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Archive for March, 2009

With all due respect for Ghalib Mirza Asadullah Khan, here is my take on clinging to the faintest hope in life, and moving on…

दिल ही तो है, ना नज्म-ए-गालिब, उम्मिद से भर ना आए क्यू …
हस देन्गे कल खूद पर हजार बार, आज गुदगूदा के मूस्कूराए ना क्यू…

उम्मिद-ए-सूबह के बगैर, कौनसी रात पूरी है?
सर उठा के हम अंधेरे मे सितारो के पार नजर गङाए ना क्यू…
दिल ही तो है, ना नज्म-ए-गालिब, उम्मिद से भर ना आए क्यू …

चाहत नही, नफरत नही, गूनाह नही, माफी नही,
उम्मिद से भरा यह आज है, कल की हमे हो सोच क्यू…
दिल ही तो है, ना नज्म-ए-गालिब, उम्मिद से भर ना आए क्यू …

अपनाए, ठूकराए, बक्शे जिन्दगी, बन्दे का कभी रहा है जोर कहा?
बस है हमारा, दम है हमारा, हमारी उम्मिद पर फिर हो आन्च क्यू…
दिल ही तो है, ना नज्म-ए-गालिब, उम्मिद से भर ना आए क्यू…

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Entrepreneurship is doing funny things to me. Its more than a year that I have actually jumped into the mysterious waters of entrepreneurship, and the way things have gone and are going, I am faced with a question of “Is there any difference between Entrepreneur and Businessman?” What sets these two apart from each other?

Instead of simply searching for an answer on internet, today I had kept this question as my GTalk nick and got some really interesting replies. Basic premise for almost all the replies was that “Innovation sets entrepreneurship apart from business”.  Entrepreneurs are driven by passion for their concept whereas profit motives drive a businessman. Businessman works under the liability of making profits so that s/he can sustain the business; whereas entrepreneur might simply be chasing his/her dream. Businessman will always ensure that all his/her investment will fetch the suitable returns and hence will always try to play as safe as s/he can; whereas entrepreneur by nature will be a risk-taking gambler.

Here are a few interesting comments I received over the day –

“Entrepreneur has usually fallen in love with the project/business …same may not be case with the Businessman”

“Entrepreneur loves what he is doing… he seek a purpose in doing what he is doing… businessman may be just in it because that’s the way he knows to work”

“Act of creation separates entrepreneurs from businessman”

“Entrepreneur is a businessman under a capitalistic framework and a people’s leader under socialistic framework”

Taking a clue from the last comment, I feel while a businessman is more of an opportunistic in capitalist structure, entrepreneur goes a step ahead and becomes the value-adding element of socialist structure. A businessman finds his/her place in the value-chain of the industry, and keeps running after the margins; whereas an entrepreneur will add a new value to the chain, or simply disrupt it altogether by his/her innovation and create a new business, a new value-chain out of it. While entrepreneur will expect monetary gains out of the venture, that need not be his/her sole aim.

I will sum it up with this Apple advertisement of “think different” which though not particularly made for entrepreneurs, speaks a lot about it. Entrepreneur is the guy who has no respect for the status-quo. They are the crazy guys who believe they can change the world!

What is your take?

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A few nights in your life get etched in your heart for the deep etch they leave on your heart. On one such night my friend offered me a piece of advice which I never accepted. What started as a totally frivolous chat went on to the wee hours of night and we ended up discussing why do ghosts of our past never settle down? Why cannot one simply make peace with past and look forward to future? We know that the scar from past life will heal with time; but life takes – and we allow it to take pleasure in the pain of needling it again and again. We keep on questioning ourselves on how can a person so close and dear to you can be so rude and insensitive to you.

My friend’s advice was that it is in our best interest to consider yourself victim at the hands of life. Make that person appear guilty for all the pain you have gone through. Punish that person in your mind, in your deeds and also in your heart. Picture that person as your villain. Once you do this, solace yourself with the thought that someone up there in skies is counting all this, and will make this villain meet natural justice, today or tomorrow. Put a lid on this painful past of yours, and move on!

