[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

Next Match: RedBox vs. NetFlix

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Few years ago, we started off with a BlockBuster service to get DVDs by mail and also pick up a couple of in-store free rentals. I liked the in-store deal because I could rent newer movies which usually have a long wait for home delivery.

And then, NetFlix came, conquered BlockBuster with streaming movies and TV shows in addition to the mailed DVDs. They really nailed the deal for me when they streamed via my Wii console, for no additional charge. When the BlockBuster store around where we live closed, we gladly cut the cord from my BlockBuster and switched to NetFlix. Too bad, BlockBuster didn’t copy NetFlix’s strategies even if they couldn’t creatively compete. The rest of the market voted just as I did and blockbuster is limping its way to RIP.

After using NetFlix service for a while, we noticed we were streaming movies more frequently than we were watching the DVDs. Despite the lack of good selection and low-quality streaming video (on 56′ TV), we preferred to pick and chose to watch whatever and whenever we want. Laziness chimed in too, NetFlix DVDs would lie around our entertainment center for days before we got to it. Over time, I figured we weren’t watching more than two movies a month through mailed DVDs. Besides, NetFlix had same queuing issue when it comes to newer movies available for immediate shipping.

Redbox One Billion Movie Rentals!

Around this same time, we finally bought a Samsung Blu-Ray player. Not wanting to wait for NetFlix shipping, I tried renting over night Blu-Ray rentals from RedBox. Blu-ray is spectacular – if you haven’t tried it, run, not walk, to check it out soon, RedBox solved the one problem I had with both BlockBuster and NetFlix: instant access to newer movies. So the combination of RedBox + Blu-Ray, I was royally sold.

We have since discontinued NetFlix DVD mailing service, but staying with streaming, though its usage has gone down even while NetFlix is beefing up its digital catalog. I have written about NetFlix before and I continue to use them as lessons on strategic thinking.

First, RedBox is available in locations that are practically a shout away from where we live. This one idea in itself might be a big winner. It’s ironic that the fast-disappearing BlockBuster stores could have easily stayed to do this cheap, over-night rental thing! In any case, until the other guys can provide Blu-Ray quality streaming and newer movies, RedBox neighborhood kiosks will continue to be prosper. I won’t be surprised if other companies soon flood the market with Kiosk-based services. CoinStar, which owns RedBox, had long established strategic partnership with retail establishments that helped introduce this potentially golden-goose innovation.

Second, by virtue of overnight rental, RedBox is eliminating a typical lazy consumer behavior. At the risk of paying more, I am forced to watch the movies overnight and return them, opening up more revenue for RedBox from the same DVD. Not only that, I am now more inclined to rent (even more revenue!) another newer movie from RedBox sooner than later. What used to be BlockBuster and NetFlix’s proposition, “Keep the DVDs as long you want”, is now wasted asset which otherwise should be making money! So RedBox is re-defining the a strategy which NetFlix previously re-defined which BlockBuster had previously defined. May be RedBox didn’t do this consciously, but at least a good strategy is emerging. This is classic business strategy at work.

Third, RedBox is aggressive about promoting the newer movies, in spite of the studios forcing delay between the day home video is released and the day kiosk rental is available. Nothing beats the joy of watching a good new movie late at night in your own cozy family room, that too on blu-ray and 56′ wide-screen home theater. Add to that the magic number of a $1 rental ($1.50 for Blu-ray) – I think we have a wholesome deal as sweet as mass-market American deals are supposed to be.

While NetFlix and the dozen or so aggressive competitors are vying for the online streaming business, RedBox, in my opinion, is firing on all guns around American neighborhoods. Especially around communities where internet streaming may not as popular as urban centers.

And don’t forget an important, but somewhat subtle proposition: RedBox is silently gaining brand awareness through well-designed, well-placed kiosks across high-traffic locations. If the same spots were to go for advertising, I bet they cost a boat load. Just take Wal-Mart alone; Millions of Americans who walk in and out of Wal-Mart everyday bestow their eye balls on a RedBox kiosks. More and more of these by-standers will be tempted by the site of people queuing up in front of attractive kiosks. Within America, RedBox may soon be as recognizable as Wal-Mart or McDonald. In the marketing world, that awareness is priceless.

