René Seifert

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

Archive for the 'Bangalore' Category

Funny to sick Videos from our 7 Dwarves India-Trip

Errr, I guess there was still something. It’s already one week back that the 7 dwarves finished their 7 days in South India with a memorable trip through Bangalore, Goa and Kerala. Here we are all together on the famous Wednesday flee market of Anjuna.

The 7 Dwarfs in Goa: Anjuna Flee Market

Who wants to have at all the pics, here we are, as usual I put them together on a Flickr-set. But as the tradition goes, when Dirk (“The Schornsteininger”) and I get together on the road, we produced also some new moving pictures. For one, some footage which I took back in January now found the day of light after Dirk put his magic on it with extremely neat production-technique. The “G Wave”, G for “Gay”. This one goes out to all the Indian men holding hand in the streets.

Then, fast reverse December 2008 in Dubai, the “Howard Seifendale” was born, with his first appearance “Räkling” (=lolling) in the lobby of the Raffles Dubai.

Now, the Seifendale 2009 is back. For the first time together with the Schornsteininger in front of the camera, and the “Räkling” gets more intense as ever before. Right there in the sand of Goa with leaving a legacy of sacred inscripts for the future generations to come.

I was never shy of making an idiot out of myself, but I believe even for my standards I hit a new high or low – however you like ;-)

Inauguration: Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya – connected

We could only get here together. Today was with fullest honesty one of the happiest days of my life. When I started to conceive this project, I had a remote idea of how the picture of its accomplishment would look like. It would look like this.

Highlight: The Girls' first access to the Netbooks

All the pictures of the inauguration here on my Flickr-set. Today we solemnly celebrated in the traditional Indian way the inauguration of something new. This novelty felt like two well crafted pieces of a puzzle came together to form a harmonious whole. One the one side, the phenomenal preparation of the Vatsalya team with setting up the room, installing broadband internet connection and putting tables with chairs in place. From the other side the delivery and installation of the Wipro netbooks. Plug and play. And it just worked. Connected to the internet, connected to view through this window of the word. From Bangalore to anywhere. Therefore, to symbolize these limitless possibilities, I set Wikipedia in English as the home page on each of the 12 browsers.

Hand-Over of Netbooks: Vatsalya Orphanage

We started out in the afternoon with some more technical installation by Sumanth and Arvind. Thanks for taking time out and supporting us with your technology expertise.

Run-up to the Inauguration

It was a special pleasure for me to have my good friend Dirk Schornstein back in Bangalore, also one of the donors for the charity, who couldn’t resist the call from his first visit in December last year when the girls told him for good bye “Come back, Uncle!”. He kept his promise and brought a present which the girls had wished for: The entire collection of Harry Potter in the children’s edition.

Run-up to the Inauguration

Indians truly understand how to elevate such an event onto a spiritual level so that it is perceived and will be remembered as something special. The girls started to get more and more exited …

Run-up to the Inauguration

… when at 4.30 pm we cut the ribbon …

Cutting the Ribbon: Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya

… and lit the holy light with offerings to the God Ganesha, prayers and chanting by the children.

Lighting the Fire: Inauguration

Then nothing could stop the girls, always in groups of 12, to sit down on the chair in front of the computers and put their little fingers for the first time in their lives onto the touchpads and see the pointer move on the screen in front of them. I will never forget their genuine joy and curiosity.

Highlight: The Girls' first access to the Netbooks

I am extremely happy to share these impressions with everybody who contributed to this project, dedicated money, time and moreover trust. In the hope not to forget anybody:

  • The 28 donors around the world who laid the indispensable financial ground.
  • The Vatsalya-team, my dear neighbour and almost sister Shashi as well as the entire board of the association who relentlessly pushed ahead from their side.
  • Wipro for the generous discount of the netbooks and its exemplary professionalism and reliability in each and every step of the process.
  • Petra (=”Petzi”) who did invaluable research work with project coordination along with her husband Jürgen.
  • And last, but not least, the 50 girls from the Vatsalya Children’s Home. Your yearning for a future provided me the momentum forward.

To all of you: This is your day. Thank you.

