Amit Paranjape’s Blog

What current startups & tech companies can learn from the Dotcom Era

Posted in Information Technology, Science & Technology by Amit Paranjape on March 30, 2009

Feels like an eternity since the 2000 Dotcom Era! Especially given that everyone’s now talking about the present global financial crisis.

 

We all have short memories, and the present crisis often times leads us to forget other crises from the past. And yet, I still see many tech companies and startups (especially here in India) repeat those same mistakes from 1999-2000, a decade later. There are many people who have talked about this topic, and I still feel that some points are not being adequately covered.

 

As someone who lived through this entire crazy era, I wanted to add my views on this. Here are 21 lessons that I would like to highlight. 

 

1. ‘Dreaming & Envisioning’ = Good. ‘Day Dreaming’ = Not Good.

 

2. Revenues and operating profits are extremely important! Be conservative in ways in which you invest cash.

 

3. Control costs at all levels. If your office starts resembling a kitchen pantry or a stationery supply room, then there’s something wrong!

 

4. Travel – only when you absolutely have to! There are enough technology enablers to reduce travel substantially. Leverage them to their fullest.

 

5. Do not think about ‘VC Funding’ or even ‘Angel Funding’ from day-1. On the same note, don’t focus on valuations, unless and until you are actually raising external funding!

 

6. While it’s important for a startup to be ‘passionate’ about their business, their idea – make sure that this ‘passion’ is pointed in the right direction. ‘Passion without direction’ can be more dangerous than a slow steady calculated approach.

 

7. Remember, not every crazy idea that a new startup thinks of, is genuinely novel and path-breaking. Chances are high that many of these so called ‘master-strokes’ are ideas that were rejected by more mature companies after an objective analysis.

  

8. Advertising alone is not a sufficient revenue channel for internet based business models.

 

9. You should be able to explain your idea in clear and simple terms; without using any ‘buzz words’.

 

10. Pure-play B2C Services online models seldom succeed. Often times, a strong offline component is also essential.

 

11. Software quality is very important – scalability, reliability, and end-user experience are extremely crucial metrics.

 

12. Focus on your core domain – don’t chase each and every hot new opportunity area.

 

13. Remember, technology is simply a means to an end, and not and end by itself. Focus on the problem to be solved, and not the ‘cool technology’! 

 

14. B2B models cannot rule and control the value-chain! They are merely facilitators.

 

15. B2B models offering ‘SaaS’ services should focus on the business value of that service, and not simply ‘fancy software and deployment architectures’.

 

16. Don’t overdo perks such as freebies, parties, gimmicks, etc in order to ‘motivate’ and ‘retain’ employees. Ultimately, more mundane things like the founder’s vision and personal leadership skills are more important. Cash and stock ownership are important as well!

 

17. Take the ‘experts and analysts predictions’ of new and emerging technology and market areas with a pinch of salt. Do your own research.

 

18. Do not listen to those media experts who proclaim- ‘This time, its different!’ It usually isn’t. The fundamental laws of business (like the fundamental laws of science) don’t change!

 

19. Unless you are sitting on some path-breaking algorithm or something like that, don’t be over-secretive about your idea. Remember, it’s your execution that is going to count more than your idea. Being over-secretive is counter-productive from the point of view of getting good upfront validation and feedback.

 

20. Remember, sales & delivery go hand-in-hand. Ignoring one side, while excelling at the other one doesn’t help you succeed.

 

21. First, validate your new breakthrough ideas with your existing customers – before going to the market. 

 

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Pune – The Birthplace of Nano & The Automotive Capital of India

Posted in Pune, Science & Technology by Amit Paranjape on March 23, 2009

Today, India and possibly the entire automotive world commemorate the customer launch of the ‘Nano’ – the world’s cheapest car. The brainchild of the Indian corporate legend Ratan Tata is finally available to the Indian consumer. I am sure that the Nano will raise a whole bunch of debates around urban traffic-management issues; but today is not the time for those. Today is a time for celebration!

 

Pune too celebrates this historic occasion; but I am not sure how many Punekars realize the significance of Pune’s role in creating this and other automotive history in India.

 

The Nano was completely designed and developed at the Tata Motors facility in Pimpri-Chinchwad Pune. The initial manufacturing will also be carried out here.

