Archive for April, 2009

Launching GTM360

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

After more than two decades of working for various technology companies in India and abroad, most recently i-flex / Oracle Financial Services, I have decided to become an enterpreneur – and, GTM360 is the result.

GTM360 is a B2B marketing company that offers all-round go to market solutions to enable high-tech companies maximize value from their ideas, products and capabilities.

GTM360’s key offerings for products, services and web-based companies include

  • Discovery of marketable ideas, products and capabilities
  • Packaging into sharply defined offerings
  • Brochures, offering detail notes, capability documents, case studies, website and other marketing collateral
  • Email and telemarketing campaigns to generate leads
  • Proposals
  • Account strategy
  • Contract review

This is just a professional update. Nothing changes as regard Talk of Many Things.

Happy Reading!

Travails Of Buying Licensed Software

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Along with my new notebook PC, I’ve been trying to buy a licensed version of Visio, the leading drawing software from Microsoft. I find it very surprising that the leading distributors listed in Microsoft’s website for my city (Pune, INDIA) aren’t aware of Visio and keep telling me that it does not form a part of Microsoft Office suite. When I tell them I know that but that Visio is very much a Microsoft product, they have no clue what to do. My attempts to buy Visio online on Microsoft’s official original software website also proved fruitless. You’re supposed to complete a long form specifying your requirements and hope that someone would contact you. Alternatively, you had to place an order with some unknown merchant in some part of India. Since I’m on the official Microsoft website, I’d expect Microsoft to let me place my order directly on itself and let it handle its backend logistics instead of exposing me to its supply chain and expecting me to share my confidential credit card information with unknown merchants.

While the power of computers and software has multiplied several hundred or thousand times in the last 25 years, it appears that the friction involved in buying licensed software hasn’t reduced one bit.

I remember in the late 80s, the most popular spreadsheet software was Lotus 1-2-3. But, try as you might, you couldn’t buy a licensed copy of Lotus 1-2-3. My employer of that time, Wipro, was extremely committed to using only licensed software on all PCs inside the company. Because it couldn’t source licensed versions of Lotus 1-2-3, Wipro decided to develop its own spreadsheet product – which was called Wipro 4-5-6, by the way.

Unfortunately, not all companies, let alone retail buyers, are in a position to develop their own drawing software just because it’s so difficult to buy a licensed copy of Visio. Instead, they might want to check out cloud-based alternatives like LovelyCharts, Gliffy and FlowChart.

How Will ATM Owning Banks Cope With RBI’s New Regulation?

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Over the past few years, a few private and state-owned banks invested heavily on their ATM networks and were able to differentiate themselves by providing their customers with wider access to their money. Even when they started permitting customers from other banks to make cash withdrawals from their ATMs, they levied a charge for this facility. Nominal as it was, this charge still posed adequate friction to let their differentiator remain largely intact. But the recent directive from India’s central bank and financial industry regulator Reserve Bank of India seems to quash this differentiator by preventing banks from levying any charge for such “cross-bank” transactions. 

With greater volumes from such “cross-bank” transactions, ATM-owning banks will likely face increased costs in two areas, one stemming from the need to increase the frequency of cash replenishments at their ATMs and two, higher maintenance arising from greater wear-and-tear of their ATMs. Now, from 1 April, since they cannot charge for these transactions, they are left with no compensating revenues. It would be interesting to see how ATM-owning banks will respond to this directive going forward.

Before we make a few guesses about what ATM-owning banks might do, let’s consider the argument advanced in some quarters that RBI’s new directive will only lead to re-distribution of present ATM traffic, so there will be no net increase in costs faced by any single bank or group of ATM-owning banks. According to them, for every customer of Bank A who uses the ATM of Bank B, there will be a customer of Bank B who uses the ATM of Bank A. On the face of it, this argument sounds logical. However, if you scratch beneath the surface, it is evident that this argument will hold only if all banks have established comparable sizes of their own ATM networks — which we know is not the case by simply looking around in our neighborhoods and noticing vastly different ATM densities even among large banks. Besides, a few banks have announced in the last couple of days that they are abandoning plans to install new ATMs of their own (presumably because, in the wake of RBI’s regulation, neither they nor their customers have to shell out any money for the facility of withdrawing cash from ATMs of other banks).

So, it’s clear that the few banks that own larger number of ATMs will face increased costs. 

Will these banks shrug off these increased costs and continue to deliver present service levels related to cash availability and equipment upkeep in their respective ATM centers? Or, will they protest the new regulation and insist upon reinstatement of charges for cash withdrawals by customers of other banks?

While these banks decide how to cope with RBI’s new regulation, I hope not all their customers will start encountering the problems experienced by some of them recently (including me yesterday) when their ATM cards were declined for no obvious reason by ATMs of other banks where they tried to withdraw cash.

Newspapers Or Printed Versions of Blogs?

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

I came across the below article in The Economic Times yesterday which merely reproduces content from the famous tech blog TechCrunch. As readers would be aware, TechCrunch is absolutely free and does not even require its readers to register. 

 

In my recent blog posts (read them here and here), I’d felt that micropayments could at best be the enabler of the newspaper and magazine industry provided they offered content that people would want or need to pay for in the first place. Well, if newspapers become no more than printed versions of blogs, I think saving them entirely goes beyond the purview of micropayments.

Had this article appeared in some resource-starved small town newspaper, it would have been another thing. But it features in a leading publication like The Economic Times, which claims to be the world’s second largest business newspaper behind The Wall Street Journal. This surely suggests that newspapers are losing the only edge they have over online media, which is their ability to use their large team of on-the-ground reporters to print richer and more original stories.

Very Un Self-fulfilling Prophecy & My Attempt At Very Short List

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Ever since I read about it in a Business Week article on the effectiveness of email newsletters, I’ve been very impressed with VeryShortList. While not as short as Twitter’s 140-character microblogs, VSL’s mini blog posts strike the right balance between detail and extreme brevity. Here’s my attempt at creating a VSL.

I recently quit from i-flex / Oracle (more on my future plans in a later post). After my resignation was accepted by the company, I was eager to call up my close colleagues and let them know about my decision before they started hearing about it from the grapevine. But, the more people I called, the wider the grapevine spread, so the remaining people heard about my decision from the grapevine before I managed to tell them. That’s when I realized what an un self-fulfilling prophecy this would turn out to be!