Blu-Ray quality streaming may come soon but the idea of renting discs will stay at least for another few years. That is a compelling reason for RedBox’s to keep a watchful eye on the streaming technology as well as consumer wants and behavior choices. If CoinStar can could keep up with both, I am certain they can become the smartest innovator in the self-service segment converging convenience, retail and entertainment.

Next Match: RedBox vs. NetFlix

PS: There is one competition that usually goes unmentioned: Local libraries. They rent free rentals (mostly DVDs, very few offer Blu-ray) but they have the same queueing problem as NetFlix, especially since library rentals are usually for a week. Perhaps, RedBox will soon hit the queueing issue as more folks start embracing it.

One Innovation’s Long Journey to Rest Rooms across America

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Waterfree Urinals

Over the last few weeks, the rest rooms around the floor where I work have been renovated along with brand-new installation of sparkling beauty – water-free urinal wall fixtures.

Their curvy finish and mac-ish design make you want to use them, except there is no handle to flush. You are left to admire it from 12 inches away never having to touch it. Which is a good thing if you are apprehensive about germs spreading through the flush handles. I have used these urinals on and off in recent past, but it feels little different to use them every day. I have to get used to keeping my arms from reaching out for the flush handle!

Over the years, innovation in the toilet segment has tremendously saved water consumption. I have seen toilets with two flush handles at the top – one on each side for urinal (less gallons) flush and other for non-urinal (more gallons) use. The ultimate urinal is one with absolutely no water needed, saving millions of gallons of water per urinal per year. This is indeed an environmentalists’ dream invention. Besides, these innovators have the once popular kodak-formula for business model too. Once the urinal is installed, it will need annual replacement trap-cartridges – a container with special liquid that traps the urinal and sewage gases out of the ceramic fixture.

What I did not realize was how long and how hard it was to bring this innovation to the market. From this Wired article, “Pissing Match: Is the World Ready for the Waterless Urinal?” it likely took a decade for this innovation to reach the building I work at. Apparently, the water-free technology has been commercially available since 1991! I didn’t have a clue that plumbers, of all the people, would pose a huge threat in bringing this technology out to the masses. Apparently, plumbers felt they all would soon go out of business. That’s unlikely – the need to move water to/from every building will keep the plumbing as a profitable business for a long time to come.

One thing I am not entirely not sure is the odor. I have this awkward feeling that if you don’t flush down with water, the odor from the ceramic walls will eventually add up. It is entirely possible that ceramic will not retain any fluid traces, but who knows. Of course, time will tell soon as I use these daily.

Nevertheless, a decade and billions of water later, hip water-less urinals are finally going to adorn rest rooms across America.

Next generation of Designers will be everywhere.

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Inspire - Source: Smashing Magazine' Floral Typography

If you like the idea of making your environment a better place to live, then you are person who embraces design thinking. The environment could be just your room or house or could be whatever you do for living, or be it the world. Design thinking is about taking a different perspective, a view of a creator.

Designers come in all flavors. The traditional ones design cars to toothbrushes. The contemporary ones design cities, websites and iPods. The next generations of designers are going to be unlike; they will bring a fresh mix of right and left brain thinking to everyday problems, everywhere.

I like this article on Smashing Magazine titled Five and a Half Habits of Highly Effective Designers. It is intended for web designers – the folks that dream up the look, feel and aesthetics of web pages and the graphic design that goes with it. But I thought the ideas are apt for any designers, the types I defined above. The habits highlighted in the article are valid for individuals too to better design our own lives – especially the last habit described, Habitually Rewrite The Habits

Roger Martin's Knowledge Funnel

On on the same topic, I recommend a book by Roger Martin, “The Design of Business”. It’s a quick read and the model he defines is one I found intriguing. While the model is somewhat same as in six sigma approaches, Roger does a nice job of articulating it in a simpler way.

If you take an inventory of any business problem today, they will likely fall in one of the spaces within the funnel. Innovative companies, such as Samsung (let’s give a break to Apple) manage their product lines rigorously – ideas mature through the funnel and gets mass produced at the bottom of funnel, while newer ideas are brewed and hashed out at the top. Future of all modern business will be based on principles discussed in this book. You can read Roger Martin’s blog here.

XPlane is one of those companies that you should know about. They spearheaded design thinking early on, though many firms now exist in this up and coming space of Design and Innovation consulting. I encourage you to watch this video made by XPlane (their blog here) in honor next generation of designers out there – like you and me.

A love letter to Designers from XPLANE on Vimeo.

What did outsourcing really do?