 

Here’s a brief list of Pune’s key automotive achievement over the decades. (In each of these milestones, Pune has played a pivotal role)

 

  • 1950s-60s: One of India’s earliest and most iconic automotive brands – Bajaj Scooter.
  • 1970s: India’s first moped (quite literally a motorized, pedal-based cycle that ran on a tiny 50cc engine) Luna.
  • 1970s: One of the first (and most successful) Auto Rickshaws: Bajaj Auto-Rickshaw.
  • 1980s: Manufacturing of India’s first automatic (non-geared) scooter: Kinetic Honda.
  • 1990s: India’s first fully indigenous car: Tata Indica.
  • 2008-09: Launch of world’s cheapest car: Tata Nano.

 

You can also add the development of India’s most popular Truck-Line to this list. Pune also leads the nation in various automotive suppliers, ancillary units and industrial equipment.

 

  • India’s biggest, one of the most innovative and world’s 2nd largest forging company – Bharat Forge has been at the forefront of this pack.
  • India’s largest Diesel Engines & Generator Manufacturer – Cummins has been active in Pune’s industrial landscape since the 1960s.

 

Research and Software for Automotive Engineering also have strong presence in Pune.

 

  • It’s no coincidence that all major global CAD/CAM software and services companies have significant presence in Pune: Ansys, AutoDesk, Catia, Geometric, PTC and UGS-Siemens. I doubt if there’s any city in the world that has the presence of all these entities!
  • ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India) based in Pune, is the premier automotive research institute in India, that is responsible for research and testing & certification of every vehicle model on Indian roads.

I am confident that in the coming decades, Pune will continue to innovate and be at the forefront of automotive engineering in India, and the world.

 

So now remember – next time you see a Nano on Pune Streets (traffic jams not withstanding  J ), it is as ‘Puneri’ as the ‘Puneri Pagdi’ or ‘Chitale Bakarwadi’!

 

 

NOTE –

              Checkout other Pune related blog posts: Click Here.

              This article is also reproduced on PuneTech.Com.

 

 

Hard Rock Cafe Pune

Posted in Hotels & Restaurants, Pune by Amit Paranjape on March 16, 2009

Recently, I got a chance to visit the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe, Pune. This is their fourth location in India. Having previously visited this restaurant in Dallas and Tokyo, I was looking forward to my visit to the Pune location. I am a fan of the typical American Food (if there is such a thing!) that you get at Hard Rock Cafe. And having not traveled to US in a while, I was dying for some good Chicken Wings and Burgers! I guess you do get these things in Pune, and they are ok – however I was missing that ‘authentic’ American taste. Hard Rock Café, Pune didn’t disappoint me at all. But more about the food a little later in this review.

 

Hard Rock Cafe is located in the same complex as ‘Stone Water Grill’ (another favorite of mine), off North Main Road in Koregaon Park. In another few months a huge Westin will be opening nearby. Talk about a great restaurant & hotel alley in Pune!

 

As you enter, you see the Hard Rock Cafe store (a standard feature in all Hard Rock Cafes. It sells branded merchandize…). I haven’t yet seen anyone wearing the ‘Hard Rock Cafe – Pune’ T-Shirt J . Hard Rock Café – Las Vegas, Hard Rock Café – Miami, that sounds a bit familiar… and now Hard Rock Café – Pune… Somehow it sounds a little weird…but I for one am definitely not complaining!

 

As you enter the main restaurant, you will see a huge (and I mean HUGE) hall. The walls are decorated with classic Hard Rock artists’ memorabilia – Bob Dylan, U2, to name a few. The central area has bar-stools for sitting. The regular tables are arranged around the periphery. The ambience is typical Hard Rock Café – the star attraction being the loud rock music playing in the background (yes, this is not the place to go, if you want to have a ‘quiet’ dinner J  ).  They have live performances on certain days. The décor is quite contemporary and simple. The one-thing that really appeals to you is the level of standardization these American restaurants try to achieve across their chain restaurants. This goes down all the way to the plates, glasses, and cutlery.

 

We arrived a little early in the evening and the place was reasonably empty (note – it did get nearly full by the time we left…and it was a week-day). They didn’t have live music that day, but the DJ was playing a nice selection. I was also able to provide him some requests and he promptly obliged. It’s always great listening to Eagles and Queen!

