Anurag Jain's Blog
Sunday, June 29, 2003

Cutting Edge Stuff

Probably, world's smallest printer. But thats not whats important! The neat thing is the technology innovation: Its independent of the paper size: Rub it over the page to print! An article about it here

Friday, June 27, 2003

Bio-tech venture capital fund

Planning to start a Bio-tech venture and looking for money? Talk to Andhra Pradesh Industrial Development Corporation (APIDC ) Venture Capital Limited. Its a 150-Crore, 10-year close-ended early-stage cos. biotech fund! Contact Details here, and here. Official site here

Bangalore Bio
ThinkGen to set up $5-m biotech incubation fund , Economic Times, July 01, '03
New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI), a part of CSIR
India Innovators Forum


Tuesday, June 24, 2003

PhD haircut

Went for a hair-cut at my regular barber outside campus who is ironically named PHD. Now, PHD of course stands for Polar Hair Dressers but I cant help getting reminded of my tough PhD life and my mean brain never forgets to link this with the career options that await me! Also, this PHD place is one of my very infrequent contacts with the real world :) And boy, Did I get a shock yesterday (which I always get whenever I step out of campus. And, which is also why I dont step out of campus unless until absolute necessary!).

This is a story of 3 people: HairDresser, Another customer and me. The other customer turned out to be an employee of our mess. Seated right next to my chair, he was also getting a haircut. Whenever my guy would turn my chair around, I would face the mess guy and vice versa. Now, PURELY from the observational point of view, this situation means that apparently income levels are going up for everyone at the lower rung of the society, which is good. Also in this haircut something happened that has happened never before: my hairdresser offered me tea. Which, inspite of feeling dehydrated, I had to drink because of his brotherly insistence. Now, PURELY from the observational point of view, this situation means that apparently income levels of hairdresser -who would be a rung higher in economic-socio heirarchy- are also going up, which is good again. That leaves me, the 3rd character of story. Well, lets just say, my income levels are nowhere as close as in the vicinity of going up. Instead, they are heading south and trying to pay a visit to their neighbors at the bottom-most rung of society at the time when those guys themselves are moving up north! Now, that is not good. Damn, this 'general' Indian economic boom thingie just doesn't suit me. I need a 'general' Indian economic bust to prosper.

With this visit, I guess an haircut index of income levels can be devised just like the big mac index is for exchange rates. Man, this PhD world-view will be the end of me yet. I gotta get outta here.


Sunday, June 22, 2003

Sequels: Why produce 'em?

Harry Potter 5, Matrix III, LoTR III. Whats common to all these? Yes, they are all eagerly awaited by fans and non-fans alike. But more importantly, they are all sequels. That brings me to the topic: Why do authors write book sequels, producers produce movie sequels? What makes a sequel click? What if it doesn't click? Would you stop after the flop? Or would the producer remain unfazed, value emotional attachments more, go till the end of the series and make even later sequels? How does one decide? Reminds me of one interesting Real Options case that we did in Advanced Corporate Finance (Prof R. Srini) course. The case was Arundel Partners and the idea was to demonstrate the concept of Real Options (Option pricing in real life situations other than stocks). The case was presented by a hollywood-buff batchmate of mine with great elan and loads of humors implants. What made that more fun was that Prof R. Srinivas also has an amazing sense of humor. That class was a treat, even to a non-fin guy like me! Some of the questions were (from Prof Ernst Maug's [Fuqua School] page):

*Why do the principals of Arundel Partners think they can make money buying movie sequel rights? Why do the partners want to buy a portfolio of rights in advance rather than negotiating film-by-film to buy them?
*Estimate the per-film value of a portfolio of sequel rights such as Arundel proposes to buy. (There are several ways to approach this
problem, all of which require some part of the dataset in Exhibits 6-9. You may find it helpful to consult the Appendix, which explains how these figures were prepared.)
*What are the primary advantages and disadvantages of the approach you took to valuing the rights? What further assistance or data would you require to refine your estimate of the rights’ value?
*What problems or disagreements would you expect Arundel and a major studio to encounter in the course of a relationship like that described in the case? What contractual terms and provisions should Arundel insist on?