Monday, September 27th, 2010

In my experience, what I am hearing (and partly seeing) is that the perception of IT outsourcing (to offshore providers in Asia/South America) is closely reflected in the comic strip below.

Source: Dilbert

The folks who are being replaced by outsourcing efforts are obviously mad and enraged. The folks who end up having to manage the outsourced work and who end up “receiving and owning” are literally crying. Complaints range from poor quality of work received, to lack of resource retention at offshore locations. Communication and cultural issues doesn’t get talked as much, but they play equal role in the negativity. There is even a mushrooming in-sourcing industry.

Even though there is an element of truth in these outcries, I am somewhat skeptical if this is a simply an “expected” backlash. In some sense, these complaints raise a sense of job security or at least slows down the movement of jobs out. On the contrary, even a bit of praise for offshoring most likely results in more work shipped out.

Thanks to the recession and rising unemployment in the US, federal and state departments are taking a conservative approach by avoiding this topic or altogether opposing it, as State of Ohio recently did.

Growing up in America?

The reality is outsourcing of IT and in fact, all IT-enabled work is becoming a financial imperative. The US market for most industries is saturating so the only way to show growth in many cases, is by cutting operating costs. The easiest is to ship all desk jobs offshore. Ultimately, the folks who are cribbing must manage these issues (mostly imagined or some real!) and get over it.

The IT and BPO sourcing providers (Indian, Chinese and others) must own up to some of these issues on their part. At the moment, most of the top-tier providers are busy “moving up” the value chain, escaping from what NY senator Charles Schumer calls “chop shops”. But the entire sourcing industry must recognize and focus on its foundation – highest quality of service – to sustain the industry as whole.

No Creativity Crisis in YOU!

Monday, September 20th, 2010

A couple of months ago, Newsweek declared that America is a deep creativity crisis. The hell broke loose. Or may be not. If anything, the article gained more readership than it possibly deserves.

The article points out that creativity is “production of something original and useful”, and I agree with original part but not so much the useful part. I accept the simple definition that creativity is just a unique expression – of oneself or of something – that’s out of ordinary. Useful or not is irrelevant. Every human being is creative in some way or other at one point of time or another, yet, most of the creation is useful only as a gratification for the creator, none beyond. That doesn’t preclude any individual from not being creative. In fact, it is in our inherent nature to be creative. We can creatively argue to death if it’s true or not.

Source:http://www.ad-i.co.uk

The newsweek article highlights an experiment in which children who came up with “more good ideas grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, college presidents, authors, doctors, diplomats, and software developers.”. I hope that’s an incomplete list and dare not call it as a list of what creative people become.

Creativity does not start, and certainly does not end, with art. I also see an unwritten assumption that creatives grow up to be entrepreneurs. Most artists and entrepreneurs are certainly creative, but the world will not be as we have it today, if not for the creativity of average citizen.

Last month, Fast Company’s 2010 list of most creative people in business. I dug deep into it because I see the key word in that article’s title is most and not creative. I wanted to know about and possibly meet every one of the most creatives – because these guys are likely doing what the newsweek article posited – “original and useful” creativity – useful insofar as they make money for their business.

Source: thedesigninspiration.com

To make a list of most creative people in the whole world across all disciplines would be a daunting task and it will invariably be filled with artists and entrepreneurs. You know, let’s leave that job to the magazines and newspapers – that will sure get more readership and provoke debates. For anyone who cares to look closer but a bit deeper, the most originally expressive and inspiring person might be your two year old or your ninety two year old grandma or perhaps, YOU, just the way you are.

Do what you love, express yourself exactly as you feel – in any form, shape, medium or language. Don’t just go with the flow, make your own path, follow your dreams and if required, break all the rules.

Celebrate being yourself.

Why I like NetFlix – and lessons on business strategy

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

I was hooked to NetFlix when they launched – Of course, need I say I love movies? NetFlix kept my appetite going for many years. When BlockBuster made a move to offer online rentals, I had no reason to notice. When BlockBuster made a move to exchange online rentals for in-store selections, I was impressed. As a student and practitioner of strategy, I think this is one of the brilliant business moves. Right when everyone was dismissing video stores as useless brick and mortar assets, Blockbuster brought an innovative solution that converted a supposedly wasteful asset (stores) into a strategic one.

