Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cricket: A passion that binds the nation, India

I was watching Iqbal movie again today, I guess for the fourth time, and I realized the movie still moves me even after repeated watching. Then I wanted to analyze why is it that a movie with cricket theme moves me so much when I have been trying to dissociate myself from cricket slightly after betting scandals and completely after India's miserable performance at the 2007 World cup. I realized that Cricket is not something you can associate yourself with, or dissociate yourself with, when you want, because it has become an inherent part of our Indian culture, it is in our blood and genes, it is in our minds and heart. In essence, cricket is a passion that binds the Indian nation..

I still remember the days when we the whole of our family used to watch cricket, every time a ball was being bowled to Sachin or Azhar, we would be praying to God that it should be a four or six, for every ball that Javagal Srinath or Manoj Prabhakar bowled, that it should be a wicket taker. We would dance when Indian team would win, eat sweets and celebrate as if it was an achievement in the family. And the day India lost, every one would be filled with gloom, and would scold Indian team members for their failure and decide not to watch it again. But when the next match came, the process started all over again.

The passion for cricket just goes from parents to children as if it were a part of our culture and tradition. When I was in Engineering hostel during my bachelors, it was much more serious. We used to have a TV in the hostel and a big mat in front of it. People would start saving places on the mat an hour before the match and when the match started, it was like a festival. Whistles and claps for every Indian boundary and opposition wickets, boos for Indian failures, what not. The tension would accumulate, and if any of them supported the opposition for their performance, they would get a real beating from the rest of the frustrated fans. Never did it occur to us when there were matches, if the upcoming Finals or Project deadlines needed to be given much more importance. Well, it was cricket time, and rest was all insignificant at that time.

The credit for Iqbal being such a big hit or for Lagaan being such a blockbuster just goes to the successful blending of two things that Indians are so passionate about, Cricket and Cinema. Also, Iqbal highlights a couple of things other than the passion for cricket. The determination of a deaf and mute guy who raises against all odds to hold a coveted place in Indian cricket. The opening scene mirrors a common scene in India, a bunch of people watching cricket together and celebrating Indian victory and Iqbal's mom who is due for her delivery by then, still watches it along with them and celebrates and gives birth to Iqbal. No wonder the boy is born with such passion for cricket. The struggle then starts, with Iqbal being thrown out of Cricket Academy and convincing Naseeruddin Shah to coach him. The scenes that follow show his drive and determination, and with the able support of his coach and parents and his loving sister, he reaches the pinnacle of his career.

Every one of us would definitely remember the days we played cricket on streets, the days when we thought we could be another tendulkar, the days when playing cricket in 120F temperature was just normal, the fights with friends over someone being Out, what not. These are the memories we cherish for our lives. If only the Indian team could realize how much we worship cricket, they would never bow out of World cup so meekly. I still remember the banners that fans used to have during Indian matches. "If cricket is religion, Sachin is God." Is he really, or WAS he? There was this match in Sharjah, a finals between India and Australia, when Australia made a huge total around 280, and the commentator said, It looks like it will be a cake walk for Australia but there is only thing that could stop them, the Sachin factor and yes, the Sachin factor did defeat Australia, Sachin scored a brilliant century to win the cup for India. Gone are those days now, I guess, where Sachin merely stands a feeble shadow of what he once was, trying to hang on to the team at an age he should be retiring, just to keep that 80 crore ad deal alive (I last heard his ad revenue a year was 80 crore).. I am not the one who can comment upon his calibre, but hey, I am fan who has a right to know the reason for his miserable performance in the World cup 2007. Rest of the team, there is no point in trying to discuss them..

I guess the Indian team should be made to sit and watch Iqbal and Lagaan, they should understand that when they play, they are not just playing a match for ad revenue or for public image, but in fact they are carrying the hopes of 1 billion people, who don't work in offices, or study or watch movies during their matches and pray to God not just for their victory but for every ball bowled. If only they realized this, it wouldn't be long before we snatch the World cup from the mighty Australians and show the world our caliber...

Here is a funny interview video of one of my good friend, that throws a satire on Cricket

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How secure is your entrepreneurial idea?

Most of the techies out there who have a passion for technology, be it Java, be it .NET or any other, have a drive, a passion to be an entrepreneur. You look around you, look at the way things are going around in the IT industry, feel how much better you are than the rest of them, and you get reminded of the song, Anything you can do. But you are not let to do so, because of one reason or the other, the manager above you doesn't want so, or the politics in your team do not allow you to do so, or there is this guy who just opposes you to show off that he is better than you. Though I haven't fortunately experienced such stuff in my work environment, I hear this from many of my friends who face this on a day to day basis. This sows the crop for a desire, a passion to build better technology or to own your own company. And there starts the trouble.

