May 27, 2006

The innovation that is 'Orkut'

There was a spam doing the rounds recently of how Mr Orkut Buyukkokten, the coder from Stanford was making money at the speed of light. The mail stated that whenever you send a friend reqest, scrap, add a person as a fan, etc etc Mr. Orkut makes money. The objective of this post is not to quantify the cash that Orkut is making. (Some say he may be the richest man on the planet in a few years. Ironically his office is in the 'Gates' building.) The objective here is to celebrate the innovation that is orkut. is a website that helps you to get in touch with other people. It is much more effective than other sites since to become a member of the network you need to get an invite from an existing member of the network. Thus making it difficult for bots to enter. The website helps people stay in touch, meet old friends, and last of all make new friends. When one becomes a member, you fill up a e-form that takes a lot of data like hobbies, interests, demographics, etc.

So whats so great? Well since the network is 'trusted' because of the invite barrier, you get more reliable people and hence reliable data. As I write this, orkut has an estimated 20 million strong membership and believe me its addictive. Who would not like to get in touch with old friends. Its one of the most difficult things to let go when you change locations. So its safe to assume that a huge percentage, somewhere around 70-80% will be active. That makes 16 million people chatting up, flirting, and most important giving valuable information about themselves. Which marketer would not give her / his left b00b / b0ll for such information. At the same time the members enjoy, they have come in touch with their long lost friends. Its a win-win situation. Which is what makes orkut such a great innovation. I wouldn't be sursprised if Mr. Buyukkokten becomes the richest man on the planet or is getting those big bucks. He might be selling the data to Market Research firms. (Would have loved to put the mail here too, but sadly I dont have a copy. Anyone reading this please mail it to me at xcesstorque [at] yahoo [dot] com.)

However there is a caveat. Orkut for all its 20 million members is mainly popular in India, Pakistan and Brazil. But considering the way it is spreading it will take little time to expand into emerging markets like South East Asia, Eastern Europe, and the other parts of South America & Latin America. Also, orkut is popular among the age group of 15 - 30. Yes it could take a quite a few years before the current crowd ages and we have representation from all age groups. People might also argue that only the internet savvy are profiled. Ah well yes .. thats a valid point. I guess customer profiling can be done only for this section of society. However in the future almost everything will be online. Almost all middle class kids today have email ids and orkut is growing at a frentic speed. Since I joined orkut (somewhere around October 2005) till date, membership has grown from some 6-8 million to the 20 million odd members in just 6-7 months.

So marketers here lies your potential goldmine. All your fundas of segmenting, targeting, positioning, etc can be got in a jiffy. The worlds largest database of what customers want! Phew and to think it all happened because a geek mixed his interests of social networking and coding.

PS: While researching for this post, I came across a link as to why Google bought orkut. Read it, its interesting!

My orkut profile is here.

May 26, 2006

Killer Silence - The latest addition to the Strategy toolkit

Today Man has inched closer to implementing quotas as the means to the upliftment of those belonging to 'Other Backward Classes' (OBC). With the BJP also supporting the move and infact going one step forward to suggest implementation in minority institutions also, my worst fears have been confirmed. Caste politics looks set to win.

Since I'm a Management student and my friend circle includes many management students a lot of talk doing the rounds deals with what imapct will quotas have on the IIMs. The Big 3 IIMs were having plans of going global. WIth the quotas system coming into place, the only way to maintain an equal number of meritious students will be to increase seats. If they do not do so, there will be an erosion of their intellectual capital. Not to suggest that the reserved guys are bad, but that the balance will suddenly shift from current levels. If they increase seats, it puts a huge strain on their infrastructure as they are already bursting at the seams (read this). This seriously hampers their global (or any) expansion plans.

