Friday, August 26, 2011

India, its Government and Anna Hazare



There have been various viewpoints about the ongoing protests in India. And this differing viewpoints is  just another validation to the prevailing democracy in the country.

Is this really good? Is that justified? Is Anna Hazare holding the government to ransom? Should he be allowed to continue? Should he really be receiving the mass support that he is receiving? Should he have even many more voices supporting him?

Not everyone has a clean answer to these questions. And I don’t claim to have a definite answer either. But here’s what I believe.

Even if a strong lokpal bill reduces the corruptions level by as low as 10%, it is worth the fight. As for people who love debating the technicalities of the bill itself should just realize this- having a healthy discussion between the sides involved and having a common (in the real sense of the word) goal can solve that crisis.

What is the common goal?

Eliminate corruption. Now everyone understands that it’s not easy and a complete elimination might never be possible, let alone eliminating corruption in the next 10 days or 10 years or a 100 years.

Why is corruption bad?

Imagine this- if the figures that make it to the anti-corruption billboards are anywhere close to the real amount that was moved out of the country, it will be only fair to believe that India (actually its people) are taken for granted.

That amount if used for wisely could have

  •  Prevented hundreds of farmer suicides. (Yeh…but it also makes a good story, doesn’t it? Common... 'Peepli Live' was a hit! )
  •  Helped millions of children avail proper nutrition and eventually saved their lives. (Really? It also helps get you millions in aid. Don’t you want that?)
  •  Provided good education to millions of children in the rural region and put them at par with most urban-educated-self-proclaimed-upper-class citizens. ( Now you don’t really want that situation?)

One can come up with a list of similar examples and quite possibly a sarcastic comment along each one of them. But we all get the picture anyway. So do we want to eliminate corruption? Hell yes! Let’s clean them up.

Hang on. Lets dive in a lil’ deeper.

Corruption can really be split into two categories (and I am not following a known literature for this classification so pardon me if I don’t stand right up there per the standards). Let’s call it-

  • Low level corruption
  • High level corruption

Low level corruption:

These are the ones that really cause a lot of frustration and a sense of helplessness among the masses. The reason for both the cause and the effect for this one is more or less tied to basic human nature. As long as there’s an incentive attached to doing things, this will prevail. But that isn’t the way it should be in a civilization so evolved. Can we do something? Yes!

"Systemic Change...given the real will do it" is the sweet answer. Below are a few specific ways of getting it started.

  •  Come up with a new compensation package for government employees that is at par with the financial compensation for the private sector employees. This will more or less balance out the additional incentive involved in the current ecosystem. Singapore adopted this and they excelled. Can this be practiced in India? Doubtful…it’s a cost intensive solution.
  •  How about legalizing bribe in that the government employee gets a bonus from the government for every piece of work that they do? By doing this, both parties get what they want. There’s no frustration involved and everyone is abiding by the law. How cool does that sound?
  •  Systemic changes. Help change the ecosystem. Nandan Nilekani supports that and he is working on these line. See the video below.


High level corruption:

These are the generally the cases that most of the general population remain unaware of for a long long time. But boy are they of huge proportion? And do these really matter? The fact is this is exactly what matters. Only if one could curb this particular type of corruption by whatever margin, the benefits would for everyone to see. Well, technically …not everyone!

Is Lokpal (or Jan Lokpal) a solution to this? Hopefully, it is. And even if it is not, it definitely is a start in the right direction.

Well- if all of this is a known fact. Why hasn’t the government implemented it so far? After all, it’s only been around 42 years since it started to play around with this idea (Lokpal Bill). And one could say, it might very well spend another 42 years doing the same. After all, if you ask the murderer to decide the punishment for a murder, he will take his sweet time. Just sayin'.

So, if anything Anna Hazare is only helping the government do a job that it should have done ages ago. Be thankful. Don’t complain.


PS: Opinion expressed above are personal.

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's a circle, boy!

I stumbled upon this video article today.


This talks about eliminating packaging waste which accounts for 40% of the total US annual waste. Now, as innovative and novel as the idea sounds, it actually leaves me confused. I have seen this almost all my life. Funnily enough, most of the world has hardly seen the phase where you have fancy packaging for every product you buy.

The age-old convention that I have witnessed:
Milk- measured at your doorstep, poured in to your container.(Pasteurization- is your trouble:) )
Vegetables- Carry your bag and fill it with all the vegetables you wish. No pre-weighed/packaging business here.
Spices- the tradition has been usage of small paper packets (made of old newspapers)
This has been the case for almost everything else.