I argued with her for long. I argued that one need not just see the ugly side, but also keep in mind the pleasures one has got from that person. Give that person a benefit of doubt, and hope that after sharing such fantastic understanding, one lapse of sensible reasoning was due to some conditions beyond that person’s control and hence can be pardoned. Believe that you both will return back to good times, if not completely but to some extent for sure. If someone has been bad to you does not mean that you should be equally cruel to that person. If the other person cannot change to good, why should you change to bad? Be at peace with the past, forgive, and move on!

Neither of us could win over other that night. Lives moved on, dragging their past with them. Without realizing it, I conveniently kept on endorsing either version of arguments as and when it suited me. Sincerely, I still believe in the latter argument, but feel that former is easier to practise. I myself have fallen for it.

So today when someone tried punishing me and putting me in villain’s shoes, I know there is more than what is meeting the eye. That actually strengthens my belief in my argument, and helps me make peace with my past. And move on with life.

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Piracy is a grave problem in the new-age technology world. And when it comes to online gaming, it becomes much more troublesome. Yesterday at PuneOpenCoffeeClub, I attended a session by founder of www.Games2win.com – Mr. Alok Kejriwal. He has tackled this menace in an amazingly smart way. He has made this piracy work to his benefit.

Games2win.com has come up with invisible ads which they term Inviziads. These ads do not show up when the game is being played on www.Games2win.com. However the moment this game is stolen and put up on some other pirate site, these ads become active. Ads detects that the URL of the game is not the original one (i.e. of Games2win.com) and hence the ads become visible. Alok says that within hours of him putting up a new game on site, it gets copied on thousands of sites, and this provides him with a fantastic distribution network for Inviziads. Not only these ads are bringing loads of traffic back to www.Games2win.com, he is already selling these ads for a good profit.

Quite an intelligent way to use piracy for own advantage, isn’t it?

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Yesterday I attended an interesting talk organized by PuneOpenCoffeeClub. We had owner of a reputed online gaming portal talking about the kind of traffic his games attract. He used comScore extensively to compare himself in the online gaming world and stated that getting into the top 5 of the comScore list of online gaming sites worldwide is the target he has set for himself.

While comScore does provide an elaborate analysis of the website traffic and is considered a standard worldwide, one needs to understand the methodology used for this tracking.  comScore has a panel of around 2 million worldwide and they use extensive statistical methods to come up with the numbers they have (more details on methodology here). But what needs to be noticed is the fact that comScore excludes traffic from cyber-cafes and users under age 15. For India, I am sure that is a sizable mass of internet users. And when it comes to activities like online gaming, I am afraid, absolute numbers shown by comScore might be drastically away from the reality. Cyber cafe still remains an important point of access for Indians and excluding this traffic can result in misleading conclusions. Internet is being taught in schools and at least in cities, school kids are using internet extensively for both studies and entertainment purposes. In such situation, excluding users under age 15 might not always provide the best traffic numbers, especially for activity like online gaming.

Other best bet in terms of tracking online traffic is Alexa.com. However in over more than a decade that I have spent on internet, I have not seen a single browser with Alexa toolbar. Alexa again, is a panel study based on the information gathered through their toolbars. Apart from the high-end users of internet, I wonder if an average internet user would actually go to www.alexa.com and download and install their toolbar.

There are some other tracking and measurement services available, but mostly it has been Alexa and comScore who are quoted for such purposes.

One can argue that both comScore and Alexa work based on a random sample and hence same error in reporting would appear across traffic measurement for all sites. Given this, Alexa and comScore can be reliably used to compare two internet destinations or to detect any deviation from normal trend. However for absolute numbers, I guess there is lot more needed to be done.

For developed countries where most of the traffic originates from home, school or offices and very less from cyber cafes, these numbers might work, but for India with its huge cyber cafe traffic, I guess a more extensive tracking system is required. Cyber cafes continue to be important point of access, often the only access point in tier II and III cities. I have seen young school kids flocking these cyber cafes which serve more as gaming parlours; parents creating matrimony profiles of their kids with the help of assistant (generally the owner) at the cyber cafe; and young college students playing pranks on their friends through Orkut and also getting their first experience to mature content over internet. comScore is missing this traffic  by excluding cyber cafes.

