Bull Crossing

Knowledge is Bliss

India’s new exports

Posted by g.e. on January 3, 2008

See here:

Despite an improved economy, many Japanese are feeling a sense of insecurity about the nation’s schools, which once turned out students who consistently ranked at the top of international tests.  That is no longer true, which is why many people here are looking for lessons from India, the country the Japanese see as the world’s ascendant education superpower. Bookstores are filled with titles like “Extreme Indian Arithmetic Drills” and “The Unknown Secrets of the Indians.”  Newspapers carry reports of Indian children memorizing multiplication tables far beyond nine times nine, the standard for young elementary students in Japan. Indian education is a frequent topic in forums like talk shows. Popular books claim to reveal the Indian secrets for multiplying and dividing multiple-digit numbers. Even Japan’s conservative education ministry has begun discussing Indian methods, said Jun Takai of the ministry’s international affairs division.   

 But, God, please, this can not be the right answer..

Most annoying for many Japanese is that the aspects of Indian education they now praise are similar to those that once made Japan famous for its work ethic and discipline: learning more at an earlier age, an emphasis on memorization and cramming, and a focus on the basics, particularly in math and science.     

Link to Little Angels in Mitaka.

Btw here is an ancient export that may save some sneeze. Makes me wonder what else they tried before zeroing in on salt.

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On cycle rickshaws

Posted by g.e. on January 3, 2008

Just when India is trying to phase-out rickshaws, the world is beginning to adopt them. See here.

Cycle rickshaws may not conform to the Delhi police’s view of what makes a modern city, but many capitals of more developed countries are beginning to see them as part of the solution to environmental problems. They can now be seen in London, Oxford, Paris, Singapore –even New York City, where they are called pedicabs. And London’s considering a system of licensing for cycle rickshaws.   

And the communists get it wrong again:

It’s not the first time an Indian city has tried to get rid of rickshaws. Calcutta tried recently to ban the hand-pulled variety, the city’s communist authorities arguing these leftovers from the days of the British Raj are inhumane. But the rickshaw pullers don’t see it that way and so far they’re refusing to give way.   

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Will Pandit do an Ozzie

Posted by g.e. on December 24, 2007

I like to think that the job Prince had with Citi was like what Microsoft had prior to it started work on Vista.Microsoft’s one – okay, one of the – goal then was improving reliability: Security. Security. Security. While for Prince all answers lied in one word: Compliance. Now that both Vista and Prince are out, the task that remains is Apple and Google for Microsoft. And a not so friendly credit market for Citi. 

It will be interesting to see how things play out in both Citi and Microsoft.  

In a way even the ascent of Ray Ozzie and Vikram Pandit look the same. While no one will think of transplanting Pandit in Ozzie’s role (or vice versa), financial markets seem to “demand” as much innovation/ creativity as information technology.

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LiveMocha is interesting

Posted by g.e. on October 8, 2007

Actually very interesting. Bits from launch post here:

While the market for language learning is growing rapidly in the new millennium, the existing self help tools on the market have remain stuck in the 90s relying on outdated CD ROM technology. As I have written in my previous blog post (Taking advantage of Platform Shifts), platform shifts such as the shift to internet computing and now to Web 2.0, provide the perfect opportunity for new companies to displace the existing incumbents by being the first to embrace the new platform. It is time to create such a platform shift in the language learning market.

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New Nalanda

Posted by g.e. on August 14, 2007

A little background here:
Patna, July 24 (IANS) The Nalanda Mentor Group, headed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen that is overseeing the opening of an international university in Nalanda in Bihar, will submit its report to the external affairs ministry by early next year.

The first meeting of the Nalanda Mentor Group was held in Singapore July 13-14. Three more meetings will be held in Tokyo, Beijing and New Delhi.

The idea of the university was first mooted in the late 1990s but it was President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s initiative in early 2006 that gave shape to the project, which is to come up at the ancient site of Buddhist learning.

Nalanda is the Sanskrit term for giver of knowledge. Nalanda University, which existed until 1197 AD, attracted students and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, besides being a pedestal of higher education in India. The excavated site of the ancient university is protected as a place of national importance.

