Archive for January, 2006

Sudha Murthy, Nandan Nilekani, Ramadorai get Padma Award

January 27, 2006

It is heartening to note that Infosys Foundation Chair Sudha Murthy, Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani, and TCS CEO S Ramadorai were declared winners of the prestigious Civilian Awards of the Government of India, namely PADMA Awards in yesterday’s Republic Day function (January 26, 2006).

It is a proud day for IT Professionals.

Padma Shri award winner Sudha Murthy is an outstanding IT Professional; married to NR Narayana Murthy, the “icon figure” of Indian IT industry, Sudha Murthy was the “angel investor” for Infosys, though she is fully devoted to Social Service these days.

Padma Bhushan Award winners Nandan Nilekani & S Ramadorai are first generation entrepreneurs / managers; it is a proud moment for all of us; equally, it is an inspiration for the current generation of youngsters that they too can rise to the highest levels thru meritocracy, without “connections”, “influence” or “power brokers” in today’s India.

RFID in India

January 24, 2006

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is here to stay. The bulk of the RFID applications are in the area of Supply Chain Management (SCM); Wal-Mart is driving the adoption of this technology in Retail. Other current applications include Passports (USA, Pakistan, and New Zealand), pet animals, automobile keys (Toyota Piris), and drugs. The standards are still emerging. Infosys & Wipro have Centers of Excellence in RFID. Prof Sanjay Sharma of MIT Auto ID Center, who spearheaded the drive to reduce costs of “RFID tag” from $ 2.50 to $ 0.05 (expected by 2007 when the adoption reaches 33 Billion a year from the current 1.5 Billion), has been visiting Indian IT companies.

It was heartening to find professionals from IBM, HP, Microsoft, Rockwell, Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant, Bartronics, Gemini Communications, PCS, Ashok Leyland and Tata Motors, and Professors from IIMB & IIIT-B making presentations and participants from Amara Raja, Audco, Britannia Industries, Cognizant, Excel India, Geo Logistics, Infosys, ITC, Kurl-on, L & T, MICO, Ramco, Reliance Logistics, Satyam, Shoppers Stop, STPI, Southern Railway, Sundaram Clayton, TAFE, TNPL, Visteon, Wipro Peripherals and Wheels India attending the 2-day conference.

It is time we get a working group to address the standards issues (participating in evolving standards), seeding of national level projects, documentation of Indian success stories, engaging with the governments (particularly on standards issues) and evangelization of this technology for the benefit of Indian industries.

May be CII can take the lead; Infosys & Wipro in IT Services, Ashok Leyland & Tata Motors in Auto industry and Stoppers Shop in retail could be the initial anchor companies. Any takers?

(Keynote Address at CII National Conference on RFID Technology, Chennai, January 23-24, 2006)

Deep observation by Dutch Prime Minister

January 21, 2006

In a meeting with just select 20 professionals in Bangalore on January 18, 2006, Dutch Prime Minister Dr Jan Peter Balkenende made some deep observations, which were heartening for any Indian. He listened patiently to every one, took notes and summarized the discussions, almost in a “professorial” sense (his early career).

What was interesting was his observation that most of us in the 90-minute session did NOT mention Government (that is conspicuous by presence AND action these days), or the problems; all of us had talked about the possibilities. In the eyes of the Dutch Prime Minister, it was an extra-ordinary positive spirit that communicated the strong feeling we all have that “tomorrow will be better than today”. His Excellency was emphasizing the fact that such optimism was not that common in West European nations.

In his talk at IISc (Indian Institute of Science), he even said “India’s day has come”.

Hopefully, we will convert such positive feelings into some positive energy; that, and that alone will change India into a “developed Nation” soon, in fact soon enough to happen in our life time!

Small countries can teach us so many things!

January 17, 2006

It was a special occasion to meet with Irish Prime Minister Mr. Bertie Ahern over lunch at Hotel Taj Residency today (January 17, 2005). It is probably one of the first ever visit by Irish PM. The delegation that he was leading had 100 business people and an equal number from academia, officials and diplomatic staff. The Prime Minister spoke exceptionally well, highlighting the emergence of Ireland into the third largest exporter in the world with exports of $ 85 Billion and a two-way trade of $ 135 Billion; that too for a country with a population of just 4 Million! Ireland is a leader in high-tech industry, particularly computer software. The Prime Minister talked of India’s software industry and even mentioned about Tom Friedman’s book “The world is flat” and emphasized the fact that the book was inspired by the author’s conversations with Nandan Nilekani in Bangalore. It was a proud moment of for many Bangaloreans like me in the audience.

The PM’s delegation had several dozen people from academia. The Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Kenneth Bell & Director of Research Professor Trveor Newsom as well as Professor Satish Kumar from the 150-year old Queens University in Belfast and the Head of International Office of the University of Ulster Professor Joan Reilly were the people I interacted with.

