Archive for January, 2007

Ittiam does India proud for three years in a row

January 25, 2007

Ittiam was declared the “world’s most preferred DSP IP supplier 2006” as per DSP Professionals Survey conducted by Forward Magazine, USA; that too for the third year in a row, a rare distinction for any company that too for a start-up from India just five years back (January 1, 2001, to be precise)

Ittiam (an acronym for “I Think Therefore I AM”) is an amazing company started by ex TI veteran Srini Rajam. With its laser sharp focus on DSP algorithms, Ittiam focuses on IP (Intellectual Property) in the DSP space and “licenses” technology to giants in consumer electronics space.

Ittiam is singularly focused on DSP with a mission “To be the World’s best DSP Software and Systems Company

With just one person making to Ittiam for every 500 applicants, Ittiam is the most selective company in the neighborhood; still it has managed to assemble 200 professionals demonstrating the talent availability in Bangalore.

An exciting talk on “Brain, Computers & Intelligence” by Mriganka Sur of MIT

January 24, 2007

As part of TechVista (Annual Research Symposium of Microsoft Research India) on January 23, 2007 Professor Mriganka Sur, Head, Brain & Cognitive Sciences at MIT talked of the need to understand brain functioning which may fundamentally change the way we build computers (human beings serving computers than computers serving computers genuinely). He talked of the past 20 years where brain research is getting a glimpse of the 100 million neurons and a potential 100 trillion “synapse’s” and addressing the twin questions of

    How is the brain wired?
    How does the wiring create brain function?

Professor Sur talked repeatedly of the importance of specificity and plasticity and their interplay; he also postulated that brain wiring happens at the very early stage of human embryo formation and the networks are constantly shaped by the environment – interaction with the world and other human beings. It was an exciting talk by any standards.

It was interesting to get a feel of the tools and technologies including “gene chip” and the “next generation imaging”. It was an insight to note that half the brain is devoted to “vision”. The study of the brain over two centuries, some amazing insights of the early pioneers (though some of them were found to be wrong later), some key contributions of brain research leading to Nobel Prizes and Professor Sur’s feeling that there will be more Nobel Prizes for this area convincingly brought out the excitement of this area.

Hopefully some of the younger audience including several IIIT-B students will be inspired to devote their life to pursuing this exciting area.

It is nice to note that Professor Sur studied B Tech (EE) from IIT Kanpur and Professor Prabhu who is amongst us (IIIT-B faculty member) had taught him.

TCS does India proud

January 17, 2007

By taking quarterly revenues past $ 1 billion and quarterly profits beyond Rs 1,000 crores TCS has set yet another benchmark in performance for the quarter ended December 2006. TCS will be $ 4 billion by March 31, 2007, making India proud.

For years media and academics have been looking down on Indian software services industry, often comparing IBM’s turnover per employee with Indian software services companies and making the Indian services companies appear in poor light; often such a comparison was one between apples and oranges and NOT a fair comparison. With global IT services companies like IBM, Accenture, EDS and CapGemini having large-scale operations in India (exceeding 25,000) it will be clear soon that Indian IT services companies are not doing bad at all!

What needs to change for India to create more product companies?

January 11, 2007

With IT services companies (Infosys, Satyam, TCS, Wipro) being phenomenally successful, there is an urge amongst many of us to see similar success in product companies, particularly the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing area – the focus of VLSI 2007 conference.

Veerappan of Tessolve set the stage for the panel discussion.

Pradeep Vajram (VP Engg, QualComm) talked of three issues

    Companies to focus on depth, take risks and use the “network” – characteristics of Silicon Valley companies
    Need for networking among industry professionals
    Education & Research institutions and industry should work closely; about 25% of Institute revenues coming from Industry is one good indication

Ganapathi Subramaniam (CEO Cosmic Circuits) talked about four issues

    Ecosystem to engage all partners
    Talent to be available I the areas of finance & marketing, design and operations; currently no operation experience is available in India and may be we need to import this talent
    Infrastructure (particularly logistics) to support manufacture
    VC funding that understands the complexity of semiconductor, electronics and manufacturing

Samir Kumar (Managing Partner, Investus Capital) talked of five issues

    Capital to be available in a way very different from services companies (not Banking type but entrepreneurs controlling VC funds)
    Risk taking amongst people and the society supporting
    Skill-sets to match the requirements
    Market to absorb (luckily it is happening in India)
    Role models for success in manufacturing (the way Infosys for services companies)

I mentioned about the lack of people with advanced degrees (M Tech / PhD) – comparing USA (75,000 BS while 15,000 PhD in Science & Engineering) Vs India (3,75,000 B Tech but just 1,000 PhDs in Engineering), influence of parents, society putting value in “number of people reporting into you” than the “contributions by you as an individual” as impediments

There were some interesting questions from the audience. There was a feeling that in the next 3 years there will be some role models and success stories through products from India.

(Panel discussion on January 10, 2007 during VLSI 2007 International Conference at NIMHANS Convention Center, Bangalore)

Unwire Bangalore

January 10, 2007

Unwire Bangalore started about a year back when the then IT Secretary got excited about the idea. It was a way to maintain the leadership position of Bangalore in the global IT scene.

Over the first six months of 2006, an expert committee comprising experts from academia (IISc & IIIT-B), industry (BSNL, HP & Intel) and government (IT department) sent out an initial request for interest and engaged about 30 vendors; after an initial screening based on technical expertise, seven consortia were short-listed; the final RFP document running into more than 100 pages was circulated. The parties are to submit the final proposal by Jan 31, 2007. We expect to award the contract by mid-February. A trial run is to start before March 31, 2007. The trial run will have at least 5,000 users using the service for at least 90 days; there will be a monitoring of the engineering side by the experts and user-expectation by media (CNBC and NDTV for example) before the final roll out by mid-2007.

