Friday, October 26, 2007

Apologies :: political post:: Mera Bharat Mahaan?

Mera Bharat Mahaan - This is a slogan that would touch the heart of any Indian. Literally translated it means "My India is Great".

Today is a very sad day in India's history. In a 'sting operation' a small Indian newspaper called Tehelka (literally translated Chaos) was able to get a bunch of small time politicians to confess to their roles in the 2002 riots in a State called Gujarat in India and also to the involvement of the Chief Minister of the state (akin to the governor of an American state). In an incident that we indians don't like recalling a large number of muslims were killed by Hindus in communal violence with active encouragement by the State government.

I don't feel its sad because the entire issue has been politicized and the very credibility of the report is being questioned. I feel it's sad because the people who appear on the tapes confessing to rape, murder etc. are still free over 24 hours after appearing on television confessing to these crimes and the government has not deemed it fit to even now arrest them. I can understand that the Chief minister cannot be deemed guilty because of other criminals saying that he supported them but what about catching at least those criminals who openly have admitted to their crimes? Or has this just been forgotten in the circus of politics in India?

A small excerpt from the Tehelka article. *Warning Disturbing* You can read the entire disturbing report on
Just under 5’3”, Babu Bajrangi—whose family name is Patel — is a towering figure in Naroda. Twenty-two years of association with the VHP and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, has firmly established him as the most dreaded local thug. Today, Bajrangi lords it over Naroda, and over Chharanagar in particular, where he commands a substantial following. Many Chharas appear to hold him in great reverence; he, in turn, is all praise for the criminal abilities he claims they possess, they are his “weapons”, he says, “just kill, nothing else”.

Bajrangi holds court at his office on the second floor of the Ajanta Ellora Shopping Complex, just off the highway that skirts Naroda. Though he claims to be a big builder with a steady monthly income of over a lakh and a half, his main vocation is beating up Muslims and Christians. “I just hate Muslims and Christians,” he says. And the cause dearest to his heart is to “rescue” Hindu girls who have married or eloped with Muslim boys. A majority of those who visit him each day are the parents of such girls. “When they go to the police, the cops don’t lodge a complaint, they send them to me,” Bajrangi claims. “Nine hundred and fifty-seven — that’s how many Hindu girls I have saved. On average, one girl married to a Muslim produces five children. So, in effect, I have killed 5,000 Muslims before they were born.”
Kauser Bano, was nine months pregnant that day. Her belly was torn open and her foetus wrenched out, held aloft on the tip of a sword, then dashed to the ground and flung into a fire. Bajrangi recounts how he ripped apart “ek woh pregnant… b*******d sala”; how he showed Muslims the meaning of wrath—“If you harm us, we can respond — we’re no khichdi-kadhi lot”.

Mera Bharat Mahaan? It's been a sad 24 hours.

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

- Preamble to the constitution of India

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What I like in business ideas

So I’m blogging after a really really long time. I mean I’ve been doing some chota mota blogging every now and then but nothing real that I’ve put some effort into. So I’m here sitting on a rare day when I don’t have too much to do and thinking hard about a good topic to blog about. Finally I thought I should write a bit about Ideating. I know – it’s an esoteric topic and one that probably I’m not very qualified to speak about but I thought let me anyhow give it a shot. I see quite a few business plans and am a sounding board for quite a few friends who are starting their companies so I thought it would be good for me to crystallize what impresses me when I see a business plan. So here it goes:-

1. Real Technical Innovation. This is the techie in me. I like seeing a simple, elegant solution to a problem as the crux to the business plan. It might sound easy and in some ways obvious but you’ll be surprised with the number of plans I see that just don’t have this. I sincerely feel a new company that’s getting started has to have a better way of doing things or else it really does not stand a chance against more established players.
2. Concentrated Experience in the Founders. This in my opinion is the most reassuring part in the business plan. It’s nice to see founders who have worked together for years at a stretch or who have been in companies which are market leaders in related areas as I feel by virtue of being in senior management positions at another company that was a market leader, the founders firstly have perspective into a problem that comes from being at the center of the vortex and secondly they come in with a rolodex of contacts and an understanding of industry processes that will just help them get their new business off the ground faster. What do I mean by the above? A simple example would be if a senior person in the land acquisition team at Raheja or DLF or Hiranandani properties were to come in and say that he wanted to start a new company doing property development, I’m sure his insights just from being an insider would be valuable.
3. A realistic understanding of pre-revenue costs. Again, It’s surprising but very few business plans I have seen are realistic. While I am willing to give the entrepreneur credit if he misses his revenues, I feel an entrepreneur who is unable to project the amount of money he needs to get to revenue has a lack of understanding of what it will take to get to Point B. It’s important for the entrepreneur to be able to draw out a detailed project plan and budget realistically what it will cost to achieve the plan. If an outsider in the business is able to see obvious flaws in the budget, I feel the entrepreneur does not know the business well enough.

Moving on to more complicated things I like in businesses.

4. Businesses where reputation and network effects enhance profitability. I like businesses where over time as long as you are delivering quality services, your reputation grows and you can charge a premium as you become a magnet for the best people, partners, vendors etc. putting the company into a sort of positive momentum so that it can escape the gravitational pull of typical business pressures. Good examples of these businesses are Hospitals and schools. I also like businesses where by virtue of their network, they get more valuable with time by being able to build higher margin value added services into the service. Examples include Telecom, banking etc. and I love companies where technology is used effectively to drive these network efforts further.
5. Aggregation Businesses i.e. businesses built on the back of many small customers who look pretty similar and to whom similar processes can be applied supported by simple technology tools i.e. the internet, call centers, central processing units etc. This is in some ways similar to my earlier point about network effects but not really so felt it should be mentioned on its own.
6. User Data generating businesses. I like to summarize this by telling my friends – it’s not about how many users are coming to your website but about what they’re leaving behind. I’m a big believer in User Generated content, user generated data, user trails etc. and I feel this businesses that generate valuable data esp. at valuable times.
7. Instant gratification. I like businesses where there is a limited barrier to customers buying the product. In other words, customer likes, customer buys and then he can start using your product pretty immediately. I don’t like businesses where customer engagements can stretch and the variance of deploying at different customer engagements is large, deployment time is more than 7 days.
8. I like companies that bet on progress. I feel it’s the easiest way to make money. Human beings have been shown to behave in a certain manner in some countries. I’m reasonably willing to bet that they will behave in similar manners in other countries. This is not the glamorous way to make money but I feel this is the easiest and most obvious way.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I'm back

To my usual schedule of going to bed at 10 and waking up at 5. For the
past few weeks i was just unable to do this and it was messing up my
whole routine and making me feel really bad. Finally managed to get
back today and it feels good.
Also have to say here that Marc Andreeson is the absolute best. His
posts on career choices should be mandatory reading for all university
students. I wish we had such good writers among the indian CEOs.

If not debt, then equity?

Given that my last post discourages entrepreneurs from raising debt apart from a few specific cases namely:- 1. Very high ROCE low risk bus...