New Nalanda in The Telegraph:
The symposium of Asian, Western and non-resident Indian scholars was the soft packaging for high-powered hard-sell. The aim is to raise Rs 5 billion, not only from Singapore but, through Singapore acting as “a facilitator, a catalyst” from the rest of Asia. The Chinese government, which gave Rs 570,000 as long ago as 1960 — yes, an embryonic plan has been gathering dust for 46 years — is pledged to provide up to Rs 4 crore. If China comes, can Japan be far behind? In fact, the Japanese have already indicated their willingness to develop the historical trails of Buddhism. Other sponsors are expected to sign up at next month’s East Asia Summit in the Philippines when Manmohan Singh will unfold details and make another pitch for funds.

SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY, further on Bihar:
My first book, Bihar Shows the Way, traced Jayaprakash Narayan’s idealism to the heroic legacy of the land that bore him. Bihar is Vaishali, the world’s oldest democracy. It is Pavapuri where the tirthankar Mahavira preached. It is Pataliputra, pride of the Mauryan empire. Megasthenes paid tribute to its finely graded sales tax system, Hieun Tsang to its learning. Forty-two years after Bakhtiyar Khilji sacked Nalanda, the Tibetan pilgrim, Chag Lotsawa, found that scholarship, like love, survived among the ruins. A solitary teacher, 90-year-old Rahul Shribhadra, still devotedly discharged his duty to 70 students.

Bihar achieved great things; it is also a graveyard of ideas and institutions. Pataliputra cradled Ajatasatru who — remember “Pujarini”? — cruelly suppressed Buddhism. When I sought his capital, no one in Patna, not even my Bihar government guide, knew what I meant. The word Pataliputra conveyed nothing. They knew the site as Kumraon. But Bakhtiarpur immortalizes the man who destroyed Nalanda though not many know he was taliban’s spiritual ancestor. The story goes that before attacking the ancient Buddhist university he asked, “Is there a copy of the Quran there?”

Nalanda lay forgotten for centuries until British archaeologists unearthed its remains in 1860. The flickering lamp of Pali studies at the Nava Nalanda Mahavira is its only link with the glorious past

Also see Santiniketan, Auroville

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The DMIC Project

Posted by g.e. on July 16, 2007

Saw this in FT, on “the ambitious Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), a $90bn project to develop the 1,483km swath of land between the country’s political and financial capitals.”:

In a reflection of this tentative approach, there are only about 350 Japanese companies active in India compared with some 30,000 in China, according to an official at the Japanese embassy in New Delhi. But corporate Japan is now aggressively seeking a bigger role, a development underscored by a high-powered Japanese trade mission to Delhi last week that produced pledges of closer ties between the two countries.

Conceived by Japan and India six months ago, the corridor will wind through six states and include industrial zones, sector-specific investment regions, a 4,000 MW power plant, ports and several airports as well as brown field and green field development.

The DMIC has been planned to run alongside large highway projects and a rail freight corridor also in the works that would shuttle goods to and from seaports. Several large cities will link to the corridor, including Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Pune.

The industrial corridor would help further India’s goal of boosting manufacturing and exports. “Japan is building a platform where India can become the gateway of exports to the UK, Middle East and Africa,” said Mr Amari.

He highlighted potential business opportunities for small and medium-sized Japanese enterprises in the corridor, though his delegation represented a who’s who of Japanese corporate heavyweights.

Xinhua notes further that:
The industrial corridor project, which was initiated during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Tokyo visit in December 2006, is likely to be finalized during Abe’s visit to India in the last week of August.

The two ministers also welcomed the announcement of Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) to introduce the Japanese Depository receipt (JDR) scheme here.

India can become the first destination for the scheme, that can become a financial resource for the DMIC project.

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Ashok Jhunjhunwala’s many tenets

Posted by g.e. on March 10, 2007

Seattle Post Intelligencer ‘s full coverage of the Sam Pitroda of Today’s India is here.

Some snippets follow:
The professor created a business incubator called the Tenet Group to help foster technology startups. But, in a classic Indian twist, the mandate is quite different than what you might find on Silicon Valley’s Sand Hill Road.

Rather than trying to build the next Yahoo or Google, hoping to serve the world, Tenet’s entrepreneurs are hoping to serve the needs of rural India.