What is special about Unwire Bangalore is the fact that there is zero direct investment from the government and it will play an enabling role (permitting assets for mounting equipment, getting spectral license on priority..). There is active involvement from several government departments (e-governance, police, healthcare, education, traffic..), who will use the infrastructure to speed up their own computerization plans. Several Secretaries to the Government have been involved with the project. The focus will be “citizens”, with business and government benefiting and contributing to the success. It will be vendor neutral (no “lock-in” permitted) and technology agnostic (though most of the parties are talking of a mix and match of Wi-Max and Wi-Fi). The emphasis is on standards-based solutions (including evolving standards). We expect it to be city-wide (about 600 square kilometers) and not a small part (about a square kilometer).

With consumers tasting mobile phone the user expectation is similar; “can we have seamless mobility for data on our “computer” the way we have seamless mobility of voice on our mobile phone?” is the central thought of the 800+ users who tasted Wi-Max during Oct 28 – November 1, 2006 ( event in Bangalore) where Wi-Max was demonstrated for free public use.

What is the business model? Will it succeed? Will it work at all? Why not take the 3G route?

We do NOT have answers; the fact that 30+ vendors have been talking to us for more than a year, sending proposals, planning demos etc., gives us the confidence it will fly! Interestingly, San Jose Mercury News carried a story on “Unwire Bangalore” and the story had some kind words for the project. Only time will tell.

(Presented in the IEEE COMSWARE International Conference in Bangalore during the Panel Discussion on January 9, 2007)

Statistical Science, OR and IT

January 8, 2007

As we enter the year 2007, there is more OR happening and more statistical tools used, then ever in the history of mankind.

IT is growing by leaps and bounds, more so in India, with Indian IT companies Infosys, TCS and Wipro scaling to combined employee strength of more than 200,000 and combined annual revenue of nearly USD 10 billion. Since I know IT in India in more detail let me give some “statistics” to set the context. IT contributes to 4% of GDP of India today, created about 2.5 million jobs and accounts for Rs 120,000 Crores (USD 28 billion) export; it has potential to contribute 8% of GDP, add another 3.5 million jobs and Rs 300,000 crores (USD 80 billion) in the next decade. More important, companies like Infosys have managed several “firsts” for the entire industry; the first to offer ESOP (share wealth), list in NASDAQ (globalization), get NASDAQ opened “remotely” from Mysore (moving IT to Tier II towns) and be part of NASDAQ 100 (global leadership). IT and India are said to “go together” the way perfumes & France are or watches and Switzerland are.

India had a tradition of excellence in statistical sciences, aptly demonstrated by the likes of Professor CR Rao, Indian Statistical Institute and the very hosts (Statistical Department of SV University, Tirupati and the founder Prof MP Sastry).

India has a tradition of OR (the likes of Narendra Karmakar, the string of OR conferences by ORSI, many times in this very town).

It is time that we “leverage the synergy” to get a “leading position” to the country (we had been “trailing the West” for too long). In this talk, we trace the developments in OR, Statistical Science & IT in India and sketch the exciting scenario possible in the medium-term.

For brevity I will use just one example, namely, Data Mining.

It uses IT, Statistics & OR; it has applications in credit card rating, retail shelf-space optimization and to analyze telecom subscriber churn. With the fastest growing mobile market in the world (surpassing China) Indian mobile sector is hot (the global ripples in Hutch purchase is an indication). Retail boom is just starting with Tatas, Birlas, HLL, Godrej and Ambanis (the bigwigs) and FabMall, Subhiksha (the future bigwigs) getting their act together. Indian credit card growth will be the fastest in the world soon. Already GE, Honeywell, iFlex (to name a few) have some of the largest data mining groups in the world located in India. Naturally OR and Statistics have a great role to play. The youngsters should talk the right “lingo” to benefit. After all Google Page Rank algorithm and its constant fine-tuning are nothing but an excellent application of statistics, OR and of course IT.

If Google experience is an indication the next billionaire will be the one who uses statistics, OR and IT; it could well be from India; it could even be from this very town Tirupati!

Hopefully the Lord of the Seven Hills will bless us to reach there!

(Keynote Address, ISPS Annual Conference, Tirupati on January 7, 2006)

“ICICIBank takes over Citibank; Infosys acquires IBM; Reliance takes over Exxon; Tata Motors takes over GM; and finally Times of India takes over New York Times” – things that Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar wishes

January 1, 2007

Times of India (Dec 31, 2006) carries an excellent piece by Swaminathan Aiyar the decisive columnist with guts; he talks of the change that is taking place in the minds of Indian businessmen. From being afraid of foreign companies “finishing off” Indian companies they have started to think differently and successfully attempting acquisitions abroad. Even a small company like Subex Systems acquired Azure for a whopping $ 140 million last year. Aiyar goes on to suggest that Indian companies should attempt major acquisitions; the likes of IBM, GM, Exxon and Citibank. They are far-fetched today; interestingly they may NOT be far-fetched tomorrow.

I remember my days in 1997 when I was teaching the MBA class at Rutgers (The State University of New Jersey) when some Chinese students in the class talked of Chinese companies acquiring big American companies. It was far fetched at that time; but in 2005 Lenovo happened (Chinese company Legend Computers acquiring IBM PC business!)

Wait for 2015 and some of these far-fetched wishes may become true!

Of course, they must be done in all humility and with NO arrogance whatsoever (the way Infosys approached every major achievement – NASDAQ listing, NASDAQ opening from Mysore and entering NASDAQ 100)