René Seifert

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

Archive for February, 2008

Thanks EO Mumbai for your Hospitality

Who has ever been in event management, knows how much effort it takes to get an event for 250 people rolling, especially if it takes 4 days.  And besides a perfect “organization” still make it feel natural and authentic so that everybody parts his way with a noble feeling of inspiration and enrichment. And that’s exactly what EO Bombay managed to put together in the last four days from Thursday to Sunday for the “Regional Integration Event” (RIE 2008) where all the chapters of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization meet annually. The entire picture set on Flickr is here.

 
One of the highlights was the “Bollywood-Night”, with a fashion show of India’s premier designer JJ Valaya. Here the video of the grand finale with the master himself briefly stepping on stage.

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For the motto “Dream Big”, the speakers were absolutely outstanding and in the overall very complementary in what they had to convey. Shashi Ruia from Essar, estimated at a net worth of US-$ 10 bn made a good start, a bit like a father explaining in a very seasoned way to his children what matters, what to look for and what to avoid in business and in life generally.

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Zia Mody, a prominent legal consultant and lawyer described what it takes for Indian companies to acquire companies abroad. Ms. Mody is known for her hard work and dryly began her presentation with “Sleep is for Sissies” :-) A panel discussion with industry captains from private equity have a good insight on the thought process and the nuances of the players in this field. 

For the most fascinating speaker, however, was the juvenile Sunjay Reddy from the infrastructure developer GVK, the company which on the bid on reforming the notorious Bombay Airport. More information on what it will be is here.

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I have never seen a person in my life who has to put up which such piles of shit in his work from a hugely complex construction project in the first place to a community of slum dwellers to be relocated, to opposing populistic politicians to the Shiv Sena for displacing a sacred statue, and so on and so on. At in spite of all this, still remaining not just a good mood, but even spreading a contagious enthusiasm up to the point where he authentically and without irony speaks about “a dream I am following”. After his 90 minutes presentation we all got up and gave him what he deserved: standing ovations.

On Saturday morning after everybody had re-assembled from the previous night’s party with bollywood film producer Karan Johar, we eagerly listened to Dr R A Mashelkar’s “lecture” on “Innovation – to make the Impossible possible”. Undoubtedly a unique source of inspiration for the gentleman being India’s most recognized scientist who is also an advisor for the Prime Minister of India.

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The later afternoon ended with an exciting ride on a speed boat in east in the bay of Bombay west from the Taj Mahal Hotel. And this was my favourite, our highly esteemed fellow member Takeshi Izuka fighting the wind and Mehool Bhuva coming to his help. Yep, we did not fall short of fun at all …

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So thanks again to EO Bombay, spearheaded for the event by Javed Tapia and all his other fellow-members who put all their time and heart into making this generous hospitality happen.

Delhi Scams: It starts at the Airport

Just arrived this morning in Delhi, before continuing my trip onwards to Bombay for the “Regional Integration Event ” of the Indian Chapters of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Delhi is known and renowned for it: The scams; cheesy, dirty tricks to pull out money from mainly western visitors. Although I have been reasonably around, I have to admit that one of them was really new. Respect. Overall, the airport is among the general mess in India a very special mess. Getting from the international terminal to the domestic one is a nightmare, and both alternatives and loaded with well rehearsed scams. 

  • Alternative 1: An official bus is supposed to drive approximately every hour (according to Indian Strechable Time). And there is a counter where you are supposed to show the ticket for the connecting domestic flight. Although the bus is waiting there with open doors, the guy at the counter where you show your ticket will cold-bloodedly tell you that this bus does not accept passengers for this airline. Miraculously help is one the way in the blink of an eye: He would direct you politely around the corner where there are private taxis waiting which will bring you for a horrendous fare to the terminal and will bring the guy from the counter a superb commission. Solution: Tell the guy at the counter to f*** off and just board the bus. It will take you where it should.
  • Alternative 2: You select to buy a pre-paid taxi for the trip where the rate is Rs. 150 (app. EUR 2.50). By the way, this system of “pre-payment” is in place only and exclusively to prevent the notorious taxi drivers from taking you for a ride. But don’t underestimate the ingenuity of this very instance which is supposed to take the pre-payment and stand for “law & order”. A shoddy booth after you leave customs with two sleazy figures sitting inside. You tell them your destination “domestic airport” and they will reply the correct rate of “150 Rupees, Sir”. I opened my purse and was just about to pull 2 notes of hundred Rupees out, but saw that they were my last ones. As petty cash is key in India, I deliberately grabbed the Rs. 500 note and put it on the counter in expectation of change of Rs. 350. The guy moved his hand towards the note and asked innocently “How many pieces of luggage do you have, Sir?” – As most of the people would most likely react, I turned around to show him my one big suitcase and one small one as hand-luggage.