When you complete a full cycle, you really are back to the starting point.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cleaner to Millionaire

“I am sorry Bob. A new rule requires all school staff to have at least a diploma. You have done a great job for 20 years but I am afraid, you have to go” said the Principal.

Jobless, Bob started his own cleaning company. He offered his services to local businesses. To his surprise, citing the great job he did at the school, many businesses hired him willingly. Bob’s business soared. One day, a very rich Bob was called by his bank to sign a document.

“I don't know how to write. Thumbprint okay?” asked Bob.

“Really! Imagine how rich you would have been if you had an education” said the Bank Manager.

“Heck!” said Bob. “If I had an education, I’d still be a cleaner!”


Courtesy- Ankur Malik



Friday, June 17, 2011

Instant Company

Instant Company

Starting a company in 2011 is great. Back in 1999, when we started Ximian, the only tools a small startup could afford for their internal infrastructure were mailman and perl. It was ugly.

In 2011, the best tools on the planet cost $25/month, billed to your credit card. In just a few minutes you can have better infrastructure than most fortune 500 companies. It???s incredible.

So part of my first three weeks as CEO of Xamarin has felt like a trip to a toy store. Everyone loves window shopping, so here is a list of some of the tools we???re using to run our startup:

Google Apps. Mail, calendar, internal wiki, and shared document editing. Cost: $5/user/month.

Github Bronze. All of our code is stored in github???s private repositories. We love github. $25/month.

Asana. This is our task management tool and it???s fantastic. It???s the only distributed task system I???ve ever used that???s as fast as typing into a text editor. Asana is a new startup from Dustin Moskovitz, the founder of Facebook, and their product is in Beta. Our team loves using it and we predict great things for Asana as it rolls into launch.

Stripe. Stripe is a payment system designed for programmers. They have a beautiful API that???s so simple you can integrate it into your site in less than ten minutes. If you???ve ever had to use Paypal Payments Pro, you will have a deep appreciation for stripe. They don???t require a merchant account and their JavaScript API allows you to transmit credit card information directly from the customer???s browser to stripe???s servers without redirecting the user to a page. This reduces your PCI compliance burden without hobbling your payment workflow. Stripe will power our online store and future transaction systems. These guys are in beta too. They???re going to take over the world.

Themeforest. When I first discovered themeforest I thought it would be a wasteland of machine-generated CSS and generic templates. But the site is full of hand-coded, cross-browser gems for $15-30 a pop. There???s no substitute for high-end design, but if you need to get a decent-looking site up quickly, it???s your best bet, and far cheaper than it should be.

IRC + bip. We???re a distributed team, and having a place we can all hang out together online is very important to us. We wanted to find a for-pay, hosted group chat system that we loved, but campfire was too laggy, HipChat didn???t allow you to signin multiple places, and we didn???t feel we could trust a free solution like Convore. In the end we setup ngircd on a low-end, dedicated linode, configured to force SSL. A lot of us use bip as a proxy to maintain a persistent connection and show a backlog when you reconnect.

UnlimitedConferencing. For phone conferencing, we setup a $49/month account with We don???t pay a per-minute fee and international people can dial-in over skype to save money on long distance. It works fine.

Assistly. To handle incoming support requests from our future customers, we???ve looked at TenderApp, ZenDesk, and Assistly. We settled on Assistly after a support tech who???s worked with all three told us she prefers Assistly because it???s faster and easier to use. $69/support agent/month.

Linode and Rackspace. We use linode to setup quick Linux servers, and Rackspace for Windows servers. They???re cheap, reliable, and fast. If you need more power, a dedicated server from somewhere like 1and1 will do the trick. It???s surprising how far you can go on a $30/month linode. I???ve been using Linode for years and love them.

EFaxScanner Pro for iPhone, and PDFPen. It???s a dwindling fact of life that you need to send and receive faxes to do business. These three items have eliminated fax machines for us. We use EFax to forward incoming faxes to an email address. You can also use it to send faxes online. PDFPen is a mac app that blew me away when I took a JPEG and converted it to an OCR???d PDF in just a few seconds. You can also use it to mark up and to edit PDFs. And you can use Scanner Pro to convert a phonecam photo into a PDF that looks like it came off a scanner. You can even fax it directly from the phone (for a fee). It???s been a lifesaver.

BizSpark. BizSpark is Microsoft???s program to give startups free licenses to basically any piece of Microsoft software, including access to MSDN. If you plan to use any piece of Microsoft software, it???s a great program.