 

The bar menu is nice – Quite a decent list of cocktails and other drinks. The appetizers are one of the star attractions. The main-course menu has a big selection of typical American dishes (Burgers, Steaks, Some Mexican Fare, Chicken-Wings, Salads, etc.) I know that Hard Rock Café tries to have a little localization in the menu, but was still surprised to find a fairly extensive list of Indian Food Items?! I wonder who would eat Roti/Butter Chicken at Hard Rock Café  J. And on top of it, they called it ‘Puneri Menu’ or something like that? Really odd!

 

 

 

I liked their Margarita. Most Pune restaurants don’t make it that well. For appetizers, we had the Chicken Tenders and Potato Skins. Both were awesome. I enjoyed the Bleu Cheese dressing with the Chicken after a long time. For main-course we tried a couple of fairly simple and standard dishes – Chicken Sandwich and Fajitas. The nicely grilled Chicken Sandwich came in a portion size that you rarely see outside of America. And the dish was packed with Fries…health food is definitely not a specialty here! We also tried the Fajitas – this was the only item we found to be average. The grilled Fajita Chicken was great; however the Tortillas weren’t. And they didn’t serve Mexican Rice with the Fajitas. Hope they improve on it.

 

The appetizers and main-course did leave us stuffed, and with no room for desserts. The dessert menu did look quite interesting…definitely something for the next visit.

 

The service was excellent. In fact, one of the senior serving staff members explained to us how they went through a long and comprehensive training program, before the restaurant opened. It definitely made a difference.

 

For its brand and iconic status, Hard Rock Café Pune was not outrageously expensive. A dinner for two, with drinks would run into Rs. 1400 – Rs. 1800; comparable with other similar restaurants in Pune. Reservations are recommended. If you enjoy live music, check their performance calendar.

 

Here’s some general information about the restaurant:

 

Type of Restaurant: Casual Dining

Type of Cuisine: American

Phone: (20) 40158888

Spot it on SadakMap: http://www.sadakmap.com/p/Hard-Rock-Cafe-2/

Location: Located on the River Front on North Main Road, Koregaon Park.

Directions: Continue past ABC Farms and Army Sports Institute on North Main Road and then take a left (there is a sign for the restaurant and Hard Rock Café. On the right hand side – you will notice a restaurant, ‘Chillies’). Common parking lot for Stone Water Grill and Hard Rock Café.

 

Other Hotel & Restaurant Reviews

If you like this review, you might want to checkout my other Hotel & Restaurant Reviews: 

 

Stone Water Grill

Fort Jadhavgadh Resort

Deccan Rendezvous

Le Meridien – Spice Island

Vaishali

 

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Effectively Using Linkedin For Professional Networking: 30 DOs and DON’Ts

Posted in Information Technology by Amit Paranjape on March 11, 2009

I recently wrote an article for PuneTech.com on Effectively Using Linkedin For Professional Networking: 30 DOs and DON’Ts . I am attaching a brief excerpt here, and a link to the main article.

Once in a while a technology feature/product really appeals to you, and you have that ‘Aha! Experience’. “Why didn’t I think of this before? This makes perfect sense!”  I felt the same way when I first signed up on Linkedin in 2004. Linkedin was a fairly small, unknown networking portal back then. It surely has come a long way!

 

My first reaction was, here I have a way to maintain a ’dynamic address book’. Other address books maintained in email programs are ’static’. They have to be manually updated, and get out of synch when your contact changes jobs/schools/location/etc. I gradually started building my network in 2004. Over the past 5 years, I have been able to grow my network significantly through Linkedin. Various new features have been added over this period those greatly enhance networking capabilities. Features focused on tracking former colleagues and classmates were very helpful in finding these old friends.

 

Click here, to read the 30 ‘Do’s and Don’ts for using Linkedin for Professional Networking.

PuneTech completes its first year

Posted in Information Technology, Pune, Science & Technology by Amit Paranjape on March 6, 2009

PuneTech completes its first year today. We have come a long way since March 6 2008, thanks to the great efforts of its founder Navin Kabra, and the enthusiastic support of the PuneTech Community. Going forward, it is critical to get the word out regarding this effort and drive even more participation. With these goals in mind, we have featured two articles on PuneTech today. 

 

PuneTech is One – Give us a birthday gift, spread the word

 

Spread PuneTech – tell your friends why you like PuneTech

 

Your feedback on PuneTech’s progress and objectives going forward would be very helpful…. And any help in evangelizing PuneTech would be great!

 

 

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