the lull after the storm

It’s been a hectic month so far, spent mostly driving around the city trying to get a space that was ideal for our ContentSutra mixer in Delhi. In the end, we went with the Ambassador – partly because it among the few that available on the chosen date (this being the wedding season), and partly because Rafat was really keen on it. I had a few places in mind, but the key thing was that it had to be convenient for people coming from Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, and the airport…anything too Noida-ish would have made things difficult for the rest.


I remember very little of the mixer; only that I was very tired, happy and relieved at the turnout, and a little zonked. Also remember feeling a little uneasy (and blushing) when people in the audience applauded when my name was mentioned on stage. The main thing for me is that the mixer was useful for a lot of people…and not “just another party”. Before I forget, the last photo in the first row has three people who used to write for Parmesh, me and Sanjay Trehan (CEO of NDTV Convergence) 🙂

Am off on a much needed vacation to the Phi Phi Islands on Monday with family friends. I’ll be back on the 2nd, and hopefully, the personal blog shall be updated more often in 2009. As Shekhar said yesterday, I’m becoming a little unidimensional, and talking shop too much…That has to change. Resolution for 2008: more personal time, more events. And yes – I shall read more fiction, and try to write some as well

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Andrey Gidaspov was in India to meet interview a few top telecom bigwigs for Russian telecom mag Standard, and suggested that we meet up for a chat at the United Coffee House in CP.

We began talking about telecom and mobile content, and the conversation shifted to economics, stock markets, socialism, poverty, capitalism, employment, religion and much more. Good fun. Andrey was surprised to meet a Hindu (well, technically) who eats meat and drinks alcohol. I was surprised to meet a Russian who doesn’t. 🙂

Andrey suggested that I answer a few questions related to my views on the Industry. So here’s the interview at Andrey’s site “Gidabyte”. Funny photo at Gidabyte.

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Nominated…(and going to LA)

No, not MixedBag. Our flagship publication, has been nominated for a Webby award, in the Best Business Blog category.

Update: Says Rafat about awards – “we diss them publicly all the time, but as soon we get nominated, we become an award whore (well, more specifically me).”
Heh…true for me too.

Also, we’re just 16 days away from our first conference, EconSM, which I shall also be attending, and surely blogging about.

Will be reaching LA on the 24th, and after five days there, leaving for NY for two days, and then Boston for another couple of days. Plans for each city are still being firmed up, but after the mixer and the conference, I’m going to meet people a few people who’re in the thick of things in a fast converging world – be it culture, media and/or technology. If there’s anyone you know in any of these cities whom I should meet – please do let me know.
And before I leave, there’s a get together for ContentSutra readers being planned…

(psst…any tips on getting over jetlag, or things I should be careful about in LA, NY and/or Boston?)

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Quotable Quote

Hrush, over at the Cleartrip blog says:

‘Reminds me of something John Doerr said to the folks at the Cleartrip office–“To ask permission is to seek denial.”‘

I’m seeking permission for sumfin today. Last time, standing in line, I’d joked with the guy behind me about several ominous signs…things didn’t work out.

Now I start today with another one…crap.


finally, the spell of crappy days (workwise) ends. I’m probably going for EconSM (woohoo!) and then this

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Channel Switching Time…

… is reducing. I think Soo could probably make a cartoon of me switching from one thing to do to another…the increase in pace, and the things to do is not fun anymore. A positive is that I’m able to deal with situations quicker, faster and perhaps not drag things. My main fears now are forgetting stuff that I had to do, forfeiting on some plans, seeming too curt on the mail or not even responding (something which I was once particular about). I don’t think it’s even one tenth of what Rafat and Staci handle…
Not sure if there will be time to post any of the five half written posts at mixedbag, or new ones…

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The last fortnight…

The Bombay trip was hectic, though I did manage to get around four hours on Sunday to spend with family. Rest were spent either running around, updating on events from a cyber cafe, or attending events. Didn’t get much sleep either, and nor did I get time to meet friends. I still have a backlog of things to do, and don’t think I’m going to get time off for a while…

My favourite parts of the whole event route (IAMAI Digital Summit, Mobile Monday Delhi, 3GSM India, Mobile Monday Mumbai and ContentSutra Meetup Mumbai, all packed into five days) were the Q&A at Momo Delhi, the entire Momo Mumbai and the ContentSutra Meetup at the Hard Rock Cafe. Mahesh Murthy and Netra of Pinstorm were very helpful with venue suggestions.

There’s a reason why I found the Momo events more useful – it was informal, the audience was a part of the discussion, and real issues were discussed, no holds barred. I think I’d like to be involved in facilitating more of these free-wheeling discussions in the future – they help create awareness of possible solutions, and then the pros and cons of these solutions are analysed. As an outside observer, they offer more insight than an event. I’ll update with links to the momo posts tomorrow.