And you thought movies/books sequels were all entertainment, uh? So, next time you watch Beverly Hill Cops III or Austin Powers II, III (yuck! I dont think they applied Real Options or any rational method in deciding on this one!), do give a thought as to why they bothered to produce the sequel! :-)


Saturday, June 21, 2003

Economics Redux

An intellectual churn seems to be going on in economists community. Why it is interesting is because this churn is about the status and worth of the discipline itself. While Bradford Delong demands (Economic Times, June 20) a new economic theory that can replace the old-age ones, T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan wonders (Business Standard, June 21) how long the con aka economics will sustain itself. Interesting reads esp. coming from the top notch scholars in the field.

As for me, lemme go and try to establish the worth of my own profession, Information Systems (Hey, wipe that grin off your face or I'll do it for you!)

(Actually everything seems to be being revisited these days. Take for example last nite's Alumni Redux. Literally: Three junior alumni [IIMB, 2001 batch] landed at my room at 0130 hrs last nite [actually this morning] from Chennai and found me bumbling at being woken up at unearthly hour)


Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Indian Soldiers: A penny for your life?

Why is India (possibly) committing its troops to Iraq 'on behalf of' US? As a self-respecting Indian, you also might have wondered that. Dont worry, you aint alone if you cant find a logical answer for that. Just so we might get some business, should we go ahead and send our jawaans (soldiers) to risk their lives in a messed-up geography that somebody else messed up? Yeah sure, thats whats peace-keeping missions are for, you'd say. Just for you, yes I mean you who said that, do you even know which are the the top five troops suppliers nations for such UN-headed peacekeeping missions? Well, they are, and in that order: Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Bangladesh, Ghana! Does it wake you up? Does it shake you up? Well, It should. No developed country sends troops in messed-up, conflict areas!! Why should we? 'Cause our lives are cheaper? 'Cause we should be ready to tow Big B's line? Why? Why the heck? I say, stop this generous gesture and guard our borders (there's enuff job there itself)! If even all this argument doesn't convince you, just remember what happened with IPKF (Indian PeaceKeeping Force) in Srilanka.

Also see: contractomania by Former PM, I K Gujaral


Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Life: What do YOU want?
Met a PhD colleague (batchmate) today who's working with BCG (Boston Consulting Group). He's putting his paper in this month end and joining as a faculty member at a reputed management institute. Reason: too hectic a schedule as a consultant. That makes me wonder ultimately what exactly is it that people want from a job? Is it more important than what they want from life? Do people even care what they want from life? Do they even think? Apparently, some do! :) 'Cause BCG is one of the most sought after and well-paid job at b-schools worldwide and to chuck that to do what you want to do is, well, rare.

As for myself, I do not want to join a corporate job. I dont want to teach either after PhD. Then what is left, one might ask? Well, du-h, hello! Business, of course! I want to start a business. What, when, i dunno (If I knew, would have started by now). I cant see myself a slave of same life-routine (as against time-routine) as zillions other are. And yesterday, I was wondering if I will be able to sustain this 'I-dont-need-to-be-like-anyone-else' feelings/enthu later when things dont work out in life (invariably they dont, at least the first time, they dont) as planned. I have noticed and experienced that one's feelings about things & life, and idea of life undergo a tremendous change with age. Thats quite natural actually: I mean, yeah, you can admit you liked Aqua's music once upton a time :-). But, here, I am not talking about growing-up kinda change in perspective. I am talking about fundamental beliefs and perspective of life. And I pray to God that in my case my world-view doesn't change tommorrow and I dont fall into the same routine as everyone else. I dont mean to sound stubborn and non-receptive to change (of perspective): I just want nothing, come what may, nothing to shake my current belief in how life should be. Hope, God will be so kind to me at least, as to shower me with this blessing!


Wednesday, June 11, 2003

BPO's Social Effects: -ive vs +ive

This whole Indian BPO-ITES boom is quite interesting. But I have been thinking about the young fresh-out-of-college grads who man/woman these servicehouses. My concern is: Are we making young people limit their imagination to a typical 'aspirational' lifestyle? The counter argument, which is obviously quite strong, is: Whats wrong with people getting nice jobs? Did we even have jobs for these guys b4 BPO happened? Especially at the salaries that they can manage at callcenters? Agreed. No contradictions there. But thats not my point. My point is probably enunciated a lil more by these two very nice articles which I came across in Business Today, today. Only, I am not as acidic as Mahesh Murthy. Reckon, Prof Subramonia Sharma (ISB) reflects my point of view accurately:
Business Today: April 27, 2003

India, detractors say, is encouraging the creation of a race of under-achievers.