Although this traffic might not be very huge in terms of absolute numbers, general observation is that these new users of internet (who learn how to use internet in cyber cafes) are more likely to click on ads as online behaviour has not matured to differentiate an online advertisement from a genuine article. I once saw a school kid trying to fill up a life insurance form because the advertisement offered some lucky draw prize on filling the form (Of course he never completed the form for the lack of PAN number 🙂 ). This audience would be of the least interest to all the online advertisers and brands since they hardly convert into any transaction; however these would be the guys who would most likely click on all those online advertisements and hence form important part of the online advertisement industry.

I am sure that all hosting servers do have the exact numbers about traffic coming to them, however key is in profiling this traffic and consolidating and analysing this information into useful insights. This system should be encompassing enough to take care of diversity in internet usage as we see in India and in developed western countries and also in non-English speaking countries.

Creating such a tracking and measurement system for India would need investment, and given the current level of online advertisement spends in the country it needs to be analyzed whether this investment is justified.

Do you guys see an entrepreneurship opportunity in this?

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My friend recommended me the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” – and I complied. The movie has got so much hype and critical acclaim; I really was excited to watch it. The plot of character aging in reverse had aroused my curiosity a lot already. And thankfully movie lived up to the promise. Although I will not put it in a once-in-a-lifetime category, but surely it is an interesting movie to watch.

Benjamin Button (played by Brad Pitt) is born as an old man in eighties and grows younger with time. He is born with all the ailments of old age like cataract, arthritis and wrinkles; and as he grows up, he becomes younger and fitter, and finally dies as a baby. He is generally a misfit wherever he goes, except for the brief period in 40s when he looks actually as his age. Make-up artists and special effect technicians have done a tremendous job of pulling this off marvelously; and I feel that actually sets this movie apart from everything else.

Although every body part of Benjamin ages in reverse, his brain remains an exception. As a kid (who looks like an 80 year old grandpa) he is shown being curious about learning new things; and he suffers from old-age brain ailments like dementia as he grows old (and looks younger as a baby). Does not make sense technically, but then, it is ok. I take it as a fiction. But I feel it would have been great had his brain also aged in reverse direction. He is anyways a miracle child; so we could have as well brought him to life with all the memories of his life interspersed in his mind, which he connects back as dots as he ages – and forgets everything towards the end. Just like movie “Memento”; would have added another degree of complexity to the story and also some thrill. I would have loved to see more of how Benjamin handled his old age as he grew into a kid and then a baby. He is shown to have tremendous grit as people laugh at him being a child with old man’s body. It would have been wonderful to see how he faced the sympathetic eyes of people as he grew into an old man with a body of teenager, then a kid and then a baby. Putting him under dementia simply made it end abruptly.

Nevertheless, movie still is a great piece of art. Story has been weaved beautifully by the intermittent narration of diary of curious Benjamin and flashback memories of his lady-love, who is on deathbed. A few moments really sweeps you off your feet. One gets overwhelmed by the realization of futility of losing young lives in brutal and meaningless wars – when a blind man saddened by loss of his only son in war makes a clock which runs backwards in the hope that as time runs backwards, someday his son will also return and live a full life. One gets overwhelmed by the divinity of holy promise – when Benjamin takes his ailing real father on his shoulders to a witness the majestic and mystic sunrise, and washes himself off of his anger for the father who left him thinking he is a curse and also relieves the father from the deadly guilt of abandoning him. One gets overwhelmed by the interest one can have in a hopeless mundane life – when a dying old fellow narrates 4 out of 7 different ways in which he was struck by lightning and still survived because he felt God keeps reminding him that he is lucky to be alive. One gets overwhelmed by irony and pity of life – when Benjamin leaves his young daughter to save her from the embarrassment of having a father who would look more like a playmate, and his wife helplessly watches him go because she does not know what else to do. Movie has several such wonderful moments which leave you soaked in emotions, and makes you love the curious case of Benjamin Button.

The movie leaves you with one simple message – “Nothing Lasts”. However good or bad it may be, however deeply you may love or hate it, nothing stays on forever. Whether you grow old or you grow young, life will have its own share of sorrows and pleasures. Life is not about growing older or younger, but it is about growing wiser. Life is not about aging into a frail wrinkled man or charming young baby-face, but it is about aging into a beautiful heart. Benjamin Button’s case was curious not because of the reverse aging, but because of the dignity and sincerity with which he lived it;  and told the world that – in false hopes one may build clocks which runs backwards, but the truth is that time does not stop or come back for anyone. One needs to be at peace with it, and live on.

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