So far:

3GSM India

Day 1
Low ARPUs, Low Tariffs, Increase Teledensity And Pay Heavily For Spectrum
Buying The Value Chain, Repurposing And Chasing The Current Opportunity
Mobile TV Pricing Models, Usability
Monetizing Music For Class Tier-Two Towns
CRBT Friendly Music; Dual Delivery; Searching And Impulse Purchases
Casual Games, Payment Models, Billing Leakages And Embedded Games
Day 2
Off Portal; Marketing VAS; Operator Responds
Mobile Communities, Moderation And Monetization
Search – Branded Or Unbranded; GPRS, SMS And Voice
Numbers Vs Branding; Ideation Vacuum; Marketer Education

IAMAI Digital Summit

Day 1: Internet
Community Sites = Nightclubs? Credible? Education Napster
Uniform Code Of Conduct For E-Commerce, Exemption Handling;Contentivity
2007 Is the Year When Retailers Will Go Online
Advertorials Online; Search Marketing; Cutting Through The Clutter
Interconnection, Provocation, Bandwidth And Ecommerce Certification
Gaming And Collaboration, Web 3.0 And All About Having Fun
Day 2: Mobile
Mobile Marketing Challenges And Opportunities
Cross Media Promotions; Rural VAS Adoption; The Rural Consumer
Exclusives For Mobisodes; Info Critical For You; Pull Portals
Rs.4 Crores A Day; 2500 Merchants; SMS Vs GPRS

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In Bombay

So I’m in Bombay, at a cybercafe, and the first thing I notice is how open people here seem to be to a systemization. The cybercafe required me to produce a photo-ID, a local address and a local number, which I gave. Someone who just walked in said to the cybercafe owner that it’s good that there’s a security check on those at cybercafes. “It’s for our own good”, he says. I’m impressed. The other thing is, the first thing you see as you exit the domestic airport is a long line of people queuing up to take auto rickshaws. Is there a prepaid auto service?. No, they tell me. It’s just like this so that the auto guys don’t fleece anyone. There are security personnel managing this entire process, and everyone’s waiting patiently for their turn. You get into the auto, and tell him where you want to go, and he takes you there without arguing, without trying to take detours. You ask for a card at the end, to check on the payment – and he’s accurate. No squabbling, no hassles. Efficient. In Delhi, an auto guy wwill prefer to do nothing for 20 minutes, just to charge a customer that extra 20 bucks.

Am here till the 23rd, early morning. The last few days have been fantastic – three conferences, very sapping – all. Lots of blogging at ContentSutra to catch up on…So today, I decided to sit back and clear the backlog. Sorry about not being able to meet you guys from FLS, but there’s also a CS meetup to organize. So…am meeting Ravi on Tuesday before the CS meetup…maybe you can join me there @bandra.

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From gloom to glory

Someone in the almost-immediate family passed away recently, in another city, and we’ve had a quite a few elderly visitors over the past few days. The week has ended today, and with that will probably end the period of mourning for most. As someone who hardly knew the deceased, I have been watching over the proceedings at home- disconnected and unemotional.
It reminds me of an email discussion I had with Mungo Jerrie on growing old, almost five years ago…the question of burning out versus fading away, and how we don’t want to ever grow old, infirm and dependent. Never thought much about death anyway. There’s a certain sense of…a mix of fatalism and carpe diem! about how many people I come across go about things; Carpe Diem! both in the sense living in the present and taking risks and not worrying about the future. Makes me feel a little older than some of the others (Yes A, you may continue to call me ancient), but I am aware that there will be days of both financial (what, with the kind of inflation this country has) and physical dependency; the former, one can and tries to prepare for, and the latter one ignores. What many don’t prepare for, since it is seems out of our control, is the latter: the two are linked, what with the progressively rising cost of healthcare in this country, which will increase with further corporatization.
I usually choose pubs over discotheques, primarily because of the kind of music played in the latter, but I was at a discotheque last night largely on the insistence of some friends from college. Also needed a break from the gloom that had pervaded the week. I was felicitated at my convocation ceremony (well over a year late, but…whatever) yesterday for academic excellence, so it was a celebratory outing of sorts. Gave an extempore speech, during which I was bloody nervous (but I’m told it wasn’t obvious). Very formal occasion, and no one laughed at the allusive jokes so I cut it down to two and a half minutes. People did thank me later for being the only one who didn’t bore them with a long speech. ‘Twas nice to meet old friends, including teachers. One said: “Your hair hasn’t grown for three and a half years!” I was tempted to say ‘yours too’, but one didn’t want to be impolite to bald teachers. Another (not bald) teacher thought I’ve got a bankers haircut (there are variants of close crops?). One thought that my biggest achievement wasn’t a 4.0 GPA, but actually managing “that lot”. Ours was a particularly difficult class to manage for most teachers, but I still maintain that had it been half as boring as other classes, we wouldn’t have had the freedom to innovate, or the experience of handling strange questions in presentations. Photos later.
Some thoughts on the afterparty – it’s crazy how late things begin: 11:30pm seems to be the norm in Delhi. The cover charges are insane – Rs.1000 and above- and sometimes even money can’t get you in… but if you know the right people (or, in my case – know the people who know the people who know the right people), you can. The music sucks, and the DJing seems random, but people are usually too drunk to notice. Fights invariably take place (as told to me by someone who knows), and two did last night. I heard that someone smashed a Merc in the parking. Also, there’s serious money in this pub business…some of these pubs spend crores on interiors and paying off the people who need to be paid off- and recover their money in a few months. One heard that Rs. 20L of profits on Saturdays is par for course, because of the margins in liquor. And of course – business is discussed after the music stops. Frankly, though I did have a nice, somewhat inebriated time, the gig at Haze would have been more to my liking. Nothing beats the right music, live music and a discerning audience…but that’s just me. Most people prefer to drive from discotheque to discotheque at 3am.

P.s.: Would like to thank Smits and Anita for helping out with the speech. I had it all printed out, and eventually decided to do it extempore.

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