René Seifert

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

Archive for the 'Globalization' Category

TED India: First Impressions from Mysore

It’s been some 6 hours that I arrived at Infosys’ Campus in Mysore, the venue for the TED India conference. The campus is out of this world, when going through the gate “you are leaving the Indian sector” and it appears as neat as Disney World – although the Infosysians roaming around are way smarter ;-)

Obviously, I am no conference newbie. But every event has its own culture and my experience has been to look and watch in the first place, keep a bit of a low profile to understand the dos and don’ts and then fully immersing into the action. So far my first impression has been fantastic. You just start a conversation with anybody on where they come from, what they do or what interests them. What is a good thing – and I hate anything else – that the conversations are genuinely personal and nobody tries to “sell” himself, lest any product or service.

I guess one little anecdote illustrates my point quite well: When I took the bus back from the opening party to the campus, there was a slim Indian gentleman sitting there. I asked politely if the chair was vacant, he confirmed politely and we introduced each other by name: “Rama – René”. He made an extremely humble, maybe even slightly shy impression to me, and we started to talk in a real curious two-way conversation. After 3 minutes or so it turned out that this gentleman was Vilayanur Ramachandran, one of the leading neuroscientists of the world. He told me about his studies of the human brain with his approach to learn from deviant behaviour in a systematic way about the brain function and arrive to general conclusions for the ‘normal’ case. Rama held a talk today in the pre-conference programme; and here he is in a TED-talk of 2007.

We came then to some older studies of his where he looked at the function of humour which he explained in an amazing way of cultural evolution. But then we didn’t stay too long too theoretical and started to exchange hilarious jokes. One of them which the Professor told me is the sort of jokes I usually tell and I had to promise not spread it by giving “credit” to him. Promised.

As I mentioned Twitter, Rama said that he was registered, but didn’t understand if he had to admit people who follow him, what was public and what not. This was of course my little moment of glory where I could share my experience with the microblogging service and explain all open points. So my initial take: TED is predominantly about good, mutual conversations where a pinch of humour doesn’t do any harm either.

An amazing first evening, and I am really really looking forward to tomorrow, with Day 1 of the conference program. By the way, the entire Day 1 will be broadcast live online.

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 :-)

What we can or should learn from China

I am still in complete awe from what I have seen in what was my first visit ever to China. A very compact programme in 10 days: Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Moganshan. All the pictures of the trip here on my Flickr-set. This would not have been possible without the valuable recommendations of several friends who have stayed for quite some time in China and shared their experience with me where to stay, where to go and – yes, big time – where to eat :-)

Dinner in South Beauty

In particular I’d like to thank Katharina Kurz, Heidi Klocker, Frank Richter and Ralf Hirt. Really appreciate the time and effort you took to write your advise together.

As much as I try to fight this tendency, perhaps it’s just human, I couldn’t help come with a package of pre-conceived notions to the Middle Kingdom. As always, reality turned out completely different: I was consistently positively surprised about the country, its people, the ubiquitously palpable momentum forward.

First Impressions of Beijing

As tons of books and articles have been written about what goes wrong in China from its human rights-record,  Tibet-policy, cuddling-up with dictators from Sudan to Myanmar,  being the protégé of North Korea, massive environmental problems, censorship, bullying of countries who oppose its stance. I don’t intend to start repeating them. I’d just like to make clear that I do agree in varying degrees with them.

However, I would like to leave the usual line of argument that whatever looks like success in China is only possible in the light of these shortcomings. More often than not, Western commentators indulge in such an average intellectual exercise in order to lean back in complacency and suggest to their audience (or rather themselves) that everything is perfectly OK how “we” do things.

My foot. I don’t intend to make a bulletproof case within the perimeters of a blog-post, especially not based on anecdotal evidence of a singular 10-day trip. However, I can warmly recommend this Economist-article from 4 weeks ago which vividly describes the rebound of Asia after the crisis from a macro perspective, China being one of the main beneficiaries. Most remarkably, there seems to indeed happen a de-coupling between the growth of the Asian tiger like China (with an expected to grow with 10 % in Q4 2009 year-on-year) and the U.S.-economy which is supposed to still contract. The article goes to conclude:

But the speed and strength of its rebound, if sustained, show that it is not chained to Uncle Sam either. If anything, the crisis has reinforced the shift of economic power from the West to the East.