Good Progress with Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya

Things are starting to fall into place. Today, I am happy to give you an update on a project and gladly include a host of “thank yous” and acknowledgements into a variety of directions which brought us significantly further. As things often go, especially in India, being connected to the right people can make a lot of things happen.

Let me start with proposing the budget allocation for the project. In the beginning I was a bit naive to just think of raising funds only for the computers, whereas there is a whole underlying infrastructure layer beneath in order to create a real functioning “solution”. Hence, the plan is to spend the donations as follows:

Budget Vatsalya Charity

UPS, by the way is the abbreviation for “Uninterrupted Power Supply”, a connected battery system to bridge the frequent power outages in Bangalore. (The spreadshirt above is also live here on Google Docs, select the link “Budgeting” on top of the page.)

As we see, there are some EUR 250 left which we plan to use prudently for some unexpected cost. Either use it for funding another year of broadband internet or as the basis for additional computers once this first solution is in a steady state. Nothing will be wasted to unnecessary expense. Promised.

Now to address with greatest happiness the bricks which have fortunately built upon each other to form the emerging building of our solution:

  • During the “Global India Business Meeting” in June this year in Munich I got to know Mr. Girish Paranjpe, the Co-CEO of the India IT-giant Wipro. I presented our project to him via e-mail and asked if Wipro would be willing to support it with a reduced rate compared to the regular retailing price. As a professional and successful organisation like Wipro works, I got a fast response from Girish. Moreover, a generally positive one along with passing the project on to his colleagues Mr. Ashok Tripathy and Mr. Sankar Pitchaiya. Therefore, I am super-happy to announce that Wipro will deliver its netbook “Wipro e.go 7F3800” to us beginning of October at a special charity rate. Wipro e.go 7F3800
    The notebook contains a couple of cool cutting-edge innovative features. Also: With it comes full- fledged solution with an established customer care-backbone in case of ever anything breaks. Thank you so much, gentlemen from Wipro, for supporting us!
  • Horst Joepen, CEO of Searchmetrics, and former co-founder of Webwasher (later aquired by McAfee), referred me to his former colleague Martin Stecher who granted us a free test-license for the Webwasher. This piece of software is supposed to filter out that sort of stuff from the web which girls between 5 and 15 years need not get in touch with. Thank you very much indeed for your support.
  • I love technology, but I never claimed to be an engineer. So in order to get the IT-infrastructure in the orphanage up and running with setting up a client-server architecture, installing the Webwasher, connecting it to the internet, Sumanth Sudheendra is volunteering us to take this into his precious and experienced technology-hands. Thanks Sumanth for allocating your free time for the good cause.
  • Last but not least, the Vatsalya Orphanage has also been active to set the ground for the advent of the computers. As I just talked to my neighbour Shashi on Saturday: The required fast DSL-broaband internet-connection has been installed by the provider BSNL at a flat-rate. Also, the simple furnishing with tables and chairs is about to arrive these days. Thanks for following up so promptly on all these action items!

Overall, things are looking good at this stage and I am very optimistic. What is going to happen next: We are looking at October 7th as the delivery date for the computers which we will connect and make operational as fast as possible. I will keep you posted.

And once more: Sincere thanks everybody for your support for making this happen :-)

EO Event: Laying out Urban Planning 2020 for Bangalore

Finishing off the day after coming from an interesting EO learning event in Bangalore about “Balancing Urban Development and the Environment” with two distinguished speakers Rajeev Chandrashekar, independent Member of Parliament, as well as Suresh Hebilkar, famous Kannada-actor and director turned environmentalist.

Mr. Chandrashekar who has taken on the big challenge of fixing Bangalore’s rotten infrastructure conceded that it has started to decline from 2000 and since then only gone from bad to worse. Compounded by the influx of more and more migrants, Bangalore has grown in the last years to a 8 million population and is expected to accelerate its growth to become a mega-city of 16 mn by 2020. Without a complete change of direction in urban planning, or better the holistic introduction of such thing, a collapse on almost any infrastructural dimension seems inevitable.

