René Seifert

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

Archive for the 'Bangalore' Category

My Charity-Project: OLPC for the Vatsalya-Orphanage

I felt like doing it for quite some time, so I am happy to move ahead and today announce my charity project „OLPC for Vatsalya“. What I intend to do: Raise EUR 2,800 ($3,900) and equip the Vatsalya Orphanage in Bangalore (India) with 11 computers from the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative.

Background
It’s been already 2 years that I have been supporting the Vatsalya Orphanage in Bangalore with donations and my regular presence which every time has warmed up my heart unlike anything else. The girls in the orphanage aged 5 to 14 might not have had the best start for life, all of them coming from poor backgrounds, some without parents, a few only with a mother who is financially unable to take care of them. Yet, every time I went there and and saw them smiling, happy, curious and eager for learning is nothing but the result of the adorable environment the Vatsalya team has been able to put together. The team consists employed “mothers“ as well as teachers who interact with the children during their schooling, whereas the major organizational backbone stems from the board of committed volunteers. One of the board members is my neighbour Shashi who lives one door away from me, who introduced me to Vatsalya and has been devoting numerous hours every week in her life.

Vatsalya Bangalore 02

Project
From all the things one can do for good, the thing one will do should be close to one’s heart. In my case, as an internet-entrepreneur and sublime nerd who spends a big chunk of the day in front of the computer, bringing children from an early age in touch with technology as part of their fundamental education is an imperative. Something which children in the west can take for granted in their essential formative years, obviously falls short for those in India who grow up in underprivileged conditions. The most saddening thing the many times I drove by a slum in Bangalore or Mumbai is to see the many children (many indeed!), among whom there might be the brains of an Albert Einstein, Azim Premji, Joseph Ratzinger or Mahatma Gandhi – yet without the possibility of unfolding their talent. Here at least at Vatsalya exists the organisational framework for a different path.

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is an non-profit initiative of the MIT-founder Nicholas Negroponte which I became aware of for the first time through his TED-Talk. OLPC builds simple and particularly robust notebooks which have been optimized for children in the third world; hence the machines are able to withstand heat, dust, humidity and one or the other knock on the ground. With learning the fundamentals of computers which are moreover fully internet-enabled, the children will have access to the same window to the world as all of you who a reading these lines. A window which will empower them for a significantly higher career path than without it.

Here a brief outline with some slides to explain the scope and some operational issues of the project.

The plan is too buy and deploy 11 computers for the orphanage (10 for the 50 girls girls, 1 for the teachers). Initially, I intended to aim for 50 computers, as the name “One Laptop per Child” suggests. But after watching Dr Mitra’s experiment of a “Hole in the Wall” (great TED talk here), I was convinced otherwise: Children can teach each other a hell of a lot by sharing one computer, and secondly I did not want to fall into the known trap to “over-invest” in a charity project. Rather, by following a step by step approach, bringing a community of donors and volunteers together, rising along the learning curve, proving accountability from my end, the ultimate intention will be to scale concept either within the Vatsalya Orphanage and/or idetify other deserving “targets” with subsequent funds.

Last but not least, I would like to mention Petra Rautenberg who has done tons of invaluable research and will further be in charge as project manager. In 2004, I employed Petra in my company in Bangalore, she moved back to Munich with her husband a year later and we have become good friends ever since.

Call for Action
In order to make it as concise as possible in this first message, I would be honoured if you could help me with your donations and I will deliver. As I would really get as many people involved as possible, I would kindly ask you to let me know what you would be willing to donate as a maximum amount. In order not to get too atomized in the first phase, I would request for a minimum of EUR 50. In case, we collect more than the EUR 2,800 from the commitments, we’ll do a bit of maths-magic (arithmetic mean with iterative integration :-) so that everybody gets involved. As initially we should focus on the subject and action instead of structures, there is no foundation whatsoever involved so that the donation will not be tax-deductible. I promise to be a trustful care-taker, I will make your donations public in your name and I will show ongoing accountability. And, I will keep you posted on the progress here on my blog.

If you want to show your support, drop me a mail under rene.seifert (at) gmail.com , or connect on Twitter or on Facebook and let me know how much you are willing to commit.