    When I turned back again, he fired another question at me: “Do you have 50 Rupees?”, yet at this moment there was only a 100 Rupee note lying on the counter at his hand, suggesting that I had given him one note, yet of 100 Rupees, and another 50 Rupees were missing. Because I had taken such a conscious decision about the Rs. 500 note, I immediately knew that he tried to game me, looked him straight into his eyes and yelled at him: “I gave you a 500 Rupee note!” – Immediately, the second guy behind the counter jumped in to explain: “No, no, he asked you for 50 Rupees so that he can return you 400 Rupees straight, Sir.” Brilliant, isn’t it, and well rehearsed among the two arseholes. If someone like me happens to realize the scam, they have a handy explanation and will return the correct change. But most of the people, especially when they come for the first time to India, might be puzzled, won’t be able to distinguish the similarly looking notes, but won’t expect such a dirty trick and simply add the requested 50 Rupees. In result, that would render a windfall-profit of Rs. 400 to the con-men.

I believe that such antisocial behaviour can only be systematically alleviated by severest punishments which will serve as a sufficient deterrent to the galore of other anti social elements. According to Mao’s saying: “Punish one, educate one hundred”, a country like Singapore – which has my fullest endorsement – has been practising appropriate measures to counter such defects vigorously and has hereby established an exemplary blueprint for an intact social governance.

Video-Conversation: Seesmic looks good to me

Just registered for the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco end of April. I was there last year and although some sessions tend to be lengthy and masturbative, overall I liked the workshop and "hands-on" approach. So I decided to go again this year. Who is there as well, please let me know to catch up. 

Apart from that I just checked out a service which is not entirely new, but still in closed Alpha, Loic LeMeur's Seesmic , a crossroad of Twitter & YouTube. I guess this is the best description for it. And it's really nice and somehow with lots of unassuming Flash-elements something like "Web 3.0". A conversational platform, asynchronous where most members just sit in front of their computer and speak some statement into the webcam. I started off with something about Castro stepping back from power in Cuba. 

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Others can reply so that a thread would evolve. What is smart: One can once enter one's Twitter access data and distribute every new post into that channel, too. I really like the ease of the service where it becomes immediately clear what to watch, what to do and how to join the conversation. And ultimately, one can rehearse a statement as often as desired before putting it really live. The only thing I was missing so far was the possibility to distribute the video e.g. in a blog by embedding it, at the moment really everything happens (apart from the Twitter-twist) in a world within. But maybe that's why it's actually called "Closed Alpha" :-)

Darjeeling Limited: A Non-Indian Movie

After many friends had advised me to watch the movie Darjeeling Limited , I finally had the opportunity to view it during a long-haul flight to India. I really liked the rather bizzare plot of three American brothers who rejoined in an Indian train to find each other and themselves again. A nicely told story on human limitations, caught in their own patterns and struggling to reach beyond. At the same a heart-warming example how differences can be overcome if one tries hard enough to make important relationships work. Here is the trailer for a sneak-preview.

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Overall I liked the movie a lot and would recommend to see it.  On the other hand, as a Westerner living four years in India, I could see a few flaws how India and Indians are depicted. Not to mention that this movie would be perceived as insulting for the typical Indian audience which is used to cheer to the prim & proper Bollywood-world of the Sharuk Khans and Aishwarya Rays. There, even a movie-kiss is unheard of to the family cheering to their heroes. Especially, the role of the extremely pretty train-attendant Rita who voluptuously seduces one of the brothers in the toilet, would be considered entirely impossible in an Indian movie, not to mention Indian society. Although I can assure that "everything is there in India", Indian women are way-way-way more conservative and restrained in the interaction with men than depicted here. Yet overall, India is depicted in a sympathetic way, sometimes with its chaos indeed as it is, and provides the essential breeding-ground for this lovely story.