The TV has been discovered, the computer has been, Google has been established and so is Digg. Now if you want to be an entrepreneur, you need an idea to start the whole process of owning your own company. The idea, that killer idea that can take the world by surprise, that idea which would take the competitors a little time to replicate in which you capture a significant portion of the loyal market. But how and where do you get such ideas from. Are they available for sale. Absolutely not. Are they written in books, again a blunt NO. The person who would get the idea will rather implement it and make hay than writing about it to the world. Even if someone were to write a book on ideas, it would still be of no use, because by the time you implement it, the next reader would already have done so. So where do these ideas stem from. From your observations and experiences. Did I say observation, yep. All you need is a sharp look at everything around you, to find out what else is missing around you that you can capture and bring out. I was reading Sabeer Bhatia's interview in this wonderful book Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days (presented by my roomie on my birthday), where he mentions how they got the idea for hotmail that eventually got acquired by Microsoft for $400 million. He and his colleague were collaborating on a project, when they needed to share ideas via email. But the corporate intranet had put a firewall around to prevent them from using personal email accounts. This is when they got the idea of the utility of a web based email.Now, we may think how dumb should the rest of the people be, to not have thought of the same. Well, thats the power of simple yet powerful ideas. They are all around you, all you need is to just capture them and utilize them

Now, lets say you got the idea. Do you go on keep announcing the same to every one around you, Nope, thats an absolutely bad idea. For, you have no idea, who might come up with a better system than you do long before you can even start implementing yours. This might be weird if you are very strongly passionate about technology and you want to be a part of an open source project. But otherwise, your idea needs to be sold to the right people. Until then, keep it safe, keep it secure, discuss it with your near and dear and friends, but not with that talented guy in the office, to whom you want to show off how more 'cooler' you are, than he is. I liked the approach that Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith implemented when they sold their hotmail idea. Sabeer initially had another idea, a database, where users would store the information they need online so that they could retrieve it from anywhere using internet, information like addresses and phone numbers. They would go to the VC's and would tell them about the database idea, and would study the VC. If the VC would ask about their experience and had little confidence about their ability, then would not even inform about the email idea. This worked because if they let their email idea, the VCs who had no confidence in them could have used their idea with someone else. All these guys had was the killer idea and they protected it from the wrong VCs. When they finally met the VC who expressed interest in what they said, rather than their experience and background, they revealed the hotmail and the rest is history.

So the point is, you want to be an entrepreneur, well and good. You don't have an idea, look around, there are lots waiting for you to explore. And if you do get an idea that rocks, think twice before using it to show off to someone else who aren't worth sharing it with. Share it with your friends and family and when you find the right VC who trusts you, rather than the experience and the background you have in the industry, go for it, who know you might be the next Sabeer Bhatia in the making...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Is Steve Jobs really a geek or a icon?

Disclaimer: The thoughts mentioned in this post are just the opinions formed from what I read from Wiki and from the book "Founders at Work". This post is in no way an attempt to malign Mr. Steve Jobs' image or his iconic status in the world"

I heard many a person speak about how great Steve Jobs is, and how inspirational he is to the youngsters who want to make it big in their lives. We had a computer lab in school, with around 60 Windows machines and 15 Macs. Very few people used Macs, and when the Windows machines got filled up, I went to use a Mac once. I then thought, what a poor design, why would anyone want to use this instead of Windows. But that was my ignorance speaking, since I had never really used any machine other than Windows. A common form of Lenz's law applied to human nature is that "Change is opposed". Perhaps I was only following my human instinct then...

When I started working, I found a colleague who liked Steve Jobs immensely and used to tell me about him. Also my roomie is a great fan of Steve Jobs and he makes no attempt in hiding that. This made me wonder, who is this guy and what's so special about him. The more I read about him and the more I listened about him, the more I found about the cult following he has successfully established and the iconic status he has been able to maintain in the computer and the entertainment industries.

Out of my observations, I find him to be a charismatic character. And he might not be a visionary, but he is definitely a person with a vision. But I doubt if he is a geek or even an icon... I might be in no way qualified to evaluate a person of the stature of Steve Jobs, but I would like to bring out the points that make me feel so. First and foremost, the launch of the Apple Computer comes to my attention. There wasn't much contribution from Steve Jobs to the creation of Apple Computer. He found a geek and a genius in Steve Wozniak who could fit in the minimum possible number of chips to make a PC Board.

As mentioned in Wiki

"According to Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell, Atari had offered US$100 for each chip that was reduced in the machine. Jobs had little interest or knowledge in circuit board design and made a deal with Wozniak to split the bonus evenly between them if Wozniak could minimize the number of chips. Much to the amazement of Atari, Wozniak reduced the number of chips by 50, a design so tight that it was impossible to reproduce on an assembly line. At the time, Jobs told Wozniak that Atari had only given them US$700 (instead of the actual US$5000) and that Wozniak's share was thus US$350"

This clearly shows his nature. He wasn't interested in the creative challenge posed by Atari, but was definitely interested in the money part of it. He knew Steve Wozniak, who he thought could ace it, and he kind of outsourced the work to Woz and got it done. This shows his business mind, and probably his business acumen, but what he did with the money was not entirely ethical. He blatantly lied about the money the design generated and conned Woz of $2150 which was his genuine share. As a matter of fact, the design belonged to Woz, so he was entitled to $5000, but they had an agreement in place, out of which Jobs had to give him at least $2500, but he didn't.