Thanks a lot in advance, together we can make a small change for the better and help these girls walk towards a brighter future.
René

P.S.: Happy to share already these donations: My good old school friends Juri Reisner and Martin Wunsch donated EUR 100 and EUR 50 respectively. Myself, I have committed EUR 300, so another EUR 2350 to go.

Glad to be a TEDster: India Event in November

Last week got the lucky mail that I got accepted to TED, in my opinion one of the finest organizations these days to make a change for the better to our world. Under the claim “Ideas worth Sharing”, smart minds with a good heart get together to discuss concepts that are often extremely bold, yet possible to achieve only through a joint effort. Projects which are independent from governmental politics and for profit interests, from their approach moreover deeply democratic. Whoever decides to buy into an idea and support it, can do so. If many do so, chances are that that the bold objective might turn into a new reality.

So far I have watched the many TED-talks (Technology, Entertainment, Design) “free to the world” mostly on the treadmill in the gym through my iPod Touch, always inspired by the rigor of reason applied to the concepts, its fabulous storytelling and admiration of the creative human mind. Hence, I feel deeply humbled and honoured to be able to participate in that crowd live. The first event I will take part in is – suprise, surprise – TED India, in fact from November 4th to 7th 2009 in Mysore, around 80 km northwest from Bangalore on the legendary Infosys campus.

TED India

What I also liked are the terms of participation which one has to opt-into and which couldn’t be any clearer:

I understand that those who attend TED do so in a spirit of curiosity, open-mindedness, respect and tolerance, thereby enabling constructive conversation and allowing TED speakers to be more open than they might otherwise be. I confirm that I will respect these values, and will abide by the conference rules. I also understand that the atmosphere at TED is appropriate for high-level relationship-building, not salesmanship. I confirm I will not use my TED attendance to aggressively pitch my company, organization, products or services to other attendees.

It reminds me a bit of our non-solicitation policy at the Entrepeneurs Organization (EO). There is nothing more damaging to building a trustful relationship that if you have to suspect that the person opposite is only talking to you with a hidden agenda for the sake of selling you his crap.

Till then, I will continue watching the talks on my iPod as well as developping a little project further which I actually picked up from TED. Happy to make an announcement soon here on my blog. Else, please let me know if you are coming to TED India as well so we can connect already ahead of the event along the lines of the conference’s motto “The Future beckons”.

Election in India: Smartvote.in provides Orientation

In midst of the global crisis, India is ramping up for the general election. From my observation, the country is more than ever involved into the process. The terrorist attacks in Mumbai last year might have been the final point to exclaim “no more” for considering that politics was the business of others.

The concerns of the upper and middle class so far were rather geared to keep away from politics and focus on personal progress. The economic climate with growth rates of 8 % provided a good excuse for that. In result, the rift between the available intellectual capital of the country and that of the actual political leadership (except a few in the central government) couldn’t gape wider.

With India having equally slipped into the recession – albeit with less exposure to the global tsunami – and the internal security being exposed as vulnerable, the many Indians with a good heart and a sharp brain are saying enough is enough. “We have to get involved and there is no more excuse for anybody to stay away from the ballot”, seems to be the common sentiment.

India: I don't vote

Moreover, plenty of grassroot-initiatives are forming to dissolve the impermeable membrane between us (=the people) and them (=the politicians). Instead, people are starting to re-claim democracy and considering it increasingly a true res publica (public affair). One fantastic example for that is an initiative of a few fellow members of my Bangalore chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. It’s called smartvote.in and is supposed to provide unbiased information about the Bangalore candidates for the elections in India.

Smartvote.in

It’s an absolutely state-of the art website, with an appealing design which supports its purpose perfectly. But even more so, it’s about the content. All the candidates for the three Bangalore-constituencies are portrayed: which party they belong to, what they stand for in terms of security, unemployment, moral policing etc. as well as their criminal records. (So much about the integrity of politics to date if it’s relevant to follow up on this attribute and more often than not, this field will not remain empty …)

Nothing better can happen to Indian politics than such bottom-up initiatives gaining momentum in an Obama-like Election 2.0-style. And, Smartvote.in is a perfect example which even transcends the website as a destination towards connected content with a Facebook-group, too which allows to continue the conversation.