With such small countries building, nurturing, growing and marketing their higher education Institutions, one cannot feel sad when we see the “powers that be” stifling the growth of our Institutes of Higher Learning. The PM-led delegation from Ireland is learning from us; when will we learn from them?

Source of energy and cycles of power – Lecture by Justice Venkatachaiah

January 16, 2006

Justice Venkatachaliah, former Chief Justice of India and an eminent intellectual and humanist, delighted the audience this evening in his Nehru Memorial Lecture on the occasion of 46th Institute Day at Central Power Research Institute (CPRI), Bangalore.

The learned Justice traced the contribution of Prime Minister Nehru – his building Institutions, Industry and the Intellectual Infrastructure for modern India (including the founding of CPRI).

He next traced the firm faith reposed in democracy by Indians in the post-independent India, though none other than the then Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong talked of development AND democracy not generally going together)

He next compared the development in electrical power and its impact on textile industry. He even compared the cost reduction in today’s electronics & computer industry to the many-fold cost reduction in power in the early days.

He talked of the nearly 60% share of India & China in global trade in 1870, its fall over the years to just 1-2% by late 20th Century, and the resurgence of India & China.

He finally traced the slow growth in power addition in India, the enormous resources that are “spent” but will little to show on the ground (thanks to leakage); and the artificially high “transmission & distribution” losses. He minced no words in describing the reality of thefts and diversion of power that suits the “powers that be”.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening. Listening to a “powerful” speaker, an extra-ordinary intellectual and a “non-Engineer” talking about “power” in the campus of Central Power Research Institute is something I will treasure for years.

Turing Award winners in India

January 14, 2006

Microsoft Research (MSR) India had organized Tech Vista in Bangalore on January 12, 2006 as part of their first anniversary function.

Incidentally this date coincides with the birthday of Swami Vivekananda).

Sir Hoare, the British Scientist, the inventor of Quick Sort algorithm (that every CS student learns in his very first set of courses), and 1980 Turing Award winner (considered the Nobel Prize in Computing) currently with MSR and Professor Raj Reddy, Founding Director of Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and 1994 Turing Award winner were there as special guests. MSR had invited about 50 college students and high school students in addition to many IT professionals in Bangalore.

Tony Hoare talked on “My forty years in Computing” starting from his study of the philosophy of mathematics in UK, probability theory in Moscow, his early experiments in computer translation of Russian to English and the need to keep the words sorted so as to optimize the sequential processing of data in a magnetic tape (with no large scale RAM or Disk available at that time), which in turn led to his invention of Quick Sort algorithm. It was interesting to listen to his view “proving correctness of programs will be of little interest to industry people during his research career in Oxford”; and, his current observation that “Industry taking active interest in program correctness today”. Interestingly, right in Bangalore, MSR India researcher Sriram Rajamani is leading a group “rigorous software engineering”.

Professor Raj Reddy’s talk on “Research Directions in Digital Libraries” brought out the many challenges in OCR, machine translation, speech, classification and summarization.

Other distinguished speakers include Rick Rashid (of Mach o/s fame) who heads MSR (the Lab with the largest research annual budget of $ 5 Billion in the world), Princeton Engineering Dean Maria Kluwe, Professor Takeo Kanade, the world-renowned Robotics researcher of CMU, Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala (of corDECT fame) of IIT Madras, Dr Tan Ling of MSR and Andrew Zisserman (the best known Computer Vision researcher in the world) of Oxford University.

It was indeed a day of listening to exciting talks and getting influenced by inspiring people; more importantly, it was also a unique experience of interacting with outstanding human beings and feel the “humility” of such great men and women.

The added attraction was the meeting of several renowned researchers from IIT’s and IIIT’s, research labs (HP, IBM, Infineon, Infosys, Philips, Siemens and TCS), budding researchers and young students.

Kapil Sibal, Hon’ble Minister of Science & Technology inaugurated the function and spoke extraordinarily well. There was also the launch of Virtual India that brings interactive digital maps of India in the hands of common man and woman in India.

An excellent start for the New Year 2006

January 2, 2006

BSNL announcing 28% cut in landline rentals,

Airtel, BSNL and Hutch announcing “all life” plan (where one will receive incoming calls all of his / her life with no expiry, as long as there is minimum usage) for one-time Rs 999, and

Reliance announcing its own “IndiaOne” with a uniform tariff of Rs 1 for calls across any long-distance location within India

are three important announcements that will bring telecom more affordable to Indians.

Finally “aam admi” is getting his due attention!

A great start to the New Year 2006

January 2, 2006

BSNL announcing 28% cut in landline rentals,

Airtel, BSNL and Hutch announcing “all life” plan (where one will receive incoming calls all of his / her life with no expiry, as long as there is minimum usage) with Rs 999, and

Reliance announcing its own “IndiaOne” with a uniform tariff of Rs 1 for calls across any long-distance location within India are two important announcements that will bring telecom more affordable to Indians.

Finally “aam admi” is getting his due attention!