At the same time, private management colleges have been quite. The strategic silence has a lot to do with them significantly becoming big players in the cluttered field of management education dominated by the Big 3 IIMs. So where does that leave us? The 6 IIMs, JBIMS, IIFT, FMS, NITIE look set to take a hit. Others like XIMB (Oriya quota), NMIMS (Gujarati quota) will get their share of the action but how much stands to be debated. The biggest gainers on the face of it look to be MDI, XLRI and SPJIMR. Of the three, MDI with its aggressive growth in the past few years and even aggressive plans for the future seems all set to power its way ahead. It strategically launched the post graduate HR programme two years ago. It has an international MBA programme starting this year. It has links with major BSchools across the world and has very strong European linkages in France (ESCP-EAP, EDHEC, Aix en Province), Germany (Wuppertal, EBS, HHL), Denmark (CBS, Aarhius), Italy (Bocconi), Poland (WSE), Austria(Vienna University), Belgium (Solvay) etc., Lately it has been catering to niches like Energy Management, Public Policy, Armed foces, etc. SPJ has on the other hand been developing strong niches in Entreprenuership, family business, etc. I do not know of their growth plans but I'm pretty sure they are planning big. XLRI have already set up centres in Dubai and Singapore. They have also come up with Satellite programmes. Other players like the IMT Group, the Symbiosis Group, IMI, Somaiya and the others in the Xavier fold will also look to grow in prominence.

Maybe all this is wishful thinking. The IIMs have earlier played masterstrokes at nullifying competition, notably in BSchool rankings, by refusing to be part of them thus making it an IIM versus non-IIM competition. What do they have up their sleeve this time? Are any aces left? Its a wait and watch game.

PS: In no way am I happy that reservations will been enforced. This post is not and should not be seen as sadistic.

May 23, 2006

'Decoded' ... My take on the DVC

Many people have been asking me my views on the recent spate of controversial films that have outraged Christians all over the world. From the many movies the one that is in the centre of media attention is 'The Da Vinci Code (DVC)' mainly because it has sold 40 million copies (legally) and almost double the official number illegally. That makes it a billion odd copies which means that somewhere around 16% of the worlds population has read the book.

Now what does the book suggest ...
1) It says that Jesus Christ was 'made' divine by the Emperor Constantine.
2) That Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had a girl child between them
3) That Jesus Christ has taken the place of worship that essentially belongs to the 'woman' (In this case, Mary Magdalene). An ancient form of worship practiced among early Christians.
4) That Opus Dei is an organisation which is entrusted with the duty of keeping the 'code' secret and exterminating those who come close to revealing the code to the world.

What Dan Brown implies....
1)That the Bible has been manipulated through the ages to its present form
2) That there is a lineage of Christ existing in the world.
3) That an organisation of the Roman Catholic Church spreads terror and kills people if need be to serve their objective

Now my take ...
Christianity was no dount one of the most powerful religions during the Middle Ages primarily because the it spread rapidly in those countries which were colonising the world. So we had Italy become a major centre for Christians because of The Vatican was in Rome. Slowly, the countries around the Mediterranean especially Spain and Portugal becoming countries where the Church ruled supreme and had important links with the rulers of the land. Eventually much of Europe was in the Chriatianity fold. When these countries started colonising, parts of the world like the Americas were introduced to Christianity. Till today places like the countries of Latin & Central America, Spain, Portugal & the Philippines have a strong influence of the Church.

With uncontrolled power comes corruption and the Middle Ages saw the Church playing a part too with the Pope selling indulgences, Galileo and Copernicus and so on so forth ... Yes there could be no denying the fact that there could have been manipulations here. But these might have had to do with the rituals, rites and traditions that have become part of the Christian culture. I am not in a position to judge the extent and magnitude of what manipulations that took place, but I seriously doubt wholescale manipulations like making Christ 'divine'. The Old Testament and the New Testament (the two parts of the Bible) are exclusive. The people writing it were different and the Jews who follow the Old Testament till date are waiting for the Messiah, the Son of God. So the divinity part of it is not in doubt.

Jesus married to Mary Magdalene? My opinion is that its a non-issue. For me the teachings of Christ are what matter and not his personal life. A little background on Mary Magdalene ... she was a prostitute who later gave up the trade to follow Christ. She was very close to Mary, the Mother of Jesus and stood by Him throughout His agonosing last moments before He was crucified.

Did they have a kid? Again a non-issue. What difference does it make if Jesus was married or had a kid? It doesn't change who He was as a person nor does it change His teachings.

Now about Jesus taking the place of the 'woman' ... As mentioned earlier Jesus was the Son of God, and according to the mystery of the Holy Trinity is God Himself. We Christians have chosen this as our channel of belief to satisfy our spiritual and religious needs. Other faiths have other channels and I respect those choices. God is absolute and there is no Man or Woman with Him. Its the incarnation that we believe in.

