Friday, May 30, 2008

Bangalore's New Airport is Awesome

Well anything would have been an improvement over the HAL airport which probably should have been condemned a few years back. But other than the fact that it is 50km outside of the city center, I've got no complaints. At 3am, it only took me 1 hour to get to the airport, but they say during rush hour it can take upwards of 2 hours, so domestic flights will definitely be a real bitch.

I flew out of the new Bengaluru International Airport on the second day of operation. It's about 100 times larger than the old airport and really a beautiful mix of glass and marble. It seems to be a modern airport in just about every facet. Didn't even have to walk out onto the tarmac this time. Real gates and everything.

The only thing I can't comment on yet is the luggage process. For those that flew into HAL in the past, you're all familiar with the 1-hour+ waits to get your luggage. But so far so good.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

India as an Innovation Hub

I was reading Navi Radjou's recent blog post on the HBR site on entitled "Is India an Innovation Giant... or Pygmy?". Given that I just got back from India last week, I had some thoughts that I wanted to share.

My company, Symphony Services, provides product engineering services for software, telecom and web-based companies, so innovation is critical. As expected, we have a significant segment of our delivery operations in India, so India's ability to act as an innovation partner is key to our success. That being said, I see a few issues that can impact India's ability to continue filling the cup: Hubris and Infrastructure.

1. Hubris: India, Inc. has to stop reading it's own press clippings. I've heard predictions that by 2025 India will own ALL product R&D and that US personnel at software companies will simply be sales and marketing functions. This has 2 implications for me. First that there is a discounting of the importance of contact with the end customer in creating innovation products and services. It's the same kind of "we know better than the market" that is the battle cry of most engineering organizations. I saw it when at Kyocera and the paraphrase Chip Heath of 'Make it Stick' fame, that's why your remote control has 53 buttons. Secondly, it presumes that the rest of the world is either standing still or will just 'get dumb' at the same time. Not happening. Lastly, it seems as if no one realizes that this kind of message will play very poorly with the same people that they want to sell to.

2. Infrastructure. Anyone who's been to India knows what I'm talking about. A 2 hour commute to go 10km is insane. And the prospect of adding thousands of more $2500 cars to the current state of affairs is just a bad idea. Look at the impact that the creation of the national highway system had on the US economy in the 60's. It allowed the population to spread out, create jobs through the construction and the resulting housing boom that followed as people could commute to city centers. And the ability to facilitate interstate commerce was a boon to all sectors of the economy. With a similar investment, the potential for the majority of the population to begin to reap some of the benefits of the ITO/BPO boom would create dramatic change in the economy and create more options for entrepreneurs to thrive, not just in the tech sector, but in all aspects of the economy. Infrastructure would grease the skids for the Indian economy and spur the creation of new companies and fortunes to battle the existing oligopoly that exists today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Arrival in Bangalore

Sometimes you just get that expectation that things will improve. India is projecting a world-class economy, but it looks like no one has yet to tell the airports. As usual, I arrived in Bangalore airport and had to wait almost an hour and a half to get my baggage. It's seems incredible that it can take that long until you see the guy "driving up" with the luggage trolleys...on a bicycle. The only thing different from all my other trips to Bangalore airport is that I didn't have to walk through the mosquito killing fog on the way outside.

I understand that I'll be traveling back to the US through the new Bangalore airport which opens on Friday. I think it was built by Lufthansa, so the Germans probably know how to build a modern airport, so my hopes are high. The only downside is that instead of 20 minutes to the hotel, it will now take up to 2 hours. Mind boggling since the trip is only 50 kilometers or 30 miles for those of you slow with math. But that's Bangalore traffic for you.

Good News/Bad News

Well shortly after decrying the fact that I couldn't get into the BA Lounge, I went to go check in for the flight to Bangalore. When I showed up, I found to my surprise that I did in fact get upgraded to Club World. That made for a much nicer flight, but I sure wish I found out earlier so that I could have gotten that massage. The good news is that a massage in my hotel is only about $15, so I'll be teeing one of those up.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Barney Frank and the Miss America Pageant?

One of the things I look forward to in the Saturday Boston Globe is the political cartoons and quotes of the week on the Op-Ed page. I usually get a couple of good chuckles out of it and this week was no exception.

"People aren't good at doing things they dislike. Like asking me to judge the Miss America contest -- if your heart's not in it, you don't do a very good job."

Representative BARNEY FRANK of Massachusettes, on persuading Republicans to bail out the economy.

It's a funny quote considering that Rep. Frank is a well known homosexual.