Alas – BlockBuster couldn’t sustain its strategic thinking. If you search for Blockbuster in the recent news, there are going down the drains – possibly bankruptcy soon. Among other reasons, NetFlix is definitely one big sucker kicking their butts.

I can’t stop praising NetFlix. Their collection of movies, documentaries, TV shows etc is more than enough for any above average movie/TV buff. They offer streaming at the same cost (Blockbuster was charging separately!). They offer streaming to TV via Wii – no extra cost or extra hardware, Do you want more? Now, I can watch NetFlix streaming in my damn iPhone – again no extra cost. I’m loving it. I really think future of customer service and retention is this – offer your products and services around the customer’s convenience.

I imagine the guys in the boardroom of BlockBuster still think they know what they are doing. I bet they don’t. As they were ignoring NetFlix, another innovator – RedBox is killing them. If you ever think of renting a movie in BlockBuster, think again…and perhaps, look around, you will find a RedBox and that’s all you need for the night. In my opinion, Blockbuster is letting RedBox and NetFlix kill it, rather consciously. Pick any business consultant from the street he could tell you to how to handle it (leverage you brand strength, buy one or both of them or offer the same services – just ridiculously better and cheaper).

These guys are all in the dog-eat-dog business so let’s face it and fight to win. Watch out – Folks are already saying NetFlix won’t have this business for too long. I have been expecting NetFlix should buy RedBox. Then, YouTube, Apple, Amazon, Hulu and a host of others streaming movies, TV shows and user content left and right. Besides, TVs already have built-in internet so streaming is going to be as simple as flipping channels. So I won’t be surprised if NetFlix gets killed or sucked into Amazon or some other big dogs.

But something tells me these guys are smart and will continue to innovate and play the game. As for rest of us, let’s enjoy those documentary on NetFlix that we would otherwise never to get see and along the way, watch for some real world lessons on business strategy.

Will an Indian compete in Snowboarding in Olympics?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

I am not surprised about lack of attention to India’s representation in the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Most Indians aren’t interested in winter games and even amongst those who follow it, there is lesser people who actually play winter sports themselves.

Personally, I actually snowboard. Yep. Many of my Indian friends and family think, it isn’t much different from skiing. But it is not. I never skied so I wouldn’t know which one is harder or better. However, It did take a long time for me be a decent snowboarder, especially since I had not seen snow until I was 21 and started learning snowboarding only when I was about 25 or 26. I can come down the hill in most trails with no issue, but my speed and aesthetics still sucks in steeper trails.

Let me tell you my secret – just do it and don’t give up. Most newbie give up after the first day on snowboard. But the truth is you can really get a hang of it within the 3rd day of learning and rest is just showing up and mastering it.

I have been hitting the slopes at least 2 or 3 times a year for many years now though I only frequent ski resorts in NY area. I have tried out resorts in Colorado, Vermont, and Candada too (Tremblant!). There is no comparison to the quality of snow and the overall boarding experience in Vermont or Canada. The local resorts here are just easier to access but not for great snow.

In all these years, I have seen many people from India in the slopes. Almost all of them ski. However, I am yet to meet another Indian (1st generation Indian like me) who snowboards. I am sure there are many out there, it’s just that I haven’t had a way to connect with them. I continue to go all by myself, year after year. Its a great meditative feeling to snowboard down a long hill all by yourself.

Since the day I picked up boarding, I always wondered if an Indian will ever compete in Snowboarding in Winter Olympics. May be, who knows, someone might be training today for it.

Shiva Keshavan thinks we can do something about winter sports and India. From India’s standpoint, he is a veteran winter Olympian even though he is only in late 20s. He has been participating in Luge, representing India for three Olympics now. While I know nothing about Luge beyond being a spectator, I got to imagine its just as hard as any sport and at least, he finished at a decent spot, unlike his two other counterparts who literally ended up at the bottom of all participants. Sad as it is, I applaud their courage to participate (against the usual odds) and hold India’s flag in Winter Olympics. Let’s not forget that we got to start somewhere to get to the top!

I found just a few blogs or news items on Shiva Keshavan :

A Chance Interview with Indian Olympian Shiva Keshavan (btw, he speaks genuinely and very sensibly)

Kamala Bhatt (who also runs a popular Internet radio show) blogged about Shiva.

Lakshmi Gandhi pieced the ten facts about Shiva’s sojourn to Vancouver.

CNNGoAsia cribs about the beaten Indian team

Comments are closed since I couldn’t keep up with deleting spam. You can reach me at my yahoo at skchary.

