René Seifert

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

Archive for the 'India' Category

New Venture: MillionMiles Media launches aMillionLives.com

For more than half a year I have been really busy creating something new. Today, I am proud to announce that I started a new venture MillonMiles Media Ltd. and we just went live with our really cool flagship site aMillionLives.com. And, yes, we have a Facebook Fanpage, too, where I like if you like ;-) In case you want to read our „official press release“, it’s here for download.

aMillionLives.com

Let me explain here on my blog in a bit more of a conversational tone what we are up to. We are global publishing network writing stuff that matters for our life, in particular the various lives of each of us. You might be familiar with Edward de Bono’s concept of the various hats we should put on during decision making. Similarly, on a broader perspective in one’s life somebody might be a teacher by profession, have a family with a lovely wife raising two kids. But there is more to life than the obvious on the surface: This human being might be an avid guitar player, enjoys going for a hike in the mountains and really love his food. That same person will find help, advise and entertainment for his various lives like in a magazine as a teacher, spouse, parent, musician, naturelover and foodie. Check out our overview of all the lives we are writing for.

aMillionLives.com

Here’s the deal with „global“ for our publishing network. I’ve been living and working in various continents for the last years where I dare to say that I have a fairly good understanding how to assemble a business that brings together the best pieces from each part of the world. Our company is incorporated in London (U.K.), a big chunk of our operation runs out of Bangalore (India) with an international team, the design for aMillionLives.com has been done in Poland, our writers hail from India, the Philippines. Our users as we know from our logfiles appreciate our content from all over the world, the U.S. running with 60 % at the forefront.

aMillionLives.com

Where does the name MillionMiles Media (MMM) come from? Two simple explanations: I was looking, no surprise, for something that sounds somehow cool and has „Media“ at the end. If you check out every freaking word on this earth in combination with „Media“ at the end, the domain is taken by some filthy domain-grabber. So extending the query to two prefix-words, landed me with MMM. Second, I liked it because last year with all my travelling I had crossed the mark of a million miles in my frequent flyer programme.

aMillionLives.com

Yep, that’s my news of the day. Happy about every feedback, good or bad, sympathetic or just pathetic. If you like our Fanpage on Facebook or moreover, place a link from your blog or site to aMillionLives.com, I’ll include you in my evening prayers – hands duly folded. Promised.

Lufthansa Customer Care – The Rift between West and East

The shifting economic power from west to east is a favourite theme sung by observers of globalization. The most often quoted reasons in favour of the east: demography (young) and growth (high). I would like to add from my own experience another critical one: attitude (great).

I’d like to illustrate this on a small example which happened yesterday during boarding with Lufthansa in Frankfurt. My purpose is both to use this public display as part of a complain which I have filed, but also as an illustration of a broader picture which I see emerging.

When I arrived to my boarding gate B23 for my flight LH 754 from Frankfurt to Bangalore yesterday on February 04th 2011 via direct transfer from Zurich, I requested at the boarding gate an upgrade from Economy to Business Class thanks to my abundance of miles in the Miles & More programme. The German tall guy behind the counter, let’s call him by his initials E.H. said „Yes, if you have miles.“ He went to his computer, went through the menu and replied: „Sorry, it doesn’t work, your ticket class doesn’t allow for an upgrade.“ End of the story – for him. I retorted that I didn’t believe this was accurate, as I had upgraded myself successfully on the TO-sector.

Lufthansa A321 (D-AIR)

I grabbed my mobile phone, called my always super-duper-customer-oriented Lufthansa-agent Vignesh Mohan in Bangalore who has been immaculately serving me in the last 3 years. He immediately picked up and explained to him the problem, he replied that he believed, too, the ticket was upgradable, but he would cross-check in the system and call me back.

Time was running out as I was the last passenger at the gate, the German guy and his female German colleague didn’t bother to even look at not to mention look after me once. Vignesh being Vignesh kept his promise, called me back after 2 minutes from India and confirmed: “The ticket is upgradable.”