Leadership Forum: How NASSCOM just doesn’t get 2.0

After the gala dinner “Salaam Mumbai” on Friday night, I made my way to the airport and had a relaxed night flight with Swiss Airline to Zürich where incidentally Rattan Tata was two seats away from me. The landscape here couldn’t pose a bigger contrast to the previous three days in hot and humid Mumbai. On the snow covered slopes of St. Moritz (Switzerland) I found some time and focus to reflect on the conference.

Piz Nair (3057 m) in St. Moritz

These three days at the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2009 have – like my previous two attendances – been tremendously inspiring with phenomenal speakers like John Chambers (CEO of Cisco) as the starter and management guru C.K. Prahalad for the grand finale. Moreover, and that’s what I love deeply in Indian culture, if you know on Day 1 some people, on Day 3 you will know many people thanks to the cordial introductions which those some will make for you to the many. The strong impression which the evening events left on me, is the result of a long-term effort putting these choreographies for the shows with all the awards and dancers together. All fine, and I am quite sure I will attend next year again, that’s for the red cross in the calendar February 9th to 11th 2010.

Yet, and that’s where it really loses me, that in spite of the professional organization of the event, India’s IT-industry association NASSCOM simply doesn’t get it what this beast Web 2.0 or Communication 2.0 or Innovation 2.0 or however you want to name it, is about. Ironically, the two top-speakers I mentioned above where teaching and preaching how it works, what it means and how it positively impacts the outreach of an organization. Specifically, C.K. Prahalad mentioned in his talk that he sees a huge opportunity to consult companies in “social architecture”. NASSCOM should be the first customer.

So in my perception, NASSCOM is still stuck in the mindset: “Uuups, there is this something called Facebook, Twitter, Web 2.0 – and we have to do something with it.” The result: Applying the old mindset (which again Prof. Prahalad was pointing out as the biggest obstacle) onto these platforms and forcing the existing command & control structures of its organizations on these platforms. And it just hurts, because it just doesn’t work this way and thereby gets stuck in the old format (sorry for the blurred quality of the pic).

C.K. Prahalad: Impediments for Innovations

Examples:

  • NASSCOM is running “a blog”, hu-ha-hu a blog, how fancy does this sound with a few “bloggers” writing for it here and identifying themselves on the event with a badge “NASSCOM – I’m blogging” plus some through the audacity to have their hair grown over the tip of their ears. Nothing to object, but this has nothing at all to do with blogging. What NASSCOM in fact does, it hires a few people as editors, thereby controlling the message and pushing it “out to the world”. I wonder if the world cares when the oracle has spoken. (When I got the offer by Avinash Raghava from NASSCOM to “get an account also write for us”, I politely declined. I prefer to write what I think on my own blog.)
  • NASSCOM in on Twitter, check out what came out in the last three days of the conference under http://twitter.com/nilf2009: It’s nothing but pushing one-directionally micro-links of these same messages out. Moreover, using the account name NILF2009 carries a fundamental and obvious flaw: It terms that NASSCOM easily understands, it’s simply not “scalable” as for 2010, 2011 etc. there have to be a new accounts over and over again with losing all the old followers and starting from zero. If I was a cynic, I could argue: With the 36 follower at the time of writing no harm done. Note by the way, the absence of NASSCOM’s interest in conversing by only following back 10 people.

NILF 2009 Twitter

  • NASSCOM has set up a community “Emerge” of its own using CollectiveX to have its members and the delegates respectively interact on that platform beyond the face-to-face meetings. So far absolutely a right move. Yet, it stops exactly there as the old mindset dictates that one must own, control and monopolize the conversation. This platform is not bad at all, but it is not exactly the comfort that Facebook offers. So where is the Facebook-group of the conference where there are not just the better features for interaction, but more importantly where EVERYBODY is already around. When I asked new acquaintances on the conference after receiving their business cards if they were on Facebook, in 80 percent the answer was “yes”.
  • NASSCOM is taping all of the keynotes and most of the panels on video. Why in this world is there no channel on YouTube to put these treasures out? The same applies to the presentations where NASSCOM-president Som Mittal mentioned at the very end that most of them will be available for download. Thank you very much, had I known that before I would have not written my fingers off with taking notes. Just see this slide from John Chamber’s presentation on YouTube’s impact on his organization.