Lastly, regarding Opus Dei ... the Church may have been corrupt at certain points in time (That may also be reason that all but 2 or 3 of the 350+ Popes in history have been Italian!) but certainly under no conditions has anybody formed an organisation that will kill. Particularly since there is nothing to hide. No secret to keep. Even if there are, it is not worth killing for. The modern Church is today one of the most proactive and liberal organisations in the world today. It has provided for pre-marriage counselling, pre-birth counselling, platforms for healthy exchanges between teenagers, sports, sex-education, cathecism and a whole lot of activities that are not persent in many communities. If there was anything worth telling, it would be out by now, there would be debates, a Papal conclave of Prefects, Bishops, Archbishops & Cardinals would gather to discuss changes and its implications.

Thats my take... thanks for a patient listening ;)

May 16, 2006

One trip down memory lane .... Reservation with sleeper class, please

There has been a big outcry against the Reservations Bill that the Honorable HRD Minister has pushed into Parliament. Will it get passed? Looks certain by the way PC and Man are going about it.

It seems like a drive past memory lane for me....

Long before Arjun Singh even dreamed of the welfare of OBCs, engineering students in maharastra were going through similar difficulties. I still remember 27th May 2000 when I held my XII standard result in my hand and exulted at hitting a 95.66% in Physics, Chemistry and Maths combined. I was crazy about Telecom then (attributed to herd mentality), and thought that securing a Merit seat would be easy. In those days we had a system of Merit Seats and Payment Seat. The fees for the Payment seats being almost 5 times the fees of a Merit seat. Also having worked hard over the last one year at the XII standard State Board exam, I wanted to secure admission to a well known college ( ... Since we all know brand names make a huge difference ... )

Imagine my shock when inspite of having a Bombay rank of 561, I could not get a Merit seat in a decent college. Bombay had 131 engineering colleges affiliated to Mumbai university in 2000. There were about 10 decent colleges each having intake of 60 for all streams, Some ministers blessings, made many colleges revise intake to 90 a lil' later. Yet here I was with Telecom being 3rd option after Information Technology and Computer Engineering, still not able to get a Mert Seat. Why? Becasue there were reservation tally ran somewhat as follows:

15% Scheduled Castes
7.5% Scheduled Tribes
2% Nomadic Tribes (1)
1.5% Nomadic Tribes (2)
1.0% Nomadic Tribes (3)
19% Other Backward Classes

1% Displaced Kashmiri Pandits
1% Physically handicapped
2% Some other shitty quota (I think it was displaced people along the Maharastra Belgaum border)

1% Defence personnel
1% Govt of India

To make matters worse, the Govt introduced 30% reservation for girls. So if you were a guy, you had 35% (15% went towards 'Open Category girls and 15% in 'Reserved Girls category") of 48% 'Open Category Seats' only. That made 16 seats for 'Open Category Boys'. In a private college there were 50% Merit and 50% Payment seats. Meaning for a guy like me I would get to choose from 8 seats only! In government colleges there were 16 seats for 'Open' boys

Doing the rounds of the admission process, Dad and me came across one of my college friends who was taking up the issue of reservations in the Bombay HC. We joined a forum of like minded people, spent some cash and hired MP Vashi, a prominent Mumbai lawyer to fight our case. We got a stay on the admissions. We thought it might lead to something fruitful. But the decision got a 'tareek' and the student community was losing out. Finally admissions comenced in September, some 3 months after the whole thing started, just because students were losing out if the term started late.

Through some divine intervention, I decided to take up Mech at VJ. It took me one full year to accept the fact that I was cheated. (Its a different thing that it turned out to be the best decision I took in my life!) I was bloody mad with the system. Went to the extent of lamblasting some guys in my class who had taken the backdoor entry. These guys were well off economically, yet they claimed to be backward. It was the same story in all other institutes. The irony of it all was that in the same class we had a student with 45% PCM. Thanks to the 'Reserved Girls' category. It was crazy. But I was alone.