Then came the Apple Computer. Jobs saw Woz's design of the computer, he was never interested in building one of his own to show off his potential, and he very well knew he couldn't. He saw an opportunity, and convinced Woz that they could sell the computers that he had made and made partnership with him. Agreed he met the right people and took care of all the marketing and all the business points of a stellar growth that Apple had experienced, but is he in any way responsible for the kind of genius tag that he is usually associated with, and the cool image that he maintains. If marketing the cool product developed by someone and establishing a business out of it is iconic and genius, then why is it that Bill Gates looked at as a villain at the same venue where Steve Jobs is looked at as a hero. Not that I support Bill Gates, in fact I am gonna write a post about him and Google soon too, but the point I am trying to make is that, if building a business is considered iconic and genius, then Bill Gates should occupy a better slot than Steve Jobs.

To his credit, Steve Jobs has done many a thing which can be considered his strong pros. He was a kid who was 5 years younger to Woz, but he knew that Woz had the right design to capture the market. He saw the potential in the product, he made money out of it. This is a true representation of his business acumen and probably a vision of the future business but in no way a representation of the vision of technology he had held at that point of time.

The second thing that captures my attention is the product Ipod. I seriously doubt if Jobs got the idea of an Ipod. I see in the ipod page on Wiki the following entry:

iPod came from Apple's digital hub strategy,[2] when the company began creating software for the growing market of digital devices being purchased by consumers. Digital cameras, camcorders and organizers had well-established mainstream markets, but the company found existing digital music players "big and clunky or small and useless" with user interfaces that were "unbelievably awful",[2] so Apple decided to develop its own. Apple's hardware engineering chief, Jon Rubinstein, assembled a team of engineers to design it, including Tony Fadell, hardware engineer Michael Dhuey, and design engineer Jonathan Ive, with Stan Ng as the marketing manager. The product was developed in less than a year and unveiled on 23 October 2001. CEO Steve Jobs announced it as a Mac-compatible product with a 5 GB hard drive that put "1000 songs in your pocket."

The design belonged to someone else, the implementation belonged to someone else, and just because the team in Apple got the idea when Jobs was the CEO, he got the credit for one of the coolest innovations of this decade, the iPod. I seriously doubt if Steve Jobs had put the seed for the idea and harvested it. He was probably at the right place at the right time (He wasn't with Apple for some time). But, at the end of the day, the point is that iPod is not his discovery or his invention as was the Apple Computer. He was just a facilitator between the genii behind these products and the rest of the ordinary world, in making them famous and available to the general public.

Does this mean, that Steve Jobs is not as great as he is credited to be. Perhaps he is. We definitely have to agree that he is an effective business man and a strong charismatic person. But as Abhishek Bacchan puts it in Guru movie "Aapne mujhe paanch minute dhiye the, lekin maine saade chaar mein sab kuch khatham kar dhiya, thees second munafa, ise kehthe hain buziness" translated as "You gave me 5 minutes to put my argument. I completed in 4.5 minutes, 30 seconds profit, this is called business" (says to the Judge in the climax), Steve Jobs is probably an iconic business mind, who knows how to get the best out of an opportunity he faces, and he may be the best in marketing and in demanding a cult, but he is definitely not an geek or icon in the technical sense of it....

So, the next time you hear a guy who wants to develop a product that would blow the world off, and declares he is a staunch follower of Steve Jobs, don't think twice in correcting such sort of an oxymoron statement

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A caching area

As I was traveling back from work to home, thinking what should I write in my newly opened blog, many a thought wavered in my mind. I wanted to write about every little thing I saw on my half hour drive back from work. About a cop car, a lady driving carelessly while chatting on a cell, a benign smile of a small kid from a neighboring car at the traffic signal, what not. Then a thought struck me, as to why I should look for something to write about, while I should be writing about something I am thinking about. Well, a blog basically is a web log, a log where you want to store your thoughts and feelings. Not an area where you would write just because you want to blog or because it's something that the cool kid on the block is doing..

Now that brings the question, what thoughts would I want to cache or store here. Well, its probably things I would like to complain about, or things I feel good about. But I won't say that I will take this blog forward to such an extent that it would be the No.1 blog in the town. Honestly, I don't want to. Want this to just remain a repository of thoughts, that I would like the world to know some day or any day when they do a relevant 'Google' search. Oh did I just say google, well, let's take on the google topic some other day. For now I sign off with my first post not essentially conveying any message or any feeling.. I want this to stand as what flows in my mind at the point of writing..