But it's also disappointing that this is reality. It's amazing to me that the only time Republicans are behind a bailout is when the company is big enough to line their pockets for a re-election bid -- the Chrysler bailout under Reagan, tax breaks to oil companies and the Fed's recent actions for Bear Stearns. But when a bill is proposed to provide $500M in funds to keep people in their houses during the current mortgage credit collapse Republicans don't want to help. They don't want to "reward" banks for making bad credit decisions, sidestepping the fact that the real beneficiaries are the people who are currently living in those houses. What's worse is that the opponents of the bill suffer from amnesia when they make their arguments. The bill clearly states that the benefits only accrue to people who are already living in the houses, preventing others from literally cashing in on others' misfortunes for their own gain.

$1200 tax rebates are nice, but in a situation where we spend $4B a day to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, $500M during the course of a year to help keep people in their homes and steady a precipitously declining housing market seems like a more than reasonable way to spend our taxpayers' money. Perhaps the people who get the rebates will then use them to keep their mortgages current and fill up their gas tanks instead of blowing the money on rent and moving expenses.

On the way to Bangalore

It's been about a year since I've been to India and I'm on the way. I know it's something that I need to do...and I pushed to take the trip, but I don't really enjoy the trip. It's 9 days away from my family who I will miss terribly. I also leave with the fear of wondering what will happen when I'm away. I don't expect anything terrible, but it just seems that whenever I travel, especially on an extended trip, either my wife or my daughter...or both...gets sick. And with no family around, I know that it's a lot of stress on my wife, especially now as she's super busy with 3 clients and not enough babysitting time.

And in addition, I have a jammed-packed week in Bangalore and Pune. I've got my day almost completely booked. But more than that, I'm sure, as usual, that I will be dining alone each night. For some reason, no one ever seems to volunteer to go out even one night. That's one thing that I miss about working for the Japanese. There you were never alone and rarely sober after work. I will always remember that while I worked at Kyocera, that every time I visited Japan they worked it out that one person would go to dinner with me, if not a group. And on my first trip to Tokyo, one of my colleagues (Mishima-san) spent the entire day with me on the weekend...with his wife...showing me around Tokyo. Well above the call of duty. But I believe it is the cultural importance of developing personal relationships in Japan that drives that. India is a much different vibe. Nice people all the same, but not near as collegial an environment.

Well here I am waiting at Heathrow for my connection here at the KLM Holideck lounge using free Wifi, drinks and snacks. But as soon as I found out that the BA Lounge had a spa, I was bummed that I can't get in there. Unfortunately, the BA Lounge is only for Club World and above. You'd think in an international airport like this there would at least be one of those quick massage places where you sit in the chairs like they have at rinky-dink airports in the US and even malls. With 16 hours of flights and a 5 hour layover, that would have felt nice.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Office for Mac Sets Sales Records

In what amounts to a "easy to show big percentage increases when your prior results are so poor" news item, Microsoft announced that it's sales for Office for Mac 2008 are the highest in 19 years and 3 times higher than Office for Mac 2004.

Of course these new sales records are due only to the Mac's success and not the quality of the new Microsoft suite. Can you imagine how many more would be sold if Office for Mac 2008 was any good? It is still a poor step-child to Office 2007. In particular, Entourage is still lacking true Exchange & Blackberry integration and many of the basic features that make Outlook superior. In fact, I've had to switch back to using Outlook in Parallels. It's "great" that it's native Mac for Intel code, but criminal that Microsoft delivers such a poor version compared to what they make available for Windows users.

It's hard not to presume that delivering sub-standard products for the Mac is part of an intentional strategy to drive business users back to the Windows platform even though Vista's stability and overall performance is so disappointing.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

2009 NFL Draft Talk

Well we're only 3 days removed from the 2008 Draft so of course ESPN & Scout's Inc. didn't waste much time to focus on next year with their first 2009 NFL Mock Draft.

After this year's draft I am not confident about the fortunes of the Titans in 2009. But I was surprised that Todd McShay projects the Titans with the 11th pick. I think they're going to miss the playoffs for sure...and I've been a Titans fan for 30 years...but I don't see them falling that far.

The only thing that I know is wrong about McShay's prediction is that he has them drafting a receiver. Won't happen. I just pray to God that they don't draft another RB. The Titans are now to RBs as the Lions are to WRs. And the guy McShay has projected to them doesn't come from a small enough school. Surely there's a WR from East Idaho State who runs a 4.29 that they will become infatuated with.

Now DE, DT or ILB Laurinaitis would be interesting to me.