How to articulate your value to others?

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Be it a brand, a company, a country or even an individual person, there are always challenges in articulating value that entity adds to others.

This piece of paper from the United States Postal Service is a constant reminder to me on how to articulate in a succinct yet persuasive way. If only they added some more visual aspects to it, but words are worth it.

Isn’t it amazing that US Postal delivers as many as pieces as a day as FedEx does in a year???

USPS

Change needs understanding first

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

At work, we are going through a change. A big change in the way we will operate, that will lead the way to how we will be doing business in the coming years. Operational efficiency is the goal.

As I experience this “change” from my vantage point, I realize that it lacks widespread commitment and sense of urgency. The folks up in the organizational chain are likely doing the right things in many ways, but their own perceptions of what is happening is not the same as that of an associate’s (in the trenches) perception of what is actually happening. That is a fundamental issue in change management and it leads to stagnation sooner or later.

While some elements of the change has been communicated, it is unclear if its well understood and “seen” by all. Two critical aspects of change management in large organizations is commitment and belief from everyone (ok, mostly everyone). Commitment and belief in the change itself, happens only if everyone understands what they are committing to. Understanding is not the same as communicating!!! Understanding happens in multiple dimensions and scales. Reading a memo or listening to a CFO speak are just two, necessary but not sufficient, aspects! Some elements (consistent with memo and speeches) of the change must be “felt” in an associates’ day to day work in order to reinforce what they read and hear. This has to be a visible/sensible change in their local team and/or operating environment. If a big enterprise-level change doesn’t impact (even small impact helps!) an assocaite’s daily activity, its hard to get that person’s commitment, to begin with. An uncommitted associate usually infests the folks around him, so there is peripheral damage as well.

A sense of urgency is a broad term but, in my mind, speaks to three critical questions fundamentally. Why should we change now, instead of say next year or 5 years from now? This reminds me of Matsushita story. When Matsushita started his visionary institute for government and management, he explained his vision was to help Japanese politics become less corrupt and more visionary. When a skeptical reporter asked how long that would take, he said, “about four hundred years…which is why it is so important we start today!”. So, any operational change, especially in a fortune 50, is a slow and painful process. But we better start now so we make progress right away.

The second question around sense of urgency would be “Alrite, I am starting now, whats next?”. This leads to short-term wins. While change is a long-term process (at least few years), short-term milestones, directly tied to long-term vision is key to keep the masses running. Nobody wants to keep cutting the trees for years without frequent assurance that they are in the right forest! So, tell them we are moving towards the final goal, one step at a time. A short-term visible and tangible win, every 6 months, seen and acknowledged by everyone, is a key.

The last question is “Alrite, I know we had this short-term goal, but I feel I am out of touch, when are we meeting again to talk about all of this?”. This leads to “frequency” of all forms of communications around change. Usually, the sense of urgency wades off in a few months. This happens due to the illusion at the senior leadership level that everyone is on board and so things are moving as they should. While in reality, lower level people’s commitment is lost over time. So a constant reminder, every other week, if not, every week, about the change, why the change and how we are changing and how fast and stable the “train” is moving, will keep the sense of urgency strong and sustainable!

Tech star…tup

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Boulder is a city that I really liked though I have only visited it twice during my almost a year of weekly commuting to Denver in 2003. It is also a city high in entrepreneurial spirit, thanks to a vibrant university and the loads of venture capitalists around, and of course, a community that cherishes life and nature (and snow!).

Techstars is a boulder’s way of embracing startups and venture capitalism around the area. Through Techstars, local entrepreneurs are joining together to promote entrepreneurial activity, one summer at a time.

The website claims 80% of last years participants have now received additional venture/angel funding and thats a good statistics proving their selection criteria (10 out of 300+ applicants!) was pretty good. Most of the companies appear to be online, social media types

Now, bootcamps are not new. They have been around for a long time around Silicon Valley. Techstars differentiates in some ways, the best of which I liked was that they don’t want to see your business plan (at least thats what their website says!). So they do want you to pitch your idea but just that is enough. I think this in itself would be a boost for a lot of people to take the plunge. While ideas are dozen a dime, good ideas are still running into millions! Of course, you got to have an idea and a way to create something, so fancy ones aren’t going to make the cut. You probably need an idea that can be built into something over a few boulder summer weeks, with nothing more than a laptop, food and a bunch of mentors and perhaps, lawyers! I guess, if you can program it, you are halfway in!

