René Seifert

Entrepreneur, Global Citizen, Flat World, Internet, Web 2.0, Innovation, Start-Up

Archive for February, 2007

From Sun-galore back to Bangalore

Weekend over, overdose of food and overdose of sun. And first of all for all my brodas and sistas in da rainy cold Germany, a picture how lush it looks in the backwaters of Kerala, the south-western State of India:

EO-Retreat 2007 in Kerala_44

And if you want to “envy-pictures”, check out the entire set here :-)

Sharan, our EO-President of Bangalore, got a great programme together which allowed for relaxation (took three massages), joint entertainment, but what is most important the opportunmity to turn the “acquaintance-status” with most of the fellow-members into true friends, like here a picture of Niraj Mittal and me.

EO-Retreat 2007 in Kerala_14

One of the programme highlights was the original Keralite lunch yesterday where all the gentlemen put on the traditional “Mundu”.

EO-Retreat 2007 in Kerala_40

On Friday evening we got an impressive demonstration of the Keralite martial arts of Kalaripayattu:

In the nutshell, phantastic event. And soaked up with sun, I am confident to take tomorrow’s weather in da cold rainy Germany.

Log-Off to Weekend in Kerala

Just about to leave for Bangalore airport where I’ll meet a bunch of my fellow members from the Bangalore-Chapter of the EO (Entrepreneurs’ Organization), before we jointly board the plane to fly to Thiruvananthapuram. (If you are not Indian, please try to speak out aloud “Thiruvananthapuram” a few times ;-) Actually, Thiruvananthapuram used to be called “Trivandrum” until 2 years, but sometimes name-changes don’t make things necessarily easier…

Well, from there it will be another 15 minutes on the road to Kovalam, where we’ll be having a great weekend for our annual retreat in the Taj Green Cove. Again, if you are not from India, but especially from Germany where there is 8°C and rain, just check out the link of the place to see how nice and sunny it is … :-)

Have a great weekend.

Bangalore TIE: Blackduck-CTO on SOA-Licensing

Today still 10 minutes in my birthday where I tend to be a bit agnostic: I am very happy if friends and people care for me to congratulate, but I don’t make myself a big fuzz about it as for having a “special day” or so.

The birthday evening present for myself therefore was to attend an event from TIE (The Indus Entrepreneur) in Bangalore with Palle Pedersen, CTO from Blackduck and James Black, specialized lawyer in intellectual property from the Silicon Valley. The topic was about “SOA and Software Licensing” which sounds in the first place a bit dry, but turned to be totally worthwhile.

With the advantage that software-components have become encapsulated to the level of services which can be plugged together through Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), there is a variety of issues arising in the legal space. Although many of these services are designed as “open source”, the licence implications like GPL can have significant adverse impact on a company if it does not keep track of them and fails in compliance. Worst case scenarios could comprise the obligation to publish the newly written code which was supposed to become proprietary, financial repercussions and loss of reputation in the industry.

Palle Pedersen, a gentleman from Denmark now living in Boston (MA), did a good job not to turn the event into a blunt sales promotion for the Blackduck-product, but he elaborated so nicely about the problem, that everyone in the audience got curious what eventually the company’s solution would be to it.

So in the nutshell: Blackduck’s product allows a company to have its entire codebase screened and compare it with a database containing more or less all open source code available (e.g. from Sourceforge) . The programme would identify the software used and supplement it with the information about the particular licensing agreement attached to it. Hence, the customer of Blackduck would not just get a complete overview of the legal details he would have to follow for each piece of open source, but the system would automatically raise a red flag if there were some critical interdependencies between various licencing models.

Sounds like a really smart solution to a truly existing problem. So no wonder, Blackduck these days announced the third round of US-$ 12 mn VC money to spur its further growth.

Michael Grabner to leave Holtzbrinck-Publisher

Today the German Publishing Group von Holztbrinck announced that the No. 2 in leadership, Michael Grabner, would step back by mid March – one year earlier than his regular contract was due to expire. According to the company, this move is part of a succession planning along with a stronger alignment of the company group towards the internet. A good read (in German language) is here in the Süddeutsche Zeitung with both the owner and CEO of the company, Stefan von Holtzbrinck, and with the departing Mr. Grabner. His job will be taken over by the 43-year old Jochen Gutbrod, previously Chief Financial Officer at Holtzbrinck.

Bangalore Bangh: Pictures of empty Streets & Shutters down

A few days back, there was already a “strike-light”. Today we have a fully-fledged “Bandgh”. This is Indian expression of the few taking hostage of the many in a general strike – for one day. In case the reasons are of interest, check out my blog entry a few days ago.

As for pre-emptive appeasement, the many stay at home, schools decide to shut down and the whole city is crippled and comes to a standstill. Then a usually chaotically overcrowed city like Bangalore looks like this:

Bangalore_Bandh_7

or like that

Bangalore_Bandh_6

As it seems to be an accepted means of expressing disagreement, all the shops have their shutters down, because the dynamically energized mob could rejoice in throwing a few handfull of stones into the glasses.
Bangalore_Bandh_4

In case, your windows are too big to put the shutters down, you at least span a protective net in front.