Cisco YouTube-Usage

  • NASSCOM, and that brings me to the last point, is acting in an era of connectedness entirely disconnected in all the separate, distinct and isolated silos of activity. The moderately talented moderator who regularly stumbles in just presenting what the presenter is going to present is of little help either in that context. Where are these closed feedback loops of someone qualified on stage continuously bring the pieces together?

But let’s take a step back and not get stuck in doing the same mistake of bashing single flaws here and simple formats there, but re-draw the big picture of what this all is about: It’s about providing the delegates with a profound and sustainable experience of the event in terms of learning, connecting and participating. Beyond that, the message should get out of the “echo chamber” and travel as far and as fast as possible to anybody who could be a relevant stakeholder. As part of a communication strategy, NASSCOM perfectly includes the press in the process. But here the story ends. Where NASSCOM entirely fails, is getting real word-of-mouth out by engaging into a CONVERSATION. A conversation by definition requires at least the same amount of listening as much as of talking yourself.

Attend a conference of O’Reilly like the upcoming Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco next month (I will be there, too) and you see how it can be done differently by pulling all levers and connecting them. Attendants can twitter questions upfront which the moderator will use for his interview, he will suggest tags for pics and videos which will be uploaded etc. Furthermore, the conference organizers will invite impartial bloggers equal to traditional press which will, of course, write on their own blogs. The official conference-bloggers would read them, link to them, comment, retort, put things straight or, clearly, ignore trolls who are just out there for parasitic attention.

Or, visit the DLD-Conference in Munich where I moderated two panels a fortnight ago: There is a dedicated video-channel with all the panels. Also, from the organizers’ communication team someone will constantly watch what is being twittered in order to make improvements of the event “on the fly”.

Overall, if NASSCOM is serious about its efforts to move up the value chain towards products, it would require some colourful “Gondalization”, named after my friend Vishal Gondal from Indiagames, who won this year’s NASSCOM India Innovation Award for evangelizing his service in a novel way. Vishal was not the only one to wear an orange T-shirt in the dark ocean of seriousness. What is more, he has fully understood how Communication 2.0 works, he is a real blogger who has a tremendous network to leverage upon. This includes that NASSCOM would have to deal with posts like his Why Wipro, Infosys and TCS are “The Axis of Evil” for Indian start-up space which has garnered 120 comments. One of the major properties of Communication 2.0 is the ability to let go and have the network do the work from amplifying to correcting the message.

CIMG4308

It’s not about if Vishal in right in all he writes, or if I went too far with criticism in this post. That would be missing the point which John Chambers got so right as the bracket for this keynote: “If you agree in all I say, I have failed.” But listening to it from a position of equals is the starting point for a true conversation.

“Slumdog Millionaire”: Best Fiction ever set in India

It couldn’t have been more authentic. After sitting sitting in Bangalore’s well organized INOX-cinema at Garuda Mall, it was after midnight that I stepped out of the theatre and into the empty streets of Bangalore. For the first time in 5 years that I watched any Indian movie, after seeing Slumdog Millionaire, I had this feeling of “this is so real.”

Sure, the narrative is fiction, I loved the book by Vikas Swarup already, but the way the movie is set into India is a cinematic and cultural masterpiece. The director Danny Boyle has accomplished the herculean task of studying Mumbai, India and their people in such detail before coming up with this perfect representation.

When I wached the scenes set in Mumbai with its buzzing streets, crowds of people, views of the Dharavi slum which I had seen so many times for real, it sent a shiver down my spine. Yes, torture at Mumbai’s police is commonplace. Yes, there are sleazy underworld dons, of bigger and smaller calibre, like depicted in the film. And yes, the way how the characters interact, from the game-show to the streets reminds me of watching uncountable conversations in my host country.

It’s together with Gandhi the best movie ever set in the subcontinent which appeals to a global audience. Well deserved that it has won aleady acclaimed awards and has been nominated for 10 Oscars.

Exactly that, conversely, could be the reason that the movie has been received with criticism from the incumbent Indian movie industry, more commonly known as “Bollywood”. Especially, its Godfather, Grand Seigneur and Eternal Hero Amitabh Batchan has his own view:

If Slumdog Millionaire projects India as a third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations. It’s just that the Slumdog Millionaire idea, authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a westerner, gets creative global recognition.