For that, he has proposed a change of law which would incur three levels of governance: First, the creation of ONE binding urban plan which is missing today (as one can tell just by looking around), second the establishment of a coordinating body for the various agencies (which does not exist today) and a partial self-governance of the regional communities through a democratically elected institution (which has been in the last years replaced by faceless bureaucrats).

What I found remarkable: Fully acknowledging the problems with politics and moreover politicians in India, Mr. Chandrashekar prefers to work with the current institutions as opposed to founding his own party. The latter might appear as a natural choice for an accomplished businessman he has been in his life. But after learning the basics of politics, he explained: “In a democracy where everyone has a voice, yours has to be the loudest to be heard and followed.”

For that, he is trying to bring as many supporters as possible behind his bold plan.

OLPC for Vatsalya-Orphanage: Scope, Focus then Scale

Yesterday, I got this comment to the presentation on Slideshare where I initially outlined the project “OLPC for Vatsalya Orphanage”. I started to answer a few lines and realized that I got drawn into some fundemental considerations which I thought it’s better to share here on my blog. This is the comment as a screenshot, my answer below.

Comment on OLPC Presentation

Thanks for your appreciation of the project. At the same, time I am not convinced that a competitive comparison between “Sugata Mitra” on the one side and “Professor Negroponte” on the other side really addresses the key question. Turning too much to this aspect, in my opinion, distracts the focus from effective deployment of OLPC laptops into a somehow dogmatic debate what in the essence are nuances.

I was surprised to learn yesterday after a phone conversation with Mr. Satish Jha, Head of OLPC India, that there are economic constraints to deliver 11 computers. Therefore OLPC India is trying to bundle at least orders of 100 computers to make it economically feasible. In other countries, the number is rather up to 10,000 minimum units. Point taken, still quite a lot of “foregone demand” in the long tail.

Back to our project at hand: There is no doubt that 50 computers for 50 children are better than 10. This however, means stating the obvious as much as: Everyone will prefer drawing an annual salary of $250,000 instead of $50,000.

The “scarcity of resources” is such a fundamental aspect in economics, that I don’t intend to bore anybody to death detailing it further. In conjunction with the all agreed “law of diminishing returns” we can’t avoid to ask the question: Is 5 times the number of computer with 5 times the capital investment 5 times as effective? I don’t think so. Therefore, after long consideration, I deliberately decided to set this project up in such a manner that we keep it to 10 computers for 50 children (plus one for the teachers to get acquainted.)

Pushing the project ahead, I also started the realize that making this admittedly small-scale project a success, other challenges need to be solved:

  • Bringing broadband internet to the orphanage which is cost effective and does not explode in cost once you come above the in India common monthly data-volume cap (=no flat-rate)
  • Installing some rudimentary furniture for tables and chairs
  • Electricity (it’s there, more rather cabling, so not really a problem)

These adjacent aspects obviously also “scale” with more and more computers, which I had barely included in the funding. (No issues, I’ll get that solved with my own money.) What I learnt as an entrepreneur is following a bold and big vision, but keeping single bits & pieces manageable. The scope of this initial project follows pretty much this path. I don’t rule out, as we move along the leaning curve and finalize this project, to raise additional funds and buy more laptops for the same orphanage.

Given the scenario which is unfolding, we will tightly keep to our initial plan to obtain 11 computers. Mr. Jha yesterday promised yesterday during our phone call that he’ll get back to me in order to let me know if and how he’s able to bundle the 11 computers into a larger lot. First and foremost, this is something we should focus to get solved.

One, for this particular project “OLPC for Vatsalya Orphanage”, but in my opinion also for “hundreds of other requests for small-scale orders to OLPC India” which Mr. Jha mentioned during our conversation.

OLPC for Vatsalya-Orphanage: Meeting the Girls

It is every time a deeply emotional journey to come to Vatsalya for a visit. Today Shashi Malpe, my neighbour and Secretary of the institution took me with her on her almost daily attendances; here she is sitting on her desk interacting with the administrative staff. (The entire picture-set of today’s visit is here on Flickr.)