What came next is really the point for my anger and the illustration of the different attitudes. I was polite and relaxed, went over to Mr. E.H. with my phone and said kind of: „I have Vignesh on the phone, your Lufthansa colleague from Bangalore, I suggest you both talk to each other in airline-lingo with all your ticket-codes to sort things out.“ He again wouldn’t even look at me, lest try to find any solution. Instead his female colleague stepped up to me and said in a super-annoyed way: “Well, it doesn’t work this way, we would have to call the ticket counter.” – Expectedly my response was: “And why don’t you do it?” She went on with: “Next time be a bit earlier with your upgrade request.” I turned back to E.H. and asked him why he wouldn’t talk to his colleague in India. Brief answer: “I in general don’t talk on a mobile phone.” Wow, that’s a rare mix of impressive and progressive.

Contrast that with Vignesh who was still on my ear and grasped the full sense of urgency of the situation and said: “René, give me a couple of minutes, I’ll sort things out from India.” I don’t know what Vignesh did, but magically after minutes the upgrade went through as smooth as silk. All fine, but I really got annoyed by this pathetic behaviour from the German Lufthansa team and announced that I would complain against him and asked for his name. He wouldn’t even have the balls to tell me, so I had to bent over and read it from his name plate. The grand final of the scene were his good bye-words: “But I just want to let you know that I am not the responsible load manager.” Bingo. This says it all: Zero attitude translates to zero responsibility which translates to zero civilized behaviour.

I do not even want to stretch the terms “customer orientation” too far and I don’t even intend to play my black card being a HON Circle member. This is just not a manner to behave. And being an entrepreneur I am safe to state into Lufthansa’s direction that you simply don’t want anybody like E.H. doing any customer-facing jobs. This was not his one time-failure, it’s an attitude problem and he’ll never get it.

Compare that to Vignesh’s attitude and action, and I am happy to conclude that we need more of the Vigneshs being allowed to play a much stronger role on the global economic stage and replace the E.H.s ideally yesterday. And please nobody tell me that this was – prominent German term – “unsozial”, i.e. not in line with social considerations.

Picture Source: Flickr.com / Andres Rueda

Weekend in Kolkata: The living Contrasts

6 years in India and never managed to travel to Kolkata. Shame-on-me. This weekend finally, I made up for this black spot in the company of my friends Tim & Dominique Butzmann and Marek Janetzke. Landing in Kolkata on Friday evening, we could figure already by the disorganized procedure of the prepaid airport-taxis that here, in the capital of West Bengal, “Old India” still held the upper hand. (All the pictures of the trip here on this Flickr-Set.)

Queing for Airport Taxi

Coming in downtown, driving past and through the chaos, entering Jawaharlal Nehru Street, the cab suddenly pulled left in front of an unassuming gate. We underwent a security check, from where we felt that we had landed on a different planet: The Oberoi Hotel. Its white colour, splendour and luxury became our witnesses of an foregone which had not just survived but re-invented itself throughout more than a century.

Oberoi Hotel in Kolkata

At its fine Thai restaurant Baan Thai, we enjoyed our first dinner.

Dinner at Baan Thai in Oberoi Hotel

The next morning we headed out for our first walk and were – right after the magic gate – intercepted by the most obnoxious, aggressive beggars and touts I had so far come across in India. We walked along the monumental India Museum, turned left into Park Street.

Walk through Park Street

There further for breakfast at Flurys. Supposedly founded after a Swiss patisserie in 1927, this place today is purely living off its dividend from the past as well as hugely overrated. The poor food, terrible service in combination with high prices make it a location just to ignore.

Exactly the opposite has to be said about the Victoria Memorial, where already the walk through the large scale greenery with grazing horses along Queen’s Way is an experience in itself.

The Maidan in Kolkata

Not after too much time, the monumental white towers will gaze through the trees and provide the curious visitor a clear orientation which path to follow.

IMG_9829

After buying the ticket of Rs. 150 (price for foreigners), you walk straight face up to the statue of Queen Victoria sitting quite broadly on here throne and then into the memorial which looks – to quote the Lonely Planet – like a mix between the Capitol in Washington D.C. and the Taj Mahal.

Food is great throughout India, but us four tall Germans acknowledged that we experienced a special culinary highlight at “Oh!Calcutta” in Forum Mall. Nice decoration, courteous service and especially phenomenal food. Bengali cuisine is known for its emphasis on Fish, especially the local “Bekti”.

Oh!Calcutta Restaurant

The various ways of preparations in different ways and curries are simply out of this world and a visit to this restaurant with reasonable prices an absolute must!

