this dilution happened through the unceremonious withdrawal of various tools & applications, a lot of it is also owing to the subtle or probably not-so subtle attempt to move away from being an egalitarian professional platform to becoming an elite platform where a few celebrities & myriads of followers exist at different levels of social relevance effected through a methodically tempered and manipulated 'visibility engineering' by the overseers……. not sure about what I’m saying?... ponder this;

Unceremonious WITHDRAWAL of apps
  • Just like that, one fine day most used & adored apps such as MY TRAVEL (TRIPIT); EVENTS; READING LIST BY AMAZON (along with all my reviews), BLOG LINK et al are all gone!! - Ironically, the settings still point me to the applications page where all the above application icons still exist, but defunct.
The subtle social DISENGAGEMENT:
  • STATUS UPDATE - No more one can use Twitter to update the LI status, the other way is possible though. Also, the status update is now “just one more activity” on your profile & the moment you post a comment on anything else, your status update goes into hiding below. Furthermore, your comment on a LI article itself is never shown, but a grab of the article on which you commented is displayed on your profile
  • ENGAGEMENT - The LinkedIn Answers is gone…. taking with it the zillions of high quality & ‘free’ opinion and advice
And what features get strengthened? 1) JOBS - with the introduction of talent solutions; Premium job-seeker et al 2) NEWS - with LinkedIn Today, Signal et al 3) TALENT SOLUTIONS – introduction of Skills and Expertise endorsements moving away from the much cumbersome recommendation 4) COMPANIES – with enhanced options for engagement with potential business associates and job aspirants et al and finally 5) PREMIUM USER ACCOUNT and the paying account privileges that come with it.


Reading the trend of vanishing apps & features together with the names of potential acquisitions floating about, it does appear LI could end up acquiring and integrating a few companies such as;
  • VIADEO & ChinaHR  - to ramp up the user-base and thus the revenues
  • QUORA – to compensate for Answers & recreate the lost cause of stimulating user engagement.. and finally,
  • DEMANDBASE – to optimize the momentum of COMPANY pages and create a B2B integrated transaction platform
I don’t believe acquisition of MONSTER is something LinkedIn would/ should bother about?, as LI already enjoys the benefit of a better user perception (real?) of candidate quality plus a greater brand equity, which any association with a hard-core job site like Monster would only dilute.

Essentially, when the analysts out there propose these acquisitions, it’s all about money, valuation, market capitalization & essentially monetizing all the user-base unabashedly quite like what FB is trying to do.


But of course, these are enterprises after all and they’d want to make money & people who invested in those want them to make money. But when the very basis of a business is its user base, their interest and trust in the platform and it’s ethos, I am not sure if the solely revenue-inspired changes LI is affecting make complete sense.

I want to believe when LI web-page redirect I landed on says “We'll be focusing our efforts on the development of new and more engaging ways to share and discuss professional topics across LinkedIn” – I very badly want to……. I love/ loved being on LinkedIn, I want it to sustain my interest, I do want to still confide all my professional details to the platform without having a niggling doubt that LI is only teasing-out information it could use commercially and blocking-out information it can’t monetize – only I don’t see many signs of it. I, an average but avid social media denizen am not surely alone in this feeling of the user getting left high and dry in this chase of valuation.

I hope LinkedIn is listening & FB eavesdropping..... Please don’t do the mistake of taking the user for granted 'cause on a social media user is the primal stakeholder.



Is LinkedIn itself a candidate for take-over? I’d think so - it’d be the right acquisition for any company out there trying to dominate the cloud scene with an integrated gadget to boot. Would one of you gentleman please raise your hand? Tim, Jeff, Larry… anyone….??