Shashi Malpe with administation staff

The committed donation have all been received in the bank. I would be happy if I could announce more progress in terms of ordering the OLPC-laptops, but India being India, there are some communication issues with the allegedly responsible for OLPC in the country. I would like to keep this statement as diplomatic as I can and rather work behind the scenes to get the ball finally rolling. Overall, there is not the slightest doubt that we will place 11 computers on the also-yet-to-be-installed desks of the orphanage here:

Upcoming computer Room for OLPC laptops

This room until a few days back had been the dormitory of the orphanage which has been shifted on the other side of the building. Here, a terrace has been repurposed into becoming the new dormitory.

Dormitory of Vatsalya

It is here every morning at 5.30 am that the 50 girls from the age of 5 to 19 years start their day with meditation and prayer before they take responsibility for the cleanliness of their space. After breakfast, school starts at 8.30 am and ends at 3.30 pm – with a lunch break in between. The children take a small rest with tea, before then have another lesson of special schooling with additional teachers from outside. Then homework, dinner and at 10.30 pm the lights go off.

Good bye Picture with the Vatsalya girls

What might sound quite demanding, is certainly a disciplined approach to education. What I always appreciated at Vatsalya, and why I selected this institution for the OLPC-project, that the girls still get their space to be children with dancing, music and painting to play and foster creativity at the same time.

We were happy to announce the OLPC-project to the girls where I felt particularly honoured mentioning my friends from around the world who are supporting this initiative. The girls are really, really looking forward to the arrival of the laptops. I will push as fast as I can to make it happen. Last but not least, a little 1 min-video I put together with the girls to give you a real-life experience. When I see the girls so curious and engaged, then I know that this project is the best thing we could start off.

Global India Meeting in Munich: Reception and Gala Dinner

It’s been an honour to participate a new high-calibre event about India, the Global India Business Meeting. Even more so as the event takes place in my hometown Munich which is on top of that highlighting India’s State of Karnataka in whose capital Bangalore I have been living for the last 5 years. Somehow my little personal „globalisation delivered“. The organizer is Horasis („The Global Visions Company“) chaired by Frank Richter whom I met for the first time some 9 months back for a breakfast in the legendary Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.

Frank Richter, CEO Horasis and Host

The quality of conversations was stunning yesterday during the reception an Munich’s Residence, followed by a gala dinner in the “Emperor’s Hall”. (Here‘s the entire picture set on Flickr from last night’s event. )

Gala Dinner in the "Emperor's Hall" at the Residence

In his dinner speech Anand Sharma, the Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry, pointed out how far we’ve come with globalization where India in the meanwhile is investing more in Germany than Germany in India with 123 Indian companies being present in Germany.

Gala Dinner in the "Emperor's Hall" at the Residence

At the same time he emphasized the challenge of his country to produce inclusive growth where the 7 % GDP increment would benefit also the majority of people in his country who are still living at the poverty line. Mr. Sharma made it a point to transcend this necessity to all countries in the world that are facing similar fundamentals as India.

During dinner I had a mind-tickling conversation with my table-neighbour Gunjan Sinha, serial entrepreneur from India who has been living in the Silicon Valley for the last 20 years.

Gunjan Sinha, my table neighbour at Gala Dinner

His latest company Metric Stream is into providing a software-solution that allows for a 360-degree bottom-up approach in risk management for companies. So we spoke a lot about my currently favourite topics of the predictable, the unpredictable, the Black Swan (beneficial or catastrophic) and how little even big companies are nowadays are able to think, let alone act within these categories.

During coffee I talked to Infosys’ CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan about the recession and how it’s impacting his company (“it been tougher but we are still hiring”) and about his predecessor Nandan Nilekani’s move into the Indian Government to introduce the digital National Identity Card. “That hasn’t been easy for us, but given the importance of the cause for the nation, it is the right decision”, Mr. Gopalakrishnan said. Here a picture at the end of the evening with him, my friend Suhas Gopinath from Bangalore and me (no, I am not standing on anything ;-)

Kris Gopalakrishnan, Rene Seifert and Suhas Gopinath

OLPC for Vatsalya-Charity: We got the Funds!

For the risk of sounding repetitive, I am deeply honoured and humbled about your instant participation which led to the final commitments for our charity “OLPC for Vatsalya Orphanage”. We got the money together, EUR 2869 within 5 days of fund-raising. Stunning! Thank you very much for your support; together we are making it happen.