Ravix Group. One of the things we learned from Ximian is the value of signing on a part-time CFO from day one. At the very least you want a controller to keep your books in order and setup payroll and insurance, or you???ll have a big cleanup process later on. A higher-level finance person can also be very useful in helping you think through cap tables and convertibles notes and online billing and taxes and so on. We interviewed a bunch of individuals doing part-time CFO consulting for various startups. Their fees varied from a $6,000 monthly retainer plus 0.25% of post-series A equity, to $125/hour flat. In the end, we got some great references from Ravix Group, a firm that do outsourcing of financial and HR tasks for startups. They have a deep team and can assign various individuals to your tasks as appropriate. We???ve only just started working with them but it looks great so far.

Ropes and Gray. There???s no substitute for a great lawyer, and we have one of the best firms in the country with Ropes and Gray. Our team there is incredibly responsive, works weekends and late nights, and knows their stuff. Like working with a CFO, having a great lawyer has some benefits you might not expect: in addition to their legal expertise, they see a lot of deals, and can tell you what???s ???market??? and what isn???t. We never would have raised our Series B financing at Ximian without Ropes and Gray, and we???re happy to be working with them again.

I???m sure there are some other great products out there, but this is our list. Hopefully it???s helpful to someone who???s just starting to do the research. It really is a wonderful time to start a company.

17 June 2011

Thanks to Nat for such a great share. Things have definitely changed a lot during the last decade.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Marriages are made in heaven.

A close friend of mine shared a video on Facebook recently. It was one of his many shares and one that grabbed the regular eyeballs. The video was about marriages ...or rather 'benefits of arranged marriage'. This, approximately 12 minute video also showed a statistic at the end of it and the message said- '90% of marriages in India are still arranged and only 5% of them end in a divorce' ...and hence left behind a lot of seemingly important-but-overlooked implications. Let’s go through a few of them.

[vimeo w=595&h=336]

1. If you want to have a happy married life, arranged marriage is the way to go.

2. Divorces are common in the world where marriages are not arranged.

While I would hate to question the facts presented, I would definitely want to dig a little deeper here. Does marriages have a different meaning in this part of the world compared to the other parts of the world? Does a divorce presents a different picture here? May be it does.

When we say marriage lasts long here, I am assuming, we mean people choose not to separate for long (or forever). Is this same as the bond strengthened by the intense (or not-so-intense) love between the couple? Could be Yes...could be No.

Now, at the risk of questioning the holy institution of marriage, it isn't far sighted to believe that a unhappy and married couple wouldn't choose to relieve themselves from the burden because they don't even think of divorce as an option or separation would mean a big deal of social embarrassment or they are just not supposed to do so .... Hence the arrangement(marriage) is not only meant to tie the arranged opposites together but to officially lock them together whether, after a certain time, they like it or not. A few (probably most of them) of those 5% probably get away with this.

Am I suggesting that divorces are a good thing? No I am not. I am just trying to say- stay happy if you really are and don't point at someone else and say you are no good because you are not like me.

A good friend of mine once in our regular chit chats in general said- parents generally help out the 'losers' in the family find someone if they are convinced their child will no longer be able to find someone on his own beyond a certain point in time. I just agreed :)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Why I Hate Debates?

Let’s talk.  You love to talk and I love to listen. And when I talk you listen. How sweet would that world be? For all I would want, I often don’t get that scene set up. On the contrary, I do stumble upon souls who are so eager to prove their god-damn point. I pity them and I hope they find something better to attach their pride with rather than their ego-loaded (I-don’t-care-what-you-say-I-AM-BLOODY-RIGHT!) point less statements.

All this is fine. But I feel the pinch when that someone gets into your head and forces you to fight back and agree with his truck load of bs. Here’s what I do to stay away from such situation. I nod my head and give an impression that I completely agree with whatever they have to say. I just can’t get into any debate. I can’t get into deciding what is right and what is wrong. And does that really make sense? What may be right for someone might very well be not-so-right for someone else? It’s all in the context and perspectives, isn’t it? And anyway, you can’t paint everything in black and white. There’s got to be a lot of grey area. And that’s why I just don’t see a point in debating? Just not worth the time.

That said, there’s a fine line between a debate and a discussion. Once we align on a common objective, I am all yours. We can have an endless conversation and more often than not get something out of it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Who am I?

The question that stumps me the most is 'who really are you?'. And how
many times have we tried hard to be ??the right the victor,
the flag bearer, the champ, the blah and the blah. I thought it's
time to just pen down what i really do...and what i really am.

I try.
I fail.
I try.
I win.
I fear.
I fight.
I make.
I break.
I surrender.
I lead.
I pray.
I show.
I hide.
I like.
I dislike.
I help.
I share.
I suffer.
I enjoy.
I sympathize.
I empathize.
I care.
I trouble.
I envy.
I love.
I am flawed. And I am just another imperfect guy.