Thursday, April 15, 2010

Software Review - Snaptu

I came across Snaptu while desperately searching for a mobile program I could use on my Nokia phone to access Twitter. Most programs I found were meant for the higher end phones, and the ones which could work on the entry level GPRS phones were very clumsy (jitter, tiny twitter) and gave you a feeling of browsing the internet using the old text based browser called lynx, whereas what I had in my mind was an equivalent of Gmail for Mobile.

Though I was searching for a twitter specific tool, Snaptu turned out to be much more than just twitter. It is a one point solution for almost all your social networking needs - Twitter, Facebook, News & Blogs, Orkut, LinkedIn, Picassa, flickr, etc. What's more, once you have integrated your twitter/facebook accounts, any news item or blog you read can be directly posted to your twitter/fb accounts, with a built in URL shortener. In the news & blogs section you can add most of the news websites, enabling me to read news in a very mobile friendly format.

On the twitter module, the features I found attractive are 'Reply to All', 'View Conversation', and the ability to access the links found in tweets in a mobile friendly presentation. In addition, all the things you do on twitter web can also be done here - follow/unfollow, add to list, etc.

The other modules are configurable, similar to adding gadgets in Google Desktop or the Windows Vista sidebar. There is only one more feature I wish existed in Snaptu - a direct integration with blogger. Currently I am still to figure out an effective way to blog from mobile.

In short, I am thankful to snaptu for two things - for postponing my decision to purchase a higher end phone (can now patiently wait for the 3G auction mess to be sorted out), and for making my life less boring during most of my boring train journeys (which are increasingly getting alarmingly frequent)


Most Social Media already integrated, or links provided for
Good & intuitive user interface


No offline mode
No integration with blogger or any direct option to blog

Friday, April 2, 2010

Delhi Metro - Best Implementation of IT

Delhi Metro has one of the most practical implementation I have ever seen (I have a feeling that most IT projects are about hoodwinking the client, solving problems created by another IT solution). I am talking about the RFID based prepaid ticket cards. In most other metros I have seen, even if one has a prepaid card, one has to still go to a ticket vending machine or stand in a separate queue to purchase tickets for a particular journey.

The Delhi Metro card eliminates all that - just flash your card at the entry gate, and then flash it again at the exit gate of your destination - it gives you a 10% discount on the fare, as well as displays the balance available on the card. The beauty is that there is not minimum validity required while purchasing it, like, say, one month. Even if you are in Delhi for a day, you can get a card for Rs 100 (Rs 50 security deposit), use it, and then return it to get the full balance, including security deposit, even if you surrender it on the same day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Emtech India Conference 2010

I was a speaker at Emtech India Conference 2010, speaking about "Cash boxes for Rural India" as part of the Social Innovations session. The panel discussion was chaired by Prof Anil K Gupta of IIM Ahmedabad. 

Unfortunately I had to miss out on most of the discussions, needing to be back in Chennai very soon. Of the discussions that I could be part of, the talk by Dr Raskar (of MIT Labs) was very interesting, with the technologies that he demonstrated looking like straight out of a sci-fi movie. 

There was also a young asst. professor from IIT-B - Shashikanth Suryanarayanan fro Dept of Mechanical Engineering, giving a talk about decoupling decision making and actuation. He has a case study about an advanced 'power steering' also capable of independently steering the front wheels (like / \ or \ /). This talk was interesting from two angles - the innovative technology part, and more importantly, the feel good factor about having bright young talents as profs at IITs.

The other technology innovator I was impressed with was Kranthi Kiran Vistakula (founder of Dhama Apparel Innovations), who has made a light weight (600 g) 'air conditioned jacket' which uses hydrogen bonding (I couldnt understand how), powered by small batteries. The nearest competitor product weighs a few kilograms.

It was good to meet these innovators first hand. Suddenly it dawned on me that technology innovation in India is not merely about software alone and that these are capable of having a greater impact on Indian life than its software growth.