Deep down in such a statements lies Bollywood’s innate inferiority complex. Although churning out more films per year than Hollywood, the international community has still refused to acknowledge the outcome as serious cinema. If you ever watched one, then you will certainly not be surprised. Apart from the colourful dancing scenes, which by themselves tend to raise eyebrows, if one had one wish it would be having one’s brain temporarily amputated. Only then it would be no issue to follow the non-existent plot over 3 hours and suffer from characters who are their own caricatures – at best.

Therefore, receiving such a remark from Mr. Bachan, should prove to be the ultimate accolade for one of the best movies. It is in some way also a piece of art which drives globalization forward and is set in an environment which even 5 years ago would have been considered irrelevant for broader appeal. If you’ve never been to India, the movie will for sure delight you. If you’ve visited India before, the experience will in addition evoke memories with oscillating emotions.

(Not sure if I can keep up writing this week, will be off to Mumbai tomorrow for the Nasscom Leadership Forum, fly directly to Zurich and hope to stand on the skiing-slope of St. Moritz on Saturday noon. Have a great week, anyway.)

Delhi: Cool Capital, Cool Crowd

Wow, just came back to my hotel from the start of our EO Regional Integration Event (RIE) which began casually in Delhi's F-Bar. I am almost speechless as what I saw there was almost a Western place: Cool, affluent and liberal.

I must explain: In spite of all the buzz about the "rise of India", this country is still hails very conservative values. Just look at Bangalore's night-life which has been relegated to non-existence with everything shutting down at 11.30. And if it wasn't for the Viren Partys which are "ok", it would be a complete disaster. 

But what I saw in Delhi tonight was totally different: Women dressed up really-really sexy, being quite liberal to have their boy friends around and even – I can't remember that seeing ever in India – kissing (tongue included, to be precise) with them openly publicly on the dance-floor. Not worth mentioning in a club in London, Berlin or Bangkok, but a sensation for India. And altogether a really cool crowd "in da club".

Looking out from the cab at India's capital at night, it does exhale charm and dignity with its monuments, governmental buildings and colonial remnants. After 26/11 (the attacks on Mumbai), security has been beefed up also here, with police, military and para-military all over the place. 5 star hotels have armed guards and run tight controls on cars and guests who intend to enter. The residence of the Prime Minister of India looks like a fortress. 

No doubt, after what has happened, necessary measures. In spite of all that, India's capital possesses a progressive charm unlike any other city on this vast subcontinent. 

Busy preparing for DLD Moderation

Temperature-wise, it makes quite a change: Last week in Lapland at -32° C I could not have thought of stepping out in shorts and T-shirt and enjoy it like I did yesterday on my terrace in Bangalore. Unfortunately there is not too much time to hang out in the sun as I have quite a tight travel schedule in the next days. 

Tomorrow, it's going to Delhi for the "Regional Integration Event" (=RIE 2009), a congregation of all Indian Chapters of the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO). These events used to be always a blast in terms of enthusiasm, bonding, speakers, learning and fun. Last year it happened in Bombay, to be precise in the lately heroic Taj Mahal Hotel (see my blog post here). 

Unfortunately, I will only be able to stay for the whole Saturday and leave one day earlier, as my bed for the night to Sunday will be in LH 761 Delhi to Frankfurt in order to make it on time at 2 pm for the opening of the DLD. In my view the finest conference of Digital, Lifestyle and Design in Europe, featuring digital innovation in a broader context of science and culture. 

Like last year around the subject of "India", I will have the honour this year to moderate two panels within the newly created format "Technology enables Success" which will take place on Tuesday afternoon. "My" two panels revolve around mobile and e-commerce, whereby we will focus on the critical role of technology as a strategic differentiator for business. The good thing for the audience is that I am not alone, but will have four distinguished thought leaders on each panel from big incumbent players to new start-up which intend to disrupt the current landscape – guess what, by technology.

So the preparation these panels besides day-to-day business is keeping me quite busy. As I learned from old school moderation of 10 years in radio: Lots of preparation allows for lots of spontaneity. So I am siphoning through the CVs of the panelists, calling each and every one up for a small up-front chat, reading up on their companies and piece by piece formulating questions and ultimately some common thread to spin a meaningful conversation on stage. 