Meet Samir Desai, a 22-year old who signed on at a multiplex last year. He was to function as its cashier, would earn Rs 10,000 a month, and the hours were good. He maintains that he "basically wanted a job that would pay well, have fixed hours and that wouldn't require too much brainwork." Nothing wrong with that. Only, as Subramonia Sharma, the director of entrepreneurship development at Hyderabad's Indian School of Business, puts it, "Once into these jobs, the achievement goal undergoes a change; the kids stop aiming for specific career goals and get caught up with the lifestyle trappings this money can bring-beer, bikes, and whatever else is in vogue with the peer group." In most jobs of this nature that have been created, says Purva Misra, a senior consultant at hr consulting firm Hewitt Associates, "there is no growth beyond three levels." The presence of MBAs from second-tier B-schools, chartered accountants, engineers, even doctors in call centres, frontline sales, and customer-interface positions proves that Sharma isn't far off the mark in his assessment. Still, what's the option?

Business Today: MARCH 30, 2003
Of Indians And Cowboys: We may be a third world nation. Should we behave like

By Mahesh Murthy 

I sit here, a broad spattering of themes around me.

Item #1: First New Jersey, then Minnesota, now Washington. Each is enacting laws to make outsourcing of menial jobs to India difficult, if not impossible.

I have two points of view on this, seemingly contradictory. The US is being as protectionist about jobs as our PSUs. With their higher personal tax rates, social security, and medicare, the US may be behaving more like a socialist state than we are. I oppose these US restrictions, just as I'd oppose our own welfare state-driven policies.

Yes, we should work to have these laws repealed-we have as much right to take their services jobs away as the Chinese who stole their manufacturing jobs.

But why on earth should we want to? I am appalled that our biggest companies think all we're capable of are third-rate jobs like answering phones, transcribing prescription and doing the accounts. It fills me with sadness to see Sumos laden with our hopes for tomorrow driving the night shift to Gurgaon: is this really the tomorrow we're hiring global pr agencies to fight for? Have we built our education system to create a nation of receptionists? How do I convince a generation of youngsters that this is an evil set of jobs?

Update June 12th, 2003 1900 hrs
Found another strikingly similar point of view at the other side of BPO

Also see:
Call centre hours pose a health hazard
Call centre employees don't see it a long term career: study
Call centres find ways to tackle high attrition rate
Taking a call

Update July 4, 2003
In a nice counter-view, this is what Swati Gangaraju, HR Exec, Nipuna Services had to say on this issue:
Swati Gangaraju writes:
Well, thanks for the message. views are easier to give, i don't know if they would answer/address any of the issues raised though...

I am told industry avg for attrition is 11 months. People get paid anywhere between 5000 to 10000 depending on where they are working. and yes most of the work is low end processing at the moment. yeah graduates hav few options to choose from. yeah they do get sick and tired of this monotony in BPO/call centres after a particular point. it effects their health, it effects their growth.

so what can/will anybody do about it?
some are captive BPOs in which case shipping high end work here makes business sense, tht's wht US junta is worried abt. so high end jobs aren't out of que. some companies like wipro, infosys, satyam...which hav BPOs can tafind them as breading grounds for software talent if they want to, because these are already part of their system culturally, and most of these hold some computer skill or other and can cause some substantially saving in recruitment cost at entry level when time comes with little invst in training. though being at call centre for long may hav blurred their ambitions and skills (which at the moment has no substantiation).

lot of people here want to pursue MBAs or are looking for career in s/w dev. the major part of rest tell me they wouldn't hav done anythingelse anyways. so we think wof giving them stay for long to be eligible to get sponsored for MBA program option.
yeah, monotony and odd hours make stress a very real thing to deal with. but odd hours is the very thing tht gets business. so nothing much is done about it. hmm,,..monotony can be broken by shifting people fro one process to other, some are even lucky to go and visit abroad to study process at client place. that's another thing why some people hang around even when things are tough.
what can employee do
continuously keep learning either to become a subject mater expert in a domain, process expert, imrpove education level to move across function,or into managerial role. unless he does these, since this is a typical skill set so it doesn't prepare him for any other job. hence his options are almost non existant, in terms of growth.