Vatsalya Bangalore 04

Here the list of all those who walk the talk and have agreed to support me in equipping the Vatsalya Orphanage with 11 OLPC-computers.

Juri Reisner
Martin Wunsch
Rene Seifert
Malte und Tina Krüger
Fabian Seyfried
Dirk Schornstein
Petra Rautenberg and Jürgen Kock
Andreas Hörr
Sascha Mladenovic
Paul Fritze
Simone Bayer
Michael Munz
Alexander and Michaela Erlmeier
Lukasz Gadowski
Nils and Anita Rauterberg
Jan Poerschmann
Daniela Hinrichs
Anju Rupal
Anca Carstea
Philip Brunner
Michael Gebert
Julia Knop

Now it’s on me to deliver based on your support and put the concept into action. As for the next steps I will be writing to all donors tomorrow the details of my bank account along with the request to wire the funds. Again, full transparency here on the donors’ list about the payment-status. Then we are going to order the computers directly from the non-profit organization OLPC which is so far established in India that it will clear customs and take care of logistics within the country. In short, the computers will be delivered directly to the orphanage. The excess of EUR 69 I dare to put aside for some foreseeable work putting the network-infrastructure together to bring a server as well as the WiFi-hotspot to life.

Actually, in order to give you a bit clearer picture (literally) of the organization itself, I aggregated the photos which I have taken so far in this picture-set on Flickr. The one above in this post depicts the stone plate for the inauguration of Vatsalya back in July 1948 by the Maharaja of Mysore. At that time in India one labeled such a foundation “Association for Moral and Social Hygiene”. That’s of course both an obligation and a leitmotiv which we will – through our laptops – proudly catapult into the digital age :-)

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OLPC for Vatsalya: Only EUR 431 missing

Your support has been absolutely overwhelming, over the weekend additional donations have led to an overall commitment of EUR 2369 from the total of EUR 2800 we are aiming at. This went way faster than I would have ever dreamt of. Here is the latest list of donors, with the detailed overview here.

Juri Reisner
Martin Wunsch
Rene Seifert
Malte und Tina Krüger
Fabian Seyfried
Dirk Schornstein
Petra Rautenberg and Jürgen Kock
Andreas Hörr
Sascha Mladenovic
Paul Fritze
Simone Bayer
Michael Munz
Alexander and Michaela Erlmeier
Lukasz Gadowski
Nils and Anita Rauterberg
Jan Poerschmann

Thank you very much indeed for this. Stunning I find also that 90 % of these commitments come from social media-communication via blog, Facebook and Twitter. The nature of such concerted action displays three things: That the future of young girls in an orphanage in Bangalore can reach out to a influential number of people without the use of “classic media”, that the same channels empower us to take immediate action and last but not least, we can feel being part of a joint cause.

So here we are with just another EUR 431 missing, in case anybody would like to participate, drop me a mail at rene.seifert (at) gmail.com and I’ll add you to the donors’ list.

18 hours later: OLPC for Vatsalya and half way there

I feel indeep deeply touched by your overwhelming support, far beyond what I would have dreamed of. In a fast intermittently connected world the good news propagated to me through Facebook, Twitter (and Mail) when I disembarked the plane 1.5 hours later on Menorca Airport after I had posted the start of the charity project from Madrid. And not even 18 hours later we are almost half way there. From the targeted EUR 2,800 we have already committed EUR 1,370. Here is the list of the generous donors in chronological order:

Juri Reisner
Martin Wunsch
Rene Seifert
Malte und Tina Krüger
Fabian Seyfried
Dirk Schornstein
Petra Rautenberg und Jürgen Kock
Andreas Hörr
Sascha Mladenovic

Here on this Google-Spreadshirt I will keep an realtime and public update about the donations made. Thank you so much for all your support. I will get back to you within 2 to 3 weeks on the operational issues of money transfer and the next steps to follow. Till then, feel free to spread the word, I will also do so today till Sunday on Martin Varsavsky’s and Nina Wiegand’s Menorca Techtalk.

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