After dinner we headed to Park Hotel to listen to the life-band in the bar whose name is seriously “Someplace Else”. The crowd tends to be a bit nerdy, 90 % of the guests male, likewise the four guys on stage, all in their forties appeared, except one, a bit as if they were still living with their mothers. Still, their Rock’n Roll in combination with a cold Heineken in hand was cool stuff to listen to.

Due to “Dry Day” on Independance Day on August 15th, everything closed already at 11.30 pm, hence we decided to take a 10 minutes-walk home when we ran into this guy making himself comfortable on the rear of his car.

Afterhour

Our further path was plastered with people sleeping on the sidewalk to an extent I haven’t yet come across in the centre of an Indian city. Yet amidst the undoubted poverty, small stars of mutual human respect are able to rise. A guy, falling asleep in his chair on the street, seeing us walking towards our 5 star-hotel, wished us a heartfelt “good night”. So I wished him back a sincere “good night to you as well”. Likewise, in all the unfortunate circumstance the ragpickers work, they still manage to smile at you during their work.

Ragpickers in Kokata

On Independence Day security with police and military had been intensified, however without problem for our tour by taxi to the huge Howrah Train Station.

Howrah Train Station in Kolkata

We crossed back the heavy Howrah Bridge where, on a regular working day, around One million people cross on foot.

Howrah Bridge in Kolkata

We continued to walk past the Christian Armenian Church, Holy Rosary Cathedral, the Moghan David Synagogue, St. Andrew’s Church, were impressed by the lake BBD Bagh on whose riverbank a graveyard for old police vans is emerging.

Strolling through Kolkata

On further South to Raj Bhavan, looking at a beautiful old building still reasonable intact, …

Strolling through Kolkata

… and from there through the Tram Terminal after our 2.5 hour tour, a last time back to our little oasis of the Oberoi Hotel.

Kolkata is clearly a must for the avid Indian traveller. The city exudes charm, catching flair, its people a pleasant dignity. At the same time, I would not recommend for a Westerner for his first time visit to India to begin with the capital of West Bengal. The poverty is striking and so are the contrast when morphing through the different worlds of “what a Westerner is used to” vs. “how the majority of Kolkatans live”. Nevertheless, a journey worth undertaking to see with own eyes what different shapes a human life can take.

India: Advertisement around Arranged Marriages

Came across this advertisement from Platinum, a company which in line with its name sells Platinum-jewellery in India. Here, where more than 80 % of all marriages are arranged, Platinum found a remarkable twist how to set this subject into a photo story. A sort of “photo love story” where marriage comes first and loves follows suit. (Click to enlarge the pics for better legibility of the text)

NUMBER 1

Platinum Advertisement in India

NUMBER 2
Platinum Advertisement in India

NUMBER 3
Platinum Advertisement in India

NUMBER 4
Platinum Advertisement in India

Happy-Happy-End. And now, in order to bring you from here to there: would you please buy the rings …

Back to Normal after the FIFA World Championship

Over and out, with Spain being the new Football World Champion 2010. Well deserved, especially for playing the most efficient football of all teams whereas the usual 1:0 victories didn’t really reflect their true dominance during the matches. Spain threw “my” German team out and prevailed over Holland in the finals whose only creativity consisted in systematically employing systematic (brutal) tactical fouls. Therefore congratulations to this proud, fair and technically supreme Spanish championship-heroes.

For me, it have been awesome 4 weeks juggling work, travel and watching football. It’s sort of only every 4 years that I get drawn into TV so much, but it was definitely worth it. Interesting, also staying both in India, Germany and actually Spain during the tournament and experiencing the different spirits in these countries.

In my observation, Indians have become bigger aficionados of football this time than in 2006. Speaking to random people, even my gentle Bangalore-neighbours in their 60s and 70s, they confessed how they were spending long nights in front of TV when the matches – due to the time shift – started right at midnight.

At the same time, on the other side in Germany, a healthy patriotism has become the norm which was unheard of before the Championship 2006 in our own land. Four years ago showing German flags was still being discussed, in parts controversially, but no longer this year. Good.

Moreover, this young, ethnically diverse and highly committed team of the German national team won the hearts of all in Germany and of many abroad. How often did I hear something sympathetic like “I am watching all the matches and Germany is playing so well that they deserve the championship!” Although history turned out differently, still very kind to hear.

