Sunday, December 20, 2009

On winning Srijan 2009 Technology award for Vortex

"If you are a technologist and if you wish to be taken seriously, you must wear jeans and t-shirts to such events", said a friend at the venue, pointing to the dress worn by a very young CTO of one of the companies competing for the same category award. And there I was, dressed formally to the teeth - tie, suit and all, and feeling nervous as this was the first time I was handling anything like this in an official sense. Every other contesting company had sent in their CXOs or Directors - would they take Vortex lightly for having sent in someone "junior"?

My conscience told me that the jury would not have any such prejudices, which I realized to be true once I started making my presentation. Twenty minutes for the presentation , ten minutes for Q & A, I was told. I took the extempore route, and blurred the lines between Q & A and the presentation.

Questions were mainly on scalability, growth potential, impact of other  competing/complimentary ICT, etc. Based on Gramateller's lower initial investment requirements and lower running costs the jury could be convinced that our ATMs were the best bet to address the need of 1 million ATMs (1 ATM per 1000 people) - whereas the current penetration is less than 5% of the need at 45,000 ATMs.

The presentation I had prepared had patriotic overtures playing up the fully indigenous aspect of Gramateller, about we Indians believing in ourselves and having the guts to take on a market dominated by two huge MNCs - turned out to be interesting to make to a jury having 2 out of 3 members from outside India!

The 24 hour wait for the results was the toughest part. As the main event drew to a close, I felt increasingly like a schoolboy awaiting exam results. From the moment we knew we won, I was in a daze - walking up to the dias and receiving the award from Vijay Mahajan  - all went by as a blur. "We are buying two of your ATMs, that's my award to you", quipped Vijay Mahajan.

Then I spoke two lines - a poor semblence of an "acceptance speech" - my first one in my life, coming at the most unexpected time!

(details of the award at and

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A full circle

During my stint as a software engineer, I'd always believed that I'm a software engineer by accident. I'd never wanted to be in software and had always wanted to be in the hardware side of computers.

More than 5 years ago when I started working, the software company I'd worked for was developing the whole software for a machine which was similar in functionality to an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). Then I'd enquired with a senior there, if we Indians could build the software, then why not venture into the hardware as well. I was told that this was not possible, that we Indians could not get our hands dirty by taking risks in products, and that we'd rather earn our bread and butter through software services.

A few months ago when I joined Vortex, my work has come a full cycle. Vortex, an Indian company that grew out of IIT Madras, makes ATMs it designed from scratch. Inside the machines one can see a symphony of different branches of engineering - the mechanical Cash Dispenser Modules which dishes out notes from a stack, the electronics with all the sensors ensuring that no two notes are counted as one, the embedded software which makes it all meaningful for the ATM users to see and withdraw money.

An Indian company is making its bread and butter by making products designed indigenously for the Indian market. I have indeed come a full circle professionally.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Top Ten Ways for Website Promotion

Success of any business model which relies heavily on online transactions, or that have a target audience in the age group 12-35, depends heavily on how popular its website is. Good examples in this case would be and Sathyam Cinemas (Chennai). Both target the neo-rich and the IT employed youth, and their websites automatically come to people’s minds whenever a job search or online movie ticket booking comes to one’s mind. To put in other words, both these businesses would have failed miserably had their websites not become as popular as they are now.

Therefore, if you want to promote any business to today’s youth, the best and most efficient option available to you would be to create a website, and make it as popular as possible. At the same time, you need to ensure that your website is known for all the right reasons. There are many ways of doing it, goods ways and bad ways. In this article, we discuss the top ten right ways of promoting your website.

Search Engine Optimization: If you run a furniture shop in Chennai, you must show up in the first page if your prospective customers search Google or Yahoo with “furniture shops in Chennai”. Here again, there are many ways of doing it, about which you can read in another article. To put it briefly, this depends a lot on where all links to your website appear and in what context, and how relevant are the keywords you use for your website compared to the content in your website. The advantage here is that apart from the initial investment, there is very little maintenance costs, and this would ensure a steady traffic to your website if done properly

Pay-Per-Click Advertising: The easiest way of implementing this is to use Google Ad-words. This ensures that your banner ads are shown in other websites based on the appearance of your keywords in those website’s content. The rates you pay would be a function of the keywords you would want to use your ads on, and the number of clicks you get from those ads.

Blogs: Write a general blog, with subtle references to your site in such a way that it doesn’t look like an advertisement by itself. Blogs have a higher chance of showing up in search engine results, and having a relevant blog helps you in Search Engine Optimization as well.

Forums: Be a regular contributor to forums discussing matters related to your business, make valid points (unbiased), but put your website address as part of your signature.

Social Bookmarking: Signup in social bookmarking sites, and add your own website address with the right keywords, and share your links with your network

Social Networking: Make most out of the opportunities given by social networking websites such as Facebook, Orkut, Myspace, etc. These websites not only help you to build a network but also a golden chance to promote your website. You can make widgets and applications for your website on these social networking avenues, as well as manage a group/community/fan club of your website through these.

Directories: Submit your website for listing in online directories, under appropriate categories. This would also help indirectly in getting better results on search engines.

Press Releases: Making press releases about your latest product/service offerings would not just get you attention from conventional media, but through news websites they help in attracting a significant level of traffic.

Word of mouth: If you live up to your ads in terms of quality of service, mere word of mouth would get you more results than costly advertising. For this to be easier, keep your domain name simple and catchy.

Email Marketing / Email Newsletter: This is one of the ways of keeping in touch with your prospects, though there is a risk of being considered as a spammer by the very same people. If done though opt-ins, these can generate a conversion rate of 3-5%.