The talk given by me at Emtech (on 8th March) as well as launch of India's largest solar powered ATM roll-out by my company Vortex has been covered in DNA on its 14th March Bangalore edition.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Company Idea - Premium Servicing for Laptops

This post is the result of extreme frustration with the laptop service offered by most brands in India. The key aspect that all these 'great' companies fail to understand is that laptop owners have bought laptops because they need their data/software to move with them while they are on the move, so it is pointless to take away the laptop from them for a few days even for a minor repair.

Based on the above premise, I am putting forth a new company idea - a premium laptop service company, which will have tie ups with all major brands in India. Anyone requiring any level of repair for their laptops can come to this company, provide their laptop fault list and other details, and (here comes the most important bit) take with them a fully working laptop with similar configuration and the same data/software as their faulty laptops. When their faulty laptops are returned after repair, the data newly acquired while working on the spare laptop will be synced back to their own laptops. Of course, all this comes at a premium in addition to the warranty cost. Other services offered will be laptop pickup/return at specified address.

So much for the wishlist part. Now on to the operational part. To start with a customer base of 500 premium registered customers, this company would need at least 50 laptops. This 50 would need to have a decent split up with about 10 top end laptops, 30 medium level laptops, and 10 low end/netbook variety laptops. Capex would be about 40 Lakh rupees for the laptops alone. Additional capex would be incurred in office space, website, marketing etc. Opex would involve salaries payable to about 10 courier execs (for picking up/delivering laptops) and 5 technicians (who would do minor repairs and software/data transfers/backups). The same courier execs would in turn approach the branded laptop company's (2nd party) customer support in case of serious problems.

What are your thoughts on the available market for such a company, and its sustainability/growth? The target segment is senior company execs who wouldn't mind paying extra for laptop service as long as they remain connected to their data/software at all times.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Evam's Five Point Someone and 3 Idiots

This doesn't exactly fall under technology marketing, but I'm posting this here as there is some connection with marketing as a whole. Yesterday I watched Evam's play Urban Turban at Chennai Museum theatre with Suraj and Rejitha, where co-founder and artist Karthik Kumar mentioned that their most famous play Five Point Someone (adapted from Chetan Bhagat's book with the same title) will be  on an all India tour, performing 60 times in a span of 75 days, and will be taking 3 idiots the movie head on. Majority of the audience will be seeing a play for the first time [emphasis mine].

The bit that is most interesting is this - taking 3 idiots head on, because I feel that arrogant jargon apart, he is going to cash in on the interest generated by 3 idiots. The original book is now close to 5 years old, and the play is around 2-3 years old and has had a successful run in cities like Chennai and Bangalore. By a re-run of the 2-3 year old play in new cities, and banking on those youngsters who have read the book, there is a market for about 15-20 more shows, not 60. The nationwide tour with 60 performances is having a good chance of success because of the renewed interest generated by 3 idiots the movie. Considering the excellent run the movie is having at the box office, even if Evam is able to create curiosity in 2% of the movie audience, the play will run packed shows. As Karthik rightly mentioned, the target audience is mainly first time theatre goers and the not-so-serious theatre goers like me and Rejitha who watch like, say, 2 or 3 plays per year at the most. Notwithstanding the public stances taken by Evam, Chetan Bhagat and the producers of 3-idiots, all of them are benefiting from each other - I am sure many (including Shashi Tharoor) have been inspired to read the book after watching the movie. Public posturing is more aimed at creating controversies to create even more interest and getting increased media coverage.

Update: Suraj has a different take on the issue which can be read here.

Update 2 [20 Jan 2010]: The new tour by Evam is not the same show that I have watched earlier. I'd watched the show by Madras Players directed by Nikhila Kesavan where Evam was the logistics partner. The new tour is an entirely new play, with a different script, director, cast, etc etc.

Update 3[20 Jan 2010]: Thought I'd share an almost 4 year old blog post from my earlier blog where I'd reviewed Five Point Someone the book (shameless self promotion). Disclaimer - old review when I was 4 years younger. I might have viewed the book differently if I were to have read the book now