As Jhunjhunwala put it: “We formed Tenet with the objective of taking IIT students to the next level. We also decided to focus on rural areas, where 700 million of India’s 1.1 billion people still live. We’re trying to show that innovation can happen in our own markets. In doing so, we’re coming up with new ideas to help the nation.”

Walking around the group’s offices, which are integrated into the IIT campus, one can see many examples of this “socially conscious entrepreneurship”:

# Midas Communications Ltd., one of the earliest Tenet companies, has grown to deliver telecom services to millions across India using breakthrough wireless routing. The company employs 600 in Chennai and does business in 25 other countries.
# Oops Private Ltd. is creating ways to bring video conferencing to remote villages, using the low-end technologies available. Oops has figured out a way to do video conferencing on bandwidth as low as 20 Kbps, allowing kids to attend classes with teachers hundreds of miles away.
# ReMeDi Ltd. is using similar bandwidth optimization technology to help villages that have no doctors. And they’re delivering the systems for the equivalent of $250.

The list goes on. Low-cost weather stations. Rural ATMs that cost about $1,200 compared with the usual $10,000 to $15,000. Thin-client computers that cost about $100. It’s all coming out of an IIT system once derided for a lack of innovation.

“India was dormant,” said Jhunjhunwala. “Now it’s growing. But the rural areas are being left behind.”

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Dr Govindappa Venkataswamy

Posted by g.e. on February 18, 2007

Thanks to Daily Reckoning, may never have read these bits on Dr G Venkataswamy:

The inspiration, Dr. V says, comes from McDonald’s. He first discovered the golden arches at the age of 55 and it changed his life.

“In America, there are powerful marketing devices to sell products like Coca-Cola and hamburgers,” he says. “All I want to sell is good eyesight, and there are millions of people who need it…If Coca-Cola can sell billions of sodas and McDonald’s can sell billions of burgers, why can’t Aravind sell millions of sight-restoring operations…? With sight, people could be freed from hunger, fear, and poverty.

“In the third world, a blind person is referred to as ‘a mouth without hands,’” says Dr. V. “He is detrimental to his family and to the whole village. But all he needs is a 10-minute operation. One week the bandages go on, the next week they go off. High bang for the buck. But people don’t realize that the surgery is available, or that they can afford it, because it’s free. We have to sell them first on the need.”

The hospital picks up the tab for those who can’t pay. Paying customers are charged 50 rupees (about $1) per consultation and have their choice of accommodations: “A-class” rooms ($3 per day), which are private; “B-class” rooms ($1.50 per day), in which a toilet is shared; or “C-class” rooms ($1 per day), essentially a mat on the floor. Paying customers choose between surgery with stitches ($110) and surgery without stitches ($120).

Since he began, his eye hospitals have restored the sight of more than one million people in India. Even with such tiny revenues per patient, Aravind makes a profit, with a gross margin of 40%. One operation is completed; another is begun right away. It is apparently a very efficient and productive enterprise.

Aravind now does more eye surgeries than any other provider in the world, though it accepts no government grants. The hospitals are totally self-supporting. Nor does Dr. V. try to hustle a profit from the enterprise for himself. He lives on a pension, taking no money out of Aravind.

Dr. V. is helping the poor in a big way. But he also helps them in a way very different from the typical world improver. He sees them as individuals.

“Consultants talk of ‘the poor,’” he says. “No one at Aravind does. ‘The poor’ is a vulgar term. Would you call Christ a poor man? To think of certain people as ‘the poor’ puts you in a superior position, blinds you to the ways in which you are poor – and in the West there are many such ways: emotionally and spiritually, for example. You have comforts in America, but you are afraid of each other.”

Dr. V set out only to do eye operations…quickly and cheaply. The world improvement came – as it always does – as a by-product of private action. In Tamil Nadu state, where his main hospital is located, the incidence of blindness is 20% below the rest of India.

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Gaurav Dhillon’s Second Act

Posted by g.e. on February 12, 2007

On BusinessWeek:

In the world of online movie distribution, Gaurav Dhillon, chief executive of startup Jaman.com, has an edge over a formidable leader, Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes Store. Jaman has 1,000 films available for download, four times as many as iTunes.