Moreover, besides all the facts, atmosphere is essential: Relaxing the situation from the very beginning with everyone involved. That's something one could really obeserve from the new U.S. president during his campaign which got a name I really like: "No drama Obama" :-)

Excellent Health Check-Up at Koramangala Clinic (Bangalore)

What I experienced yesterday at Apollo Koramangala Clinic is the best what India has to offer, one of those increasing experiences I have labelled “NCA”: neat – clean – affordable.

As I haven’t been to the doctor for a few years (luckily I didn’t have to, apart from the medicals for my pilot license), I decided to do a full check-up. From a positively perceived reputation for the owner Apollo in combination with googling, I found the package “comprehensive health check-up”. I showed up yesterday morning at 9 am, had fasted for the first blood test, went for ECG, lung volume check, breast X-Ray, ultrasound scan of liver, stomach and kidneys by a radiologist and got some yummy Idli with Sambar as South Indian breakfast. After a little break I proceeded to the urologist (the examination was harmless :-), physiotherapist and to the second blood test (now with the metabolism at work after breakfast). Went back to the office at 12.30 pm.

Came back for the second round in the late afternoon at 5.30 pm, the test results were already prepared, got called to the consultation with the general physician who did a thorough anamneses, looked over my lab-values: so far ok, just cholesterol marginally elevated. (No wonder after the sins of Christmas overeating like lately in Awtar, Dubai.) Next was the cardiologist with the Doppler-Test for bloodstream around the heart, EKG in quiet position as well as on the treadmill. For the final I spoke to the dietician on nutrition advice, went out and home at 7.15 p.m.

Besides of all the details and steps I underwent, I found the clinic very well organized, I got regularly communicated where I was in the process and what was next for me to be expected. Two doctors whom I kept in particularly good memory: the general physician Dr. Prethi and the cardiologist Dr. Nagami, two ladies who were extremely knowledgeable, also from the scientific standpoint of their profession, very focussed on the issue as well as its follow-up and at the same time approachable by answering patiently each of my annoying “I want to know it all”-questions and not lacking some warm sublime Indian humour.

If you come from Germany like I do, then medicine doesn’t have a price tag. This is very unfortunate because you end up paying much more anyway though mandatory contributions to an inflated apparatus of public health. Of course I am privately health insured which jumps in soon as the cost of treatment is above a certain threshold. Since then, I started to look at the cost of medicine as a service and develop a certain sensitivity to price. From the perspective of a for-profit organization like Apollo Clinic it means that my payment must not only cover their cost, but also yield some reasonable margin.

And? And? What do you guess did this whole health check-up cost (payable up-front in cash or via credit card)? I found that completely unbelievable: Rs. 5,350 which corresponds at the current exchange rate EUR 79 (seventy nine only). I am sure had I done the same in Germany, I would have paid at least 15 times the amount and I wouldn’t expect treatment to be any better.

My summary for Apollo’s Koramangala Clinic: Outstanding quality, high competence, very well run, with lot of care for the detail (e.g. smoothing music concept in the building) and no frills (who needs them, I am not in a spa) taken together allows for such a price which is even for Indian standards reasonable. Comparison: You can easily blow that money at wining & dinner for two in one of Bangalore’s high-flying restaurants.

The only thing where I believe the clinic could improve is the first point of contact on the phone: Yes, friendly, answering every question, but this exactly can fall short when I don’t even know what to actually ask. So a bit more of “consultative sales” from the supplier’s perspective would provide the entire picture of what is to come and certainly thereby increase the “conversion rate” of customers taking a positive decision to show-up.

Many companies not just in India, but all over could take an example for such a well executed concept of “NCA”.

Watched the Movie “Outsourced” in Bangalore

Took a break from work and went out for a little stroll through Bangalore, the mood is different on Sundays than during weekdays. For one, it's more crowded, yet less hectic. People have time for shopping and in economically challenging times even more so for just for window shopping.

Brigade Road in Bangalore in Twilight

So I saw many couples walking hand-in-hand, but also the usual scenes from India with men walking hand in hand. I have gotten so much used to that view in the last 5 years that I didn't even realize until my comrade Dirk was killing himself laughing during his India-visit.

Ya, ya, T.I.I. (=This is India), and also this billboard for Levi's. 