I also take pride in the performance of our team which in its composition should be seen as a blueprint to where Germany with its multiple challenges should be heading to: Targeted immigration with “no creed, no caste, only merit” (to borrow the karma of India’s IT-champion Infosys) combined with a strong emphasis with affirmative integration. If our German government was run like our national football team, Germany would be as good as Singapore  (I’m aware that this is not desirable for everyone, for me it clearly is.)

Anyway, it also means from today on back to normal: no more long nights in front of TV, no more beer, chips and other junk food. Instead lean nutrition and lots of training as I have to get fit for a mountain tour beginning of August.

FIFA World Championship 2010 in South Africa will be well remembered.

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

Horasis and its founder Frank-Jürgen Richter are really coming to ever new heights with its format of “Global X Business Meeting”. Take “X” as a placeholder for China, India, Russia and soon Arab, too. The concept is brilliant: Create a platform for political and economic leaders for a specific country, let them fly out of their cocoon for 2 days in a completely different continent and blend them with political and economic leaders from the host country. For the recent Global Russia Business Meeting that host country was Slovenia (in Ljubljana), last for last year’s Global India Business Meeting it was Germany (Munich) and for this year it was Spain in its magnificent capital of Madrid. (All pictures of the event here on this set.)

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

This year’s top participants from India were the Union Minister of Commerce, Anand Sharma, who spoke about his country’s resilience to weather the storm of the global economic crisis, aspiring to a double digit GDP-growth and acknowledging the requirement build stronger ties to Europe. As a reference to his hosts Mr. Sharma mentioned in particular Spain whose trade volume with India ranks only 43.

Anand Sharma, India Minister of Commerce

From the Spanish side, the Crown Prince Felipe gave himself the honour to speak. As someone who has rather reservations to monarchy, I was honestly surprised not to see some smug royal retard, but a highly educated, soft-spoken and down-to-earth guy who is very well able to play his constitutional and social role in such a setting very well.

Felipe, Prince of Asturias, Spanish Crown Prince

I had the pleasure to moderate panel on a topic which is personally very dear to me: Innovation. In particular “Driving the Future: India’s Technology Pioneers – India’s IT and other technology firms are emerging as global players in their own right. What areas are they pioneering in and how do they compete in world markets?” The participants had a lot to share from their experience:

  • Dinesh Dhamija, former Founder and CEO of ebookers.com, now Founder and Chairman, Copper Beech Group, United Kingdom
  • Sachin Dev Duggal, Chairman, Nivio, India
  • Naeem Ghauri, Co-Founder, NetSol Technologies, Pakistan & United Kingdom
  • Clas Neumann, President, SAP Labs India, Germany
  • Jeff Heenan Jalil, Head – Wipro Technologies, Europe, Wipro, India
  • Glenn Proellochs, Chief Executive Officer, Travelpaper.com, Switzerland
  • Sudhir Sethi, Chairman, IDG Ventures India Advisors India
  • Sudhakar Shenoy, Chairman, IMC, USA

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

This format of a so called “board room dialogue” in an intimate setting allows for a true conversation among the panellists where the “audience” blends seamlessly in. Three main conclusions on innovation that I’d to summarize here:

  • IT-Innovation in India has multiple dimensions. It’s not just about the classic Western understanding of filing a patent for some say cutting edge laser-thing. It’s often process innovation: Just think of the 1 million resumés (!) that Infosys is getting every year to fill 12,000 positions, you need to handle that somehow. Or business innovation with a particular focus on the price point, see for example the world-class rate of 0.5 US-Cent per minute on Indian mobile operators.

  • Bigger organisations like SAP or Wipro can only innovate of their culture embodies constant change whereby their organizational frameworks act like a stable meta-layer for innovation.

  • India is not good at everything, should and often does recognize both its strengths and weaknesses. For instance anything around User Interface can be done with a company in the Silicon Valley much better. The conclusion here: In times where you can assemble easily global sourcing chains, also from the Indian perspective applies: Do what you can do best and outsource the rest :-)

After all the inspiring discussions over the day, we headed off for a cocktail reception to the beautiful Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez where Mr. Peacock was greeting us with his evergreen mating-show.

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

Last but not least, thanks a lot to Frank for once again putting such an awesome Horasis-event together.

Global India Business Meeting 2010 in Madrid

Vijay Mallya coming Home: Greeted like a God

Thursday evening in Bangalore, I was heading out to have some good Teppanyaki-dinner in Bangalore’s Shiro-restaurant. The place is actually located within “UB City”, the latest luxury shopping mall built by Beer Baron Vijay Mallya who happens to have his private residence in Bangalore just by the side of it. Practical, isn’t it.