Bangalore_Bandh_8

As I have learnt in good discussion with bright people, of which there are still abundant here, the role of the local government is vital to the development. The government wants to receive as much backing in the Cauvery water case as possible when it goes to appeal:

1. Bandh is good. It exemplifies that the whole population of Bangalore is firmly behind the common cause.
2. Much violence is bad. It tarnishes the overall view of a friendly and peaceful people fighting for a just cause.
3. A little bit of violence is not that bad, through. Is serves the populistic politicians in producing a sigh of helplessness that the situation is about to slide out of control if the appeal would not alter the verdict.

Welcome to the other side of Bangalore that virtually nobody is aware of amidst the general awe of globalization.

Nasscom 2007: Boom and Contemplation

Just yesterday I returned to Bangalore from three worthwhile days at the India Leadership Conference of the NASSCOM, India’s association of software and IT-enabled companies. The importance of the conference for the whole country could well be understood from the fact that The Prime Minister of India held the keynote the last day. Dr. Manmohan Singh frankly admitted that the success of India’s success in IT & BPO exports largely goes back to the non-involvement of the government. Being a soft-spoken, yet sharp-minded politician, in my view this remark was well directed to his own domestic agenda to curb reform, privatize faster and open up the economy with higher pace. At the same time, the Prime Minister recalled for the necessity to produce more of an “inclusive growth” so that the 9.2 percent GDP-increase would serve broader parts of the population beyond the million something who are employed in the sector.

The stage this year belonged equally to another acclaimed Indian economist, Prof. Amartya Sen who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998 for his work on famine, human development theory and welfare economics. Prof. Sen, a fascinating broadly enlightened gentleman, joked that inviting him to an IT-conference must have been a confusion. On a more serious note, drawing to the 18th century philosopher David Hume, made the case that the social contract for a nation stipulated that the IT-industry should be contributing something back to the country which has enabled it to become so successful and changed the view of the world on India forever.

Nasscom07_008

Much more than last year at the same conference where the triumphant speeches were self-enforcing, a positive, yet contemplative mood was prevailing this time. The fast facts for the Indian IT & BPO industry:

• Overall volume: US-$: 31 bn (up 30 percent from last year)
• Accounts 5 percent of India’s GDP
• Contributes 20 percent to India’s exports
• Growth well on track to reach the target of US-$ 60 bn by 2010 (and the Prime Minister asking to be more ambitious to go rather towards something like US-$ 80 bn)

Nobody really doubts that India’s performance is stunning. However, there are certain trends that do allow for some caveats. Some of them are India specific, others are specific for the Indian IT-industry. For the latter, Ganesh Nararajan who is heading Nasscom’s innovation initiative produced a vivid metaphor: “We all in the industry are moving very, very fast. But we all know that somewhere in front of us there will be a wall which we could eventually hit. A wall which comes from our billing rates remaining flat, and at the same time labor cost increasing with 15-18 percent a year which continuously erodes our margins”. As for his role at Nasscom, where he honestly seems to be passionate about, Mr. Natarajan reiterated his call for the industry to innovate effectively and move up the food chain in order to offer higher value services.

On a more macro-level, the thoughtful atmosphere was certainly fueled by a 3-pager special in “The Economist” on “India overheats” last week (subscription required). The theme there is not entirely new, but it is bringing various parameters together and coming to a focused conclusion that the current growth was unsustainable unless reforms were to relieve the current gap between over-demand and under-supply. The industry is running on overcapacity, loans are piling up and altogether prices are going up with an inflation rate of 6 percent. What is more, for the first time after years, there is a current account deficit of 2 percent.

A good point to discuss the topic in a high-caliber panel called “Is India declaring victory too early?” with Azim Premji, Wipro-CEO and “billionaire with a heart”, S. Ramadorai (CEO Tata Consultancy Services), Ronald Rittenmeyer (President & CEO of ED) and Kiran Karnik, President of Nasscom. The panel was moderated by Edward Luce, author “In Spite of the Gods – The Strange Rise of Modern India” which I had quoted already on this blog before.

Nasscom07_067

Mr. Luce made a good head-start with proclaiming his three major challenges India’s will have to address in the wake of this massive economic upwind: First, not falling into complacency and accelerating reforms, second, the “gini coefficient” how also include the 300 mn Indians into the development who are currently living from below 1 Dollar a day and, third, caring about the quality of perception of India abroad. For the latter he pointed at the old political discussion getting traction again in the U.S., the main importer of Indian IT-services, which could even run into a legal backlash against outsourcing. Here, his advise: “A spirit of triumphalism is certainly not helpful.”

It’s over and over again the call for reforms. People I talk to in the west who are finally getting aware of the mother of all inflection points on a global scale, increasingly appear interested to visit Bangalore. And in their imagination they describe it like Hong-Kong, Singapore or Shanghai with skyscrapers wrapped in mirror glass. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bangalore has gone in terms of public infrastructure in the last three years of my living here from bad to worse: potholes in the street, catastrophic traffic jam, cables hanging down, men urinating at walls. I happily invite everybody to join me for a walk through the city which has rightly become world-famous for its achievements, but at the same time has entirely failed to laterally support this growth with basic infrastructure requirements.

Yet, in spite of the short-term not just challenges, but true problems at hand, nobody really doubts that the 21st century belongs to Asia, and India playing a major role in it. To quote Ramalinga Raju, Vice President of Nasscom: “We have barely scratched the surface”. And the Prime Minister in his speech had no doubt either that in the long term “the best is yet to come”.