Update : Sep 02, 2003
Call centres dangle degrees to retain staff, Times of India, Bangalore Sep 02, 2003


Why do we need Visa?

My parents will be traveling to US in March, which would be second time for them. Yesterday they got visa from Delhi Embassy. At US embassy things are a bit better these days: all visa applications happen by appointment. That has made things better as opposed to earlier system of trying to get a front place in the queue outside embassy at 4 am!! I hope (dunno yet) they got a few years visa this time around. I dont liike the idea of them going to embassy all the time.

In general, I hate this visa business. I mean, these European and western countries treat you like nobody at embassies. A colleague of mine had to last week goto all the way to Delhi just to show his face at Greece emabassy (when it could easily be avoided). He is attending a conference in Greece rite now, alrite. But imagine having to travel 2500 Km for visa interview? Isn't that ridiculous? I mean how wide or long is Greece anyway? Do they even know/understand the problems faced in travelling such long distances as 2500km?

Similar thing happened to me last year when I was invited to attend a prestigious Entrepreneurship conference in Sweden. Due to short notice, I applied for visa only 4 days b4 the travel date and I was told point-blank that nothing can be done as they'd take 7 days to process the visa! I mean, comeon!. What is it, are we dying to visit your country or something? No, Sir! Its only short-term business interests in your country that make me comply with your idiosyncracies. And gloat while you can 'cause this situation wont last for long:

How did the visa tradition get started only? I dunno. I think its a function of demand and supply. Indians (by and large) are quite eager (if not desperate) to land just before the Atlantic or even better, crossing the Atlantic. And hence this visa business, due to huge demand for migration. On the other hand, so many countries, including India, need no visas on bilateral basis or visas are issued on arrival. I dont think this current practice of excruciating visa processes for western countries will continue for long. Not for India at least, 'cause I am one tremendous believer in India's rise at global level!.

Ultimately, 'why do we need visa' is a question akin to the question of 'why must we pay income tax?' (there was no income tax anywhere till early 20th century). Both are traditions started by governments in old times, and need a serious re-look.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

G-Block: Bihar of IIMB Hostels

After blinking intermittently for 1 hour, finally the light went out of my life last nite. Yes, G-block is without power since last nite 0000 hrs. I could make my bed sleepworthy in the monitor light while I was shutting it down on UPS. Seems to be some major fault, will get rectified only by evening. Amongst all hostel blocks (A-J), G-block is most affected by infrastructural problems such as frequent power outages, network outages, choked drainages, dirty toilets, no soap, etc etc. Reckon, it can be compared to BIMARU states of India on infrastructure index.

I had this interesting conversation today with an IITian. She is doing her summer project in Bangalore and staying at IIMB hostel. I asked her if she wanted to do an MBA after IIT, and guess what she replied? She said: "Earlier, I actually wanted to do an MBA from IIMs but now after having been here in IIM Campus and seen IIM junta, I have changed my plans. I kinda expected it (IIM) to be much more than what it is". Phew!! Well, what do u know, hype is deceptive :)

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Went to Jamming session organized by Guruskool at The Club (Mysore road) this evening. The Club is one of the most happening places in Bangalore where a number of brand launches/fshion shows/parties etc keep happening. Had a nice time there. While coming back, got drenched in the long-awaited pre-monsoon shower! Man, the weather tonite has been fantastic. Its quite cold and I am wearing a sweater right now! I just love this city for weather.

Just Celebrated my b'day (June 1st) at my room with some friends . I had almost forgotten it ( I remembered it yesterday but not today) until in the evening today one of my friends from Delhi reminded me on phone!. I am kinda gettin' philosophical at this historic moment, but I'll spare you of that. :)

Actually, no, wait. On second thoughts, U can't get away just like that. I have to tell you what I feel: I feel, as Calvin (Calvin & Hobbes) says that I am the culmination of all the historic events so far, the end result of history, and the perfection of human DNA. The only problem though is that, even after celebrating so many b'days on this planet, I don't see any acknowledgement of the same from the world! Well, but then, a genius is never understood in his own time. So I'll just goto sleep with that happy thought while you wonder why u r reading this.