Amen. So far for the overarching macro-trend which I’d like to mix with my personal observation of three countries I have been to in the last four weeks, again, insufficient for a scientific case, but maybe still not entirely off-track. Moreover, also one or the other thing to take a closer look for own application …

Progress
China prefers collective progress against the necessity to include each and every minority voice into a pluralistic debate that tends to not produce results. Moreover, the Chinese take pride in their achievements like the new International Airport in Beijing which has been inaugurated for the Olympic Summer Games last year. Indeed an amazing piece of architecture which sets new standards in size, design and functionality

Beijing Airport

What happens in Germany? Frankfurt Airport has been losing ground to international competition in the last decade, the build-out has been delayed from environmental groups, “Bürgerinitiativen” (=citizen initiatives) supported out-of-their mind courts who just a few days back ruled that the ban on night-flights be upheld.

Infrastructure
Come to Shanghai these days, which is running up to the World Expo 2010, and you’ll hear sledgehammers 24/7, the whole city as one single construction site being re-build based on a master-plan which can be viewed at the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall:

Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Plan

I was equally surprised to see the quality of train stations, multi-lane highway and overpasses in Hangzhou, a 6 mn-people city 200 km south of Shanghai.

By contrast, I was shocked when I arrived in San Francisco 3 weeks ago, took a rental car to drive down Highway 101 to San Jose. The state of the road reminded me more of a developing country than a traffic-vein running through the Silicon Valley, part of the highly recognized State of California in the United States of America.

Discipline
Chinese value accomplishment and have grasped the concept “no gain – no pain”. Military-like drill seems to be the norm in professions one would expect it least. The team at Beijing-airport responsible for check-in stood in line receiving their briefing for flight OS 064 to Vienna before starting their duty exactly as announced at 10.55 am. Even better, I couldn’t believe my eyes, when the train from Shanghai entered in Hangzhou station was “greeted” by 6 groups of 3 cleaners every 50 meters standing in line.

Arrival in Hangzhou: Cleaning Staff standing in Line

As soon as the train had stopped and the passengers disembarked, the ladies went on to quickly get the train ready for the return trip in Shanghai.

The fact that I know 100 per cent for sure that my German reader will shake their head in disbelief how someone (=me) finds positive words for such an “outdated inhuman treatment”, just illustrates pointingly how deep the cultural rift really is.

Respect for Public Space
Oh dear. This was the toughest part to witness, or in fact not to witness in China: cars can drive without honking and somehow (!) keep the lane, the pavements are not askew or full of potholes, nobody littering his garbage wherever it comes into existence and nobody urinating against walls in the middle of the city. I don’t intend to be neither mean nor cynical, when I say: If the Indian metropolitans in terms of infrastructure and civilized behaviour arrive in 30 years where China stands today, it should be considered an outstanding accomplishment.

Beijing: Bird's Nest

There is no paradise on earth, because every system comes with its imperfections. My personal favourite in terms of effective government is still by far Singapore as I went to write at length in this post two years ago. Maybe, also not just random, it’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew is Chinese by origin.

At the same time, I feel it’s worth showing some sort of reverence to the achievements of China, a country which has pulled itself out of deepest shit within 25 years. To see is to believe. And I can only encourage everybody to visit China to see yourself.

From Austria to China

After 2 days in Austria’s imperial capital Vienna, arrived yesterday after a yummy flight with Austrian Airlines in Beijing. Yummy flight, because Austrian Airlines entertains a real cook in its Business Class who fully played out his culinary art in 35,000 feet altitude.

The contrast couldn’t be any starker between the impressions from Austria and China. The capital of the former discounting a lot from its past, whereas the capital of the latter has fully embarking on its future.Without repeating stuff which everyone knows anyway about the political system in China, just interesting to note that in spite of staying in a hotel with many guests from the West, The Peninsula, internet-access to Facebook and Twitter are blocked (as are Wikipedia and XING). So please bear with me if I am not as flexible and in responding as I usually try to be. The only access I get is via my mobile phone – including the terrible roaming charges for my German number …

Just one last word from Vienna where I went into a very touching exhibition of Elisabeth of Austria, famously called “Sissy”, wife to the last emperor Franz Joseph. Sissy, who wasn’t any like a royal dumb-ass at all, was a sportive woman and also an avid writer, where I stumbled upon a line of her poems which resonated with me

Destinations are only desirable because a journey lies in between. If I arrived somewhere and knew I would never leave again, even a sojourn in paradise would turn into hell for me.

