René Seifert

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

Archive for January, 2008

Virtual Personal Assistant in India

It's funny to see how journalists copy & paste topics from each other. I realized that when I was featured in the SPIEGEL some 15 months ago and a flood of interview requests followed up. Similarly appears to me a current interest in virtual PAs (personal assistants) from India in the German media. I have read myself quite a few articles about e.g. GetFriday or YourManIndia in the last weeks. But I guess the issue both as a journalistic topic and a service worthwhile to consider has been magnified by the success of Tomothy Ferriss' "The 4-Hour Work Week". The book is all about efficiency by outsourcing as much as possible into a self-functioning and self-healing personal eco-system.  Hereby, such a personal assistant in India at reasonable cost can help booking travels, doing research, online shopping etc.

Funnily, in the aftermath of the media coverage a few German friends asked me if such a service would make sense for the German market. My take on that: Certainly, one could create demand for it, I don't see the Germans in that respect different from US-Americans where the service has gained traction. However, I rather see a supply side problem with German skills in India. To put it quite narrow: As soon as German language is required to get a task successfully done, I see significant quality issues. The number of Indians who are so fluent in German is not that high and those who are up to the level will easily get a job in an ever higher-valued and hence higher-paid job. So early on, one will get into nasty operational, quality and especially scaling issues.

So if I had to make a call as an entrepreneur or investor, I would make a pass on such a business proposal. Yet, if the task can be narrowly reduced to pure English skills, well, then the world is flat and the service can be targeted anywhere.

Inspiring DLD Conference in Munich

Even after returning from "down under" in Australia, I was a bit "down under" with my blogging. But today is a good opportunity to come back to light after an amazing 3 day DLD-Conference in Munich which ended yesterday. On the eLAB-Blog, I wrote a bit more on it, especially about 23andMe, a "Web 2.0 genetics" company which was showcased. The mix of the panels and participants was phenomenal which such high-calibres like Craig Venter, Paolo Coelho, Martha Steward or Marissa Meyer being around. Lots of extremely networking opportunity by talking to a whole lot of extremely smart, positive and energetic people. My photo-set of the event is here.

This year, I was not just a participant, but felt very honoured when Rupert Schäfer , die producer of the DLD; asked me if I wanted to moderate the India-Panel on Monday morning. I guess it was a real sucess with my two guests Farokh Balsara, partner at Ernst & Young India, and Vishal Gondal , founder & CEO of Indiagames and a friend whom I've known for 2 years by now. Here a picture of us two after the panel. 

Vishal Gondal & Me at DLD08

We had a good conversation about the major differences in India compared to "the west" in terms of demographics, media consumption, pick-up of mobile usage and on the other hand some insights how to enter the Indian market in the role of an entrepreneur or a manager in charge. Both guests had lots to say especiall as they were coming from quite a complementary background. Here is also a brief video with the first 2 minutes about this India panel.

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From the feedback I got the audience really liked it and I feel India should be way more promoted in Europe. Thus, I also talked to Loic LeMeur and we found it a good idea to work on an India panel at his conference LeWeb in December. Let's keep the fingers crossed that it works out, would be really cool.

Back from the Outback

Australia is a place to be and I can understand all the "mates" I talked to that although that had travelled a lot around the world, they wouldn't like to live at any other place. It's a great country, in any sense of the word. I had to get used to driving a whole day in the car that I had just made 1 cm on the map of only New South Wales which again is just a smaller part of this huge continent.

And within that spacious nature there are just 20 mn of people who understand how to strike a healthy life-work balance. Things function very well in Australia, the the people have maintained a remarkable friendly and relaxed attitude. "No worries" is a common term for a mix of "you're welcome" and "no problem" and that reflects pretty much how Australians make it through their walk of life.

Hope to write a bit more of my experience in the next days and post some pics when I have sorted out a pile of work which has amassed. But anyway, I would like to thank the "mates down under" who have made it a unique real-life experience, especially Ben, James, Ari, Maria and Scott.

As a little welcome-surprise arriving in Munich, I got to know that I will moderate the "India Panel" on the Digital Lifestyle Day (DLD) on Monday morning. Really looking forward to that. Because I have received already a couple of requests to help for a ticket from a few friends, I am afraid that I am of little use. I spoke to the event-producer Rupert Schäfer today and he said that no more invitations would be sent out on a short notice. Sorry …