Brigade Road in Bangalore in Twilight

Explaining such a picture to some new visitors to India has proven to me one of the most difficult pieces as it runs with the biggest possible contradiction. On the scale from 1 to 10 in rating India's openness to talk about sex in public, I'll give it a straight 1. There is hardly any more prudish country in the world. Yet, in a layer that is so far away from reality that it is impossible to conceive, almost everything goes. Take Bollywood where you have beautiful, sexy half naked woman dancing under the rain-machine.

But you will never see any Indian woman walking with a short skirt in the streets. That's why I call Bollywood "fiction of fiction" as even in a obviously fictional setting, reality gets skewed to a point where there is sufficient attachment to create recognition with the world, but then moves beyond it where it tickles unspoken desires that are too removed to be ever satisfied. So it doesn't pose any danger to existing norm and order. 

Then, finally after a long time of failed intentions, I watched the movie Outsourced. I really enjoyed it a lot as it packs all the possible cultural shocks that India has to offer into a lovely story. The American manager Todd has to outsource his procurement-centre to India, goes through all the Western struggles before he not only finds his peace with India, but even a likening of her people. Even more so as he falls in love with Asha, a young lady he has been training in the call-centre. Here is the trailer:

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Unlike the movie Darjeeling Limited which i liked a lot, yet had to label non-Indian, Outsourced comes as close to Indian reality as it can get. Just to get two minor things right: There are not too many "Ahsas" around in call-centres who would engage in any (hidden) relationship with their supervisor and Auntie would never ask a visitor if he was homosexual. (See above "prudish", and by the way Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code prohibits "carnal intercourse against the order of nature".)

Minor things hardly worth mentioning. I believe that for those who have been to India already, the movie will provide a very rich context and bring many memories back. For those who haven't, watching the movie might create the desire to have onself "outsourced" to the subcontinent – at least for a limited time during holiday.

Come, come all, Mother India with 1 billion opportunities is eagerly awaiting you :-)

Ending the Year 2008 with Travel & Video

It was a good and exciting year. Now it's time for change, both on the calendar and in the transfer of power in Washington D.C. shortly after. Before logging-off to a NYE-bash of my friend and Bangalore's partyguru-in-chief Viren Khanna, a few impressions of the last weeks which I spend with my good friend and business partner Dirk Schornstein in India and Dubai.

Here we are on the Tiger's Rock of Mudumailai National Park after a morning hike through the South Indian jungle. 

Tiger Rock in Mudumalai National Park

The whole picture-set including the TIE-conference in Bangalore, Toy Train-ride, Ooty and Mysore is here on this Flickr-set. Also at Dirk's last day we went to the Vatsalya-Orphanage. As rather by accident we found some fun in taking videos, I also taped the girls singing for us belatedly "We wish you a merry Christmas".

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For our second trip we deviated from booked Goa to Dubai. It's stunning to see what dedication and focus in the right regulatory environment (fueled by a lot of cheap money in the last years) can put together. You just have to look from Russian Beach back to the Skyline including Burj Dubai on the right – the worlds highest building with 707 meters. 

Skyline of Dubai from Russian Beach

Dubai is in many ways over-the-top where a fairy tale of 1001 Arabian Nights blends with a Disneyfication, as The Seifertinger ("Dabei in Dubai") explains about Ski Dubai in the Mall of Emirates. 

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All the pictures of this trip are on this Flickr-set, one of my favourites, voilà.

Gambling Hall in Mall of Emirates

During our desert-safari, standing on the dunes, the brain having suffered from drought the whole day, my alter ego "Howard Seifendale" is expressing his most inner thoughts to the outside world :-)

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Also the same individual has the immediate urge to do some "Räkling" in the Lobby of Raffles Dubai

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Back in Bangalore, it was in contrast Prof. Schornsteininger releasing his studies on "Homosexualiät in Indien".

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Bear with me, we are almost through. One of my favourites is the interview with Srinivas, a friend of mine in Bangalore who helps me in a lot of things in daily life, where he confesses to like "working honestly", yet proves quite shy discussing the issue of "chicks" with me.

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So much for 2008. Wish you all the best for 2009, a year whose economic conditions don't appear that bright, but with perseverance and optimism I am confident we will prevail. 

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