TIll today nothing has changed. And thats where I say that nothing will change. Because for every guy who is against reservations I have seen 10 guys for it. One of my classmates wants to write to the Prime Minister, Finance Minister (possibly God too!). What a waste of time. Others want to go on a morcha. The morcha is supposed to comprise of a handful of MBA students. Will Delhi fall? I doubt. On the other hand we have a multitude of poor, uneducated people who attend political rallies in villages hoping that 1% of the speeches materialise. They think that such measures will really improve their lot. So they all go out in huge numbers and vote. The first year MBA students will not, I dont think even 10% of them exercise their franchise. Caste politics will win, the morchas, petitions, blah blah notwithstanding. Letters to the PM, FM, God will be used as toilet paper. My Dad wrote files and files of complains to the BMC (Bombay's famed Municipal Corporation) and they had just moved their little finger. Morchas will lose steam when classes begin. The noise will become a whimper when exams begin. The whole movement will be put to sleep. History will repeat itself, just like it did in 2000.

I hope I am proved wrong.

May 10, 2006

Mera bageecha hai Japani

Yesterday's Mumbai edition of the 'Times of India' (front page bottom) carried an interesting story. It seems that 14 elected representatives (lil' corporators actually) and a 'Tree Expert' of the Pune Municipal Corporation decided to go to for an all expenses paid trip to the city of Okayama in the Land of the Rising Sun to study preservation of trees and gardens. The greater objective as stated ever so humbly with reverence for public welfare is to build a Japanese style garden on the lines of the Korakuean. (we'll call it the K Gardens)

I would love to visit Pune after K Gardens is built. In fact I'm looking forward to trekking through bad roads, wading through polluted rivers, drinking toxic chemicals and bathing in sewage before I reach the succour of K Gardens. Won't that be wonderful. And for this very luxury, the citizens of Pune will have to pay a small price. i.e. Foot the bill of these 15 clowns. For all I know the trip to K Gardens might actually be like taking part in those reality shows a la 'Survivor' except that on reaching you may be a lung short and toxins in your body for company.

Thankfully two men have decided that they'd rather have both lungs and minimum toxins, hence a petition filed and won, complete with the blessings of the Bombay High Court. In fact, the good ol' HC has not totally dumped the plan of K gardens. Who would not like a stroll down there, after a hard day of making hard decisions like the men with white collars and black coats do. Hence the judges have kept options open for our 15 scholars, albiet at their own cost. "Education is expensive" they might have said with a grave look just before the gavel landed with a thud.

Now comes the best part, and what follows will speak of the ingenuity of the Indian politicians who have as in the past gone down with guns a-blazing. With true soothsayer-isque powers our 15 scholars foresee trouble, and they have made an alternate proposal to visit J&K! Are they trying to convert Pune into another Dal lake? They are not telling

May 6, 2006

Now thats what I call GUTS

Ever sent a chill down an ACP's spine? Read this

I used to follow all rules by the book, before I realised that I was at a disadvantage if I did. Its people like Swaroop Srinath who teach me that its not always the case!

Rock on man. Just as you wanted have linked your post.

May 5, 2006

Thus spake the Lord ...

"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against their parents, and have them put to death"

The Holy Bible, Matthew 10:21

The events of the past few days and ultimately Pramod Mahajan's death have had this verse from the Bible rankling in my head. Ever since I have been hearing it at various Church readings for years, I never understood the meaning nor thought that such a thing is possible. Yes I have heard of fights about property, fistfights, a sexual abuse case, etc and what not. Shooting your brother in broad daylight, intentionally, coolly walking off; all for not being treated well? I don't think so.

Even last year when some middle aged man killed his father and buried him in the wall of his bedroom, a la 100 Days (a decent Bolly flick for its time), I refused to believe. There are psychos who do crazy things. And in a world of over 6 billion, you get all sorts of people. And then there are always the newspapers who dramatise things in such a way that the frontpage has a headline screaming 'Corpse excavated from apartment wall', in such a way you'll never know what actually happened.

Such events have been becoming extremely regular and that's what scares me. Hope that prophecy doesn't become a trend.

May 4, 2006

Think about it

"In selling to poor people you have to treat them like producers and not consumers"

Think about it. It has been the reason a particular company has been extremely successful in reaching out to low-income groups and has made them and their families customers (oops!!! ... producers) for life. This statement was made by a person who has been instrumental in driving such schemes. India's rural marketing andlow-income scheme gurus might just have something to chew on here.