If you truly have an software-based idea, look to spend your next summer in Boulder. The mentors are mostly local (previously successful & experienced?) entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, so you ought to get something out of those few weeks!

Internet booms

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

The data from the recently published 2008 Quarter two report of venture capital investments has an interesting hightligh in the new venture space : 238 Internet-based companies got an funding of around $1.5 billion! Thats just in one quarter! This quarterly figure in fact represents the highest since 2001. Are we seeing a surge in the dot com business?

On a side note, US venture capitalists sent about $473 million in India’s way.

How about prepaid gas as a consumer service?

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Remember Chrysler’s “Let’s Refuel America” program from a couple of months ago? GM new strategy to attract new buyers was tapping into the current gas price sentiment well. I remember thinking what if this “lock the gas price” was available to all consumers?

Thats exactly what is getting a lot of traction now!!!

MyGallons.com offers prepaid gas for everyone essentially locking the price at market rate for as much gallons as you can buy. The concept is bound to get sign ups as the prices move north by a few cents every week. The service is enabled via a debit that is apparently accepted at 95% of gas stations across the US. If predictions are right, we might see $7 a gallon soon (may seem ridiculous but I would have given the same look a decade ago if someone had said gas would be $4 a gallon, when it was around 80 cents!)

But I got to think its probably not the best business to be in selling sort of gas futures in retail. The firm claims it has sophisticated hedging strategy, but we will have to wait and watch, if it survives the market pressures.

If you want to know where all the money you are shedding on your gas is going? look no further than below!

Dubai The World
Why bother to take dubai to rest of the world, think inside out, lets bring The World to dubai!!! You got crazy dreams? We got the money in Dubai to make them real!

So your money is not going waste, right?

New Media is gaining momentum

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Eros International (who pretty much control most of foreign distribution of Indian films, especially with the acquisition of Ayangaran, the Eros of Tamil movies) recently announced their FY 2008 earnings numbers. Check the details here.

I noticed Eros’s new media sources alone brought in $28 million. Of course, the portfolio of film and music content they have is huge and compelling that their strategy is clear : monetize every penny out of every bit of content they have. Obviously, they want to operate as a true Hollywood studio.

Its interesting to see the source of these new media revenues : video on demand from US & other foreign cable providers, music sales for mobile phones (likely download of full songs or ringtones) through iTunes and also retail sales through Amazon and WalMart. They also signed deals with Sony Pictures and LionsGate and expect a flood load of dubbed, remade and cross0ver movies across the two continents. Last but not least, they have YouTube channel which produces revenues through advertising. I also read that they have inked deals with Joost and Jaman for online streaming licensing…How is that for milking your cow?? Way to go!

Hire a Star

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I was intrigued by the Inc Magazine article about how Jim Thornton decided to make an offer to Mike Wigton. Jim used an unconventional approach to gauge the new hire’s fit to ProvoCraft. Beyond interviewing Mike, he interview Mike’s wife and even met their parents. How is that for hiring stars? I think thats a great approach. I am true believer in emotional appeal. And Jim sold himself and ProvoCraft to Mike and his family, not at a material or financial level but at an emotional level. The opposite is true too. Mike wouldn’t have decided to accept the offer if the entire hiring experience was conventional, which in today’s world would be very stale. The unorthodox, personal approach was dynamic enough to create an emotional experience that influenced Mike’s decision to accept the offer. Looks like both of them are still happy campers staying put in Utah, growing ProvoCraft.

Provocraft is now owned by Sorenson Capital, private equity, which puts a great new spin to running private companies. The objectives, accountability and drive to change & grow faster is extraordinary in private equity-run companies. It is potentially best place in between a startup and a large public company. I have an eye on the private equity space and small-mid size firms owned by private equity firms (which is another reason the Inc article caught my attention) as I explore my near future options and Jim and Mike have reinforced my beliefs.