One week of Friends and Food in California

Posting these foodie-fresh memories from a week in the Bay Area after a short connecting stop in Munich from the airport lounge. As always it’s been tremendously inspiring being over there, once for the Search Engine Strategies (SES) Conference in San Jose, then the weekend in one of my favourite cities San Francisco. Here, by the way the picture set on Flickr (please forgive the many conference-slides).

San Jose

As it goes, an event or a city by itself has some value or charm respectively. However, what really matters is getting together with the right people who are inspiring, honest and fun, such that you really enjoy having food with them. And in that respect this visit was absolutely phenomenal, kind of “social media delivered” – in real life on your plate. Most of the people, admittedly, Germans. But never mind. We seem to be welcome:

Walk through San Francisco

So we had at the conference the “German Stammtisch” with Marcus Tober, Horst Joepen and Andi Schwabe when we decided to skip the second event-party with an estimated male-geek ratio of 94 % and rather head for San Francisco for dinner. The side effect: male-geek ratio of stunning 100 %! Still we felt that the trip was deserved, as I dare to use the rare expression of food being “disgusting”, what it truly was at the SES with one and the same selection of abysmal junk food every day served on plastic plates with plastic cutlery.

Glad that the guys followed my recommendation to go to Morton’s in Post Street where you’ll get the biggest, largest and most obscene steaks in this world. Best is having them “Medium Rare Plus” and given the size of the meat being frugal with the side dishes like mashed potatoes. Also a must at Morton’s is the warm chocolate cake which has to be ordered together with the main dish as it takes time to create. When arrives with its inner core being warm it literally melts in your mouth to “death by chocolate”. It tastes as if invented by and for little angels.

Dinner with German Stammtisch in San Francisco

After the conference, on Friday if first headed south on Highway 101 to the Gilroy Factory Oulet to meet my former boss from Lycos, now friend Dirk Lüth who just moved over to the Valley with his family to start an exciting company in the Enterprise 2.0-space. Always held Dirk in highest regard for his smart, focused and at the same time easy-going manner.

Dirk Lüth and Me at Gilroy Factory Outlet

Not saying this, because he bought me lunch in this really honest American restaurant-chain Applebee’s. Overall, I can really recommend this factory outlet to find great deals on otherwise expensive brands.

When I “moved over” to San Francisco, I enjoyed as always staying in the stylish Clift Hotel with its unique Bar “Redwood Room“. On Friday, Thomas Bindl took me along with his travel companion Billy Brüggemann to meet his SEO-friends Frank Watson from New York and Todd Malicoat from San Francisco. We were headed to Tataki in Pacific Heights. Sushi in this little cosy place was really good there. After that I went straight back to the hotel where I fell into a deep jetlag-coma-sleep – no Propofol required.

On Saturday, I met my tall German friend Sören Stamer for lunch who got married to his charming American wife, Heidi, recently and moved to SFO a few weeks ago. We had some solid salad with shrimps & crab at Pier 23 where we passionately discussed the economics of abundance in the digital age and the value of this ever-scarce thing called human attention.

Lunch with Sören Stamer at Pier 23

The evening started with a sundowner with a breathtaking panorama on the Bay Bridge from the 39th floor at Marriott’s “The View” with Marcus Tober and Jens Brechmann.

Sundowner in "The View"

For dinner, I followed the advise of Sören to check out a really cool place “Blowfish Sushi”. The taxi ride there turned out to be an unexpected highlight when the Jamaican taxi driver made it a point to explain how “2 out of 3 men in San Francisco are gay” and therefore he was “having sex with elder ladies between 50 to 60 years who are desperate, because they can’t get anyone” and who after the accomplished act wrote him a cheque. “And if they don’t write me a cheque, I never come back to them.”

Blowfish Sushi in South of Mission turned out to be a unique hit, both from the deco with wild Manga-comics on the walls, but equally from the creative standpoint of the chef. The restaurant really managed to re-invent sushi, yet still respecting its very roots. So one would get sushi-rolls with fish, meat, vegetables, yummy dressing and altogether spiced up.