What a great EO University in Delhi

Wanted to drop a few lines on the fantastic EO University we had last week in Delhi. Who is interested in the entire Flickr-picture-set, here we are. As usually, the EO-team did everything possible to make it a "once in a lifetime experience". We kicked-off on Wednesday late afternoon with a short visit of India's Minister for Commerce Kamal Nath and headed towards the evening with our fellow members who actually met at EO and got married according to the Indian tradition.

 After the ceremony around the fire, there was a traditional dance with sticks.

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Thursday and Friday were was full with excellent "lectures" and "workshops" like India's Head of Ernst & Young Rajiv Memani , and on Friday evening an unforgettable "James Bond"-Party took plaxe, the best party I have ever been to, in the summer residence of Atul Punj , CEO of Punj Lloyd who had held the keynote that morning.

My personal highlight on Saturday was the speech by Nandan Nilekani, co-founder and CEO (from 2002 to 2007) of Infosys. An amazing "explainer" of complex things, humble to the bone and as a innate property anything but complacent about his or his company's achievements. I wrote a bit more about Nandan's appearance here on the eLAB-Blog.

Sunday night we had another fantastic party in the garden of our host Sunjay Kapoor, the topic was: Bollywood.

Overall an amazing program with smart and funny people to network with. What made me personally happy was sharing my enthusiasm with others, many of them who had come to India for the first time, and observing the ignition of a lot of passion and excitement. 

Platforms of a global Society

„Mother India“ has me back. After a few days in Bangalore, I just arrived in Delhi, India’s capital and the center of political gravity. Delhi breathes quite a different atmosphere than South India, it’s more hectic, occasionally more rude that Bangalore’s soft-talking “ya-ya-ya”-manners. And not to mention then climate where Bangalore is advancing towards the hot season with temperatures above 30° C while Delhi at this time of the year falls down to 6°C.

I am staying at the Taj Palace in the Diplomatic Enclave where the otherwise improvised Indian reality all of a sudden becomes so overly-perfect. The reason being here is the upcoming EO University which is about to commence tomorrow with friends and fellow-entrepreneurs from all over the world, some whom I met at the respective universities in Tokyo and Berlin, new ones who are eager to get inspired of what the country to offer. Just wanted to share my personal observation that the pace of globalization and hence economic integration is accelerating with a few examples I have come across recently:

  • Apparantly, there is a magazine in India “At a Glance” focusing on the target group of Expats. The magazine also runs a website which is somehow stuck in the online stone-age with just an IP-address instead of a proper URL. Well, that’s in the irony, a perfect example of the masala from aspirations, a hands-on culture, yet running at different paces at the same time for getting a market vs. caring for quality.
  • Then there is a yet-another-social network, this one connecting expats around the world InterNations whose site-structure looks like a straightforward copy-cat of XING. But certainly another catalyst to propel a concept of “global citizenship”, a model which I am convinced is strongly on the rise.
  • All major consultancies of the world have a distinct set-up to facilitate their clients in their international expansions. From my perception of e.g. Ernst & Young at the DLD Conference, they seem to run on the customer-facing side a 2-dimensional matrix: One for the industry, the other for geography. So if I was a German media company interested in India, I could speak to Gerhard Müller , head of the tech, media & entertainment-practise of the firm, who would then join hands with his Indian counterpart Farokh Balsara. To mention the efforts of another consultancy, KPMG publishes an excellent quarterly magazine about “Emerging Markets”. It’s in German language and I just read the 4/2007 in the flight from Bangalore to Delhi. What is more, some of the many studies like e.g. “Mobile Payments in Asia-Pacific” are also available in English and available for download via PDF.
  • Today I got an e-mail invitation from Stefan Graf, Consul General of Germany in Chennai to a attend a panel discussion with Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Bangalore on February 26th about "New Concepts for Sustainable Urban Development". The topic is very hot as the trend to the supercity is gaining momentum as Richard Wurman's 192021-initiative shows: That we are about to have 19 cities in which more than 20 mn people live in the 20th century. And there is a lot of common questions to be asked how so many people with diverse backgrounds and intentions are going to form a purposeful habitat. 

And here on YouTube I stumbled-upon two videos from the India-Panel I was moderating two weeks ago in Munich which cover altogether 20 of the 30 minutes from the session:

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