Its India’s turn now

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

So far, it was US turn to acquire firms in India and capitalize on its growth. Not anymore! The trend is reversing. I was watching a CNBC late night show on India Rising and from the interviews of all the tycoons of business in India, I could see the spirit is high. The business leaders of Reliance, Godrej, Tata and many others are extremely upbeat about growth of India, but they are also unusually confident about India’s ability to take over the world of capitalism. Its not a question of “do we have the money to do it?” (though they do have tons of capital). It is all about the vision and courage to go for the sky and conquer the world! This reflects the attitude that was prevalent in the US years ago (perhaps, not as much now in comparison), when American leaders had the vision to be the most powerful country in the world. They didn’t look at in terms of their abilities or money, it was a shear determination to dream and the will to make it happen. I see a similar wave of aspirations in India now and especially among the rich and famous of business, media and entertainment This is likely unprecedented given the conservative history of India.

Following the Spielberg partnership with Reliance group, another group within the reliance world, Adlabs, is looking to grow in the US via partnerships and distribution. It recently made an agreement with the Newyork based ImaginAsia entertainment to oversee some of the theater chains in the east and west coast cities with large concentration of Indian diaspora. This is interesting as it captures & strengthens the distribution value chain for the reliance and media making machines in Bollywood. Last year, Indian theater chain, Pyramid Saimira acquried Texas based FunAsia’s theater properties strengthening their distribution of Indian films in the US. Not only they want to control and reach the Indians in these cities through these theater chains but also earn in $$ for what was mostly produced in Rupees! Good Deal!

Odyssey Of the Mind – my calling?

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

One of my core desires is around doing something to foster creativity among children in developing nations, especially among those children, who lack awareness and resources to experience the “creative process”.

Given that desire, my soul always looks out for anything related to it.

I stumbled upon today’s Courier News paper at the desk of one of my colleagues at work. I was browsing through it really quickly, until I stopped at an article in the local section that said “Students prepare for World Finals of problem-solving competition” . The heading was enough for me take a minute to read through it.

I had never heard of “Odyssey of the Mind” of before. But it sure hit a chord in me. Obviously, I returned to my desk and googled it. Odyssey of the Mind is apparently a popular competition among school-going children and its purpose is to “foster the development of children’s creative-thinking and problem-solving skills”. Founded almost 25+ years ago, seems a movement of a sort to foster creativity among children. One day, I would love to do something like this for children in India, who I am sure, given right environment, resources, time and encouragement, will beat anyone else in creativity!

I was just fascinated to visit their website : http://www.odysseyofthemind.com. Looks like their next world finals is next week in MaryLand and a few teams from central jersey has made it to the world finals. I was telling Harini that we could go there if not for the safe arrival of our little master! Children from 20 different countries participate besides children from 50 states in the US. Indeed, India is not one of them.

Perhaps, my “calling” came through the Courier News today!

The new New Media is Social Media

Monday, May 26th, 2008

User generated video content has exploded in last 2-3 years beyond one’s imagination. Beyond YouTube, Metacafe and Blip.tv (the three that I regularly browse through) there are hundreds of others who scout the world looking for amateur video. All of this in the hope of becoming the next niche media distribution channel within the Internet.

This growth in web of websites for uploading and sharing video now has spawned a few “consolidators”. I recently tried my hands with Magnify Networks at magnify.net. I think they have done a splendid job of providing an integrated discovery and aggregation portal for user generated video. Just as most web 2.0 startups, they are in Beta and are constantly improvising. The registration, as expected was quick and easy. And I was up and running setting up my (dream) project in a no time : http://villagekewl.magnify.net/

I like this search and consolidate model because now I can search across my favorite video portals from one place. I presume the maginify.net guys constantly look to integrate with new video providers and so I don’t have to necessarily “know” who is the new or next YouTube. All I need to think about is what do I want Maginify to search for and how to aggregate and present it on my portal at http://villagekewl.magnify.net. There are other neat set of features such as playlists, user ratings, and auto search etc. to play around with. Check it out for yourself.

Now, the key question boils down to how effective is the video search. Obviously, its basic text search with the title and description of the video and perhaps, few other attributes defined by the host video provider. Beyond that, we got to wonder who has the best tagged video content on the web.

While on the topic, I got to mention CoolIris, which I stumbled as I was trying to get in touch with Sashi Seth. CoolIris has a catch product, essentially a browser plugin that would transform it into 3D browsing experience. So from reading/view a sort of a page from top to bottom or right to left, with text, audio and video what if you were let into street fair or planetarium and find text, audio, video all around you and you can zip through search and view in all directions, as fast as you can? Welcome to PicLens from CoolIris. you can download and try for yourself. So who is Sashi Seth anyway? As good as it looks, He will figure out if CoolIris can make any money out of it!