Jaman is a second act for Dhillon, who was founder and CEO of Informatica (INFA), a Redwood City (Calif.) software company that launched in 1992. After stepping down in 2004, he took a few years off to look for something new to do. “I had wanted to do something with photography, which is my hobby, but I realized I wasn’t going to change the world with that,” he says.

During that time, he traveled around the world and learned a surprising fact: Some 99% of the movies made globally will never be shown or distributed in the U.S., the biggest movie-watching market. So he teamed with Carlos Montalvo, a former vice-president at Apple, who was also general manager of the Quicktime group, Apple’s video and streaming media software division. He’s raised $4 million from his own Dhillon Capital and additional financing from unnamed “technical luminaries” in technology and entertainment. The company has negotiated the rights for movies from studios including Arc Light Films, a Taiwanese studio, and Celestial Pictures, with headquarters in Hong Kong, and is now looking for a second round of funding.

“There are 56 million people who live in the U.S. but who weren’t born here or who speak another language and who would like to see movies and TV shows from their native countries,” he says.

While in big cities there are often local retailers who import movies from around the world, that’s not always an option elsewhere, says Dhillon, a brain surgeon originally from India now living in Topeka, Kan. His target customer: “He’s got a job he loves and likes where he lives, but he can’t get movies from India at the corner video store,” he says. “This is for someone like him.”

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A Beautifull mind

Posted by g.e. on February 12, 2007

Was reading this interview on Rediff yesterday and was stuck by the energy and the vision Mr Mukesh displays. The bit on SEZ made me wonder if the interview is of someone from the Planning Commission.

On Retail:
We are working at putting the most modern technology in farms at Indian costs. I always say whatever the US implements in dollars we should be able to do it at exchange rate of Rs 10, then we would be globally competitive.

We talked of IT. What is IT? It is the arbitrage between the per hour rate in the US and India. We have gone from zero to $20 billion in exporting software, employing about 1 million people in 10 years. These million people changed the brand of India, consumption pattern and gave us the confidence that we can do everything.

The arbitrage has narrowed but is still there. It will disappear in a few decades by which time our software exports may be $100 billion. From a million people, it will benefit 10 million people. If that is what has happened in software, imagine what will happen in agriculture.

Let me give you some numbers. Take potatoes, the most common food across the world. From Bill Gates to my driver, everybody eats potatoes. Now, plot the prices. Farmers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar get about Rs 4-5 a kilo; in the Middle East, the wholesale price is about Rs 25-30 a kilo. In the US, Sam’s Club, it is Rs 90 a kilo. In Europe, it is Rs 110 a kilo. The arbitrage is 1:20. If we get our produce right, and if the US market is opened up, you will be surprised how quickly we reach $20 billion.

The food market is much bigger than the software services market. And the money goes straight into the hands of millions of farmers. The spinoffs are enormous — jobs, houses, durables, a whole new consumption boom will start in rural areas.

On SEZ:
The logic of SEZ is simple. India is long on talent and we need to create as many jobs as possible in manufacturing and services.

India’s land bank is about 750-800 million acres. Out of this, 500 million acres can be potentially farmed, but today only 300-350 million is arable and used for agriculture. We need to bring the remaining 150 million acres into productive use. More than 100 million households rely on this land base. India is creating 800,000 engineers a year and 400,00-500,000 semi-professionals. So we will bring in about 2 million professionals into the workforce annually over the next 20 years. We need to create jobs for them.

What is missing? It is integrated infrastructure and a reasonable assurance of facilities that are good for at least 10 years. My target company would want to come to India but operate near the big metros. This is the example that you learn from Shanghai or Shenzen. That is where our SEZs with integrated infrastructure come in — they provide an integrated airport, seaport, transportation, power and housing — all at sensible costs.

When I put out a comparative chart, I should be able to tell big employers: this is how we compare with Singapore, Dubai, Shenzhen or Malaysia and Korea. On every parameter, I should beat others in cost and quality of infrastructure. India might be short of infrastructure but here you have guaranteed infrastructure and talent.

You are near Bombay and Delhi and have access to the Indian market and global markets. So ours is an employment-led SEZ. The strategy is first to get the employer. I think we can create 5 million jobs in each of the two 25,000-acre SEZs. But we need many more just to make sure that most of our educated youth is occupied.

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