Arriving at the mall, there was a big crown right in front of Mr. Mallya’s house, everything was prepared for some solemn welcome when a few minutes later the motorcade arrived. What followed was the loudest detonation of firecrackers starting from the leading Mercedes of Mr. Mallya directly to the entrance of his house – which at the other side leads to a fuel station (see my video):

When Vijay Mallya, the flamboyant billionaire who recently entered into Formula 1 with his Force India, stepped out of his limousine, he was greeted with flowers, a cap like a maharajah and several scarves. After waving graciously into the crowd around, he and his entourage disappeared into his private residence to continue the party surrounded by fire spitting into the air and fireworks this time cracking up into the air. This was by far the most over-the-top scene I have seen in my entire life. Mr. Mallya must be running a whole department in his company to organize his cult of personality.

The reason for the spectacle, as we found out, was that Mr. Mallya had been re-elected to parliament, to be more precise to the Rajya Sabha, India’s Upper House and the Council of States.

To the regular observer, this didn’t just look like a politician is celebrating his election, it rather seemed that a god had given himself the honour to step down to us mere mortals. Somehow I remembered my Latin lessons in school. A winning commander in Rome who had his triumphant march through the city was given company by a slave who went behind repeatedly saying: “Memento moriendum esse!” (=Remember you must die!)

I saw the commander, but I didn’t see the slave.

Incredible India: Weekend Walk through Bangalore

For any walk through India, it’s never wrong to carry a camera. Take it for granted that there is always something rewarding for first the eye, then for the lens – and hence for eternity.

Here just around the corner, I ran into two guys with two big bamboos (the visible ones ;-) who are preying through town to shake some ripe mangos down whose time has come.

Mango Pluckers hunting through Bangalore

A little later, four guys from the public telephone operator BSNL at a switchboard on Brigade Road doing some wiring, installing and checking. Please note the in India commonly prevalent high “labour intensity” for any task …

Fixing telephone Lines

Then a snapshop for the foodies, went to a restaurant to have my beloved Dal Fry for luch, where this lady is responsible for making the chapatis. No doubt that she possesses the physical strength to do quite a bit of them.

Chapattis in the Making

Last but not least, two boys in the street, one pushing the other.

Mobility for the Young

Wonder what they will become when they grow up. Extrapolating this scene into the future: The one pushing in the back a pilot, and the one sitting in front a Maharadsha :-)

Indredible India – Carbon Neutral Schoolbus

One of these drive-by moments when you try to be as fast as possible with your camera. Yesterday in Delhi, we were approaching this one from the back with three happy kids in their school uniforms in the back …

Delhi Schoolbus

… and three happy kids in the front.

Delhi Schoolbus

Chapeau to the driver for pedalling in 40 degrees of heat these six cute little chicken home into their nest.

Amazing India – Impressions from the Airports

Even after 6 years of living in India, the subcontinent is full of surprises every day. Just one week of being here, countless of heartwarming, witty and inspiring stories. Starting in the here and now: I am sitting on a “laptop station” after security of Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi and blogging this post away. Really amazing where India has gotten with such a world class airport, working stations including free high-speed wireless internet (try to get that on a German airport).

Delhi Airport

It’s been quite a busy travelling week, so last Friday I have been at Cochin Airport where this instance caught my eye. In contrast to western economics where capital EXCHANGES labour for the sake of saving cost, the success formula in India seems to be capital PLUS labour.

Machine & Man at Kochin Airport

In a congenial combination of man & machine the concept works like this: A customer steps forward to the apparatus and selects an item. The guy in the yellow T-Shirts takes his money and shovels it into the machine, the magazine drops down, the guy picks it up and hand it to the customer. Variation B: For bigger items, that’s even more hilarious, the guy collects the money, opens the door, grabs the article and hands it out. So basically as a customer you get the feeling that modern technology is still grounded by good old human service.

Some Indian ads are just involuntarily funny, I really wonder what rode the heavily metrosexual art director of coming up with this copy. It’s supposed to promote the speed of transfer as well breadth of shopping opportunities at Bangalore Airport.

Bangalore Airport Advertisement

Well, if I was that girl, I also wished that rather the teddybear be my father and not that guy with the gay moustache with the glossy lipstick beneath LOL

Next Page »