Blowfish Sushi in San Francisco

While Marcus and Jens headed back to the hotel, I went for a final drink to Rickhouse, a new bar in the Financial District to catch up with Auren Hoffman after the Menorca TechTalk. Auren’s parents were in town and so he proved to be a good boy for first heading out only when they were in bed and second to get home not to late so that his Mum wouldn’t worry ;-)

Yesterday, on a lazy and sunny Sunday, I finished my trip with a visit to the International Orange Spa in Fillmore Street. The therapist did a phenomenal job in providing a heavenly massage. Best prerequisite for meeting Heidi & Sören, who happen to the same place for yoga, for Oysters at the Ferry Building.

Embarcadero in San Francisco

Then it was time to head to the airport, upgraded myself with eVouchers to First Class where the food-festival continued. But more importantly, enabled me to have a night of good sleep in the plane before continuing my trip back to India. And I am sure, they will have something little to eat for me there as well …

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.

Getting addicted to IFR-flying along the Croatian Coast

Even after a few days, I am still entirely drenched from the impressions of last weekend’s flying adventure with my friend Thomas Leiber, to be precise Dr Thomas Leiber and his old youth- and tennis friend Achim Salomon. Thomas’ father Heinz invented the Anti-Breaking-System (ABS) and his son Thomas has inherited his father’s ingenuity with claiming to date more than 100 patent in the automotive space to his name. Besides, Thomas has been a private pilot for the last 15 years and owns a stunning plane Diamond DA-40. A few weeks ago we crafted the plan to fly from Augsburg to Croatia along the coast with a few selected landings. And so us three comrades did with Thomas as intrument-rated pilot-in-command:

We had the best weather and the most stunning views one can imagine, all the 234 pictures here on my Flickr-set. Our first leg went from Augsburg through Eastern Austria to Ljubljana …

Heading South along the Croatian Coast

…  with our first land on the Island of Brac.

Brac Airport

Here we passed immigration, re-fueled and landed after just 7 minutes of flight on this brown dust strip on the opposite Island of Hvar.

Downwind Hvar Airstrip

Hvar is emerging from an insider tip to a notable destination in line with Ibiza and St. Tropez – in a any dimension: style, chic, beautiful people and, well, also the prices. (Still trying to forget that we had to pay for us three at an indisputably yummy fish-dinner EUR 300 …)

Hvar City

The next morning we took off, and wouldn’t miss to fly past Hvar City from the seaside.

Hvar City

The flight overhead my motherland’s islands at a low altitude of 2,000 feet made a dream come true I had for the last 10 years, the Kornates, Dugi Otok and Losinj “up there” in the Kvarner Bay …

Hvar to Vrsar: Croatian Islands - Losinj

… and onwards to the east coast of Istra across the peninsula where Thomas landed with precision on Runway 36 of Vrsar airport

My friends seemed to enjoy their first trip to my Croatian home base Rovinj where we spent one night in my house and got rewarded with the most colourful sunset (I swear, I did not touch Photoshop)

Stop-Over in Rovinj

Next day meant departure from Vrsar to Pula for re-fueling, take-off where air traffic control sent us on Flight Level 150 (15,000 feet) across the Adriatic Sea across Venice, then north towards Bolzano where we faced the first clouds which got – as expected from the weather forecast – denser and denser. Hence, we had to circumnavigate a few cumulonimbus clouds with thunderstorms in visible distance

Cirumnavigating Clouds & Thunderstorm above the Alpes

30 miles ahead of Innsbruck is got quite nasty in terms of turbulence, flying in the cloud watching the screen and the wings getting iced at -7 degrees Celsius. Thankfully, the controller in Innsbruck was extremely helpful in advising us to pass behind the thunderstorm-cell till we broke the cloud and left the bad weather behind us. The rest towards Maisach, then into the ILS of Augsburg Airport was an easy routine for Thomas where we landed even in some rays of sun during dusk.

Landed in Augsburg

For me who has been flying in the last 7 years only under visual flight rules (“VFR”) having such an experience in instrument conditions (“IFR”) meant getting addicted. Thomas was the dealer and this flight was the crack-cocain he served me.

I will have to do my IFR-license soon. I just have to.

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.

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

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