Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Optimization In Real World

Posted in Information Technology, Science & Technology, Supply Chain Management by Amit Paranjape on May 12, 2009

We recently featured a multi-part series on PuneTech (an online tech community that I am actively involved in) regarding “Optimization in real world”. The primary aim of this series was to explain the esoteric world of ‘Optimization’ in simple layman terms. I am including a set of links for these articles below.

Note that in the past, PuneTech has also published some introductory articles on Supply Chain Management (SCM) and the optimization & decision support challenges involved in various real world SCM problems.

It was an honor to have Dr. Narayan Venkatasubramanyan, an Optimization Guru and one of the original pioneers in applying Optimization to Supply Chain Management, as a contributor for PuneTech. Who better to write about ‘Optimization in the real world’ than Narayan! I had the privilege of working closely with Narayan at i2 Technologies in Dallas for nearly 10 years.

Here are the links to the 4 articles:

Optimization: A case study

Architecture of a decision-support system

Optimization and Organizational Readiness for Change

Optimization: A technical overview

I have also included a brief excerpt from Narayan’s first article, giving some background about this series:

“the following entry was prompted by a request for an article on the topic of “optimization” for publication in punetech.com, a website co-founded by amit paranjape, a friend and former colleague. for reasons that may have something to do with the fact that i’ve made a living for a couple of decades as a practitioner of that dark art known as optimization, he felt that i was best qualified to write about the subject for an audience that was technically savvy but not necessarily aware of the application of optimization. it took me a while to overcome my initial reluctance: is there really an audience for this after all, even my daughter feigns disgust every time i bring up the topic of what i do. after some thought, i accepted the challenge as long as i could take a slightly unusual approach to a “technical” topic: i decided to personalize it by rooting in a personal-professional experience. i could then branch off into a variety of different aspects of that experience, some technical, some not so much. read on ….”

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Pune based Tech Mahindra wins Satyam bid

Posted in Financial Markets/Economics, Information Technology, Pune by Amit Paranjape on April 13, 2009

According to news reports today, Pune based Tech Mahindra has won the Satyam bid. Here is the coverage in The Economic Times “Tech Mahindra wins bid for Satyam Computers”

 

The other rivals in the race were L&T InfoTech and the American billionaire Wilbur Ross. This news is already being covered in great detail in all the national business media and I doubt if I can add anything new.

 

My thought would be from a Pune angle. Pune has been amongst the leading IT cities in India for a while now. Infosys and Wipro have plans underway to expand their Pune centers into their single biggest facilities. Yet, a ‘Pune-based company’ has never been in the big league!

 

It’s worth noting how Infosys started in Pune in the early 1980s and then moved on to Bangalore. In some sense this void can be filled today! Tech Mahindra has its roots in Pune for many years. Here are a couple of links that provide more information about the company profile:

 

Tech Mahindra Wikipedia Link

Tech Mahindra Official Website (About Us Link)

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. 

 

Can Pune Emulate The Silicon Valley Technology Startup Ecosystem?

Posted in Information Technology, Pune, Science & Technology by Amit Paranjape on February 11, 2009

I have always wondered about the parallels between Silicon Valley and Pune. Some might call this farfetched, but there are some really interesting and some coincidental similarities. Pune (as does any other Indian City) has a long way to go to even get closer, but that should not stop us from brainstorming on leveraging these similarities as building blocks, and strive towards emulating the leader. Silicon Valley is unique. Maybe one day, we can indeed see a vibrant Pune Technology Startup Ecosystem, thriving and prospering – on the lines of the Great Technology Entrepreneurship Capital of the World!

 

I started this self-brainstorming exercise by simply listing those Pune characteristics that parallel Silicon Valley (The degrees of similarities might vary …):

 

·        Good quality of life (Compared to other Indian Metros).

·        Temperate Weather.

·        Technology Entrepreneurship Culture.

·        Fledgling Startup Ecosystem.

·        Education Hub:

o       Many Good Colleges

o       Leading Research Institutes

·        Magnet for people from all over India/World:

o       Pune has the highest number of foreign students (amongst Indian cities)

o       Large number of foreign expats, and visiting researchers

o       Recently, Pune has also benefited from the ‘Reverse Brain Drain’: Many highly qualified professionals and successful entrepreneurs (of Indian origin) from the US/Silicon Valley have moved back to Pune.

·        Proximity to a Financial Capital.

·        Large IT talent pool (Thanks to the many IT Outsourcing Companies).

·        Leading ‘Green’ Technology Hub in India. (Headquarters of companies like Praj and Suzlon).

·        Hub of Hi-tech manufacturing (Note: San Francisco Bay Area has quite a few high-end manufacturing companies as well).

 

And some coincidental ones …

 

·        Leading Wine Producing Region in India.

·        Developing into a key hub for specialty fruits, vegetables and Flori-culture.

·        Open (and tolerant) culture.

 

Some of the obvious things that are lacking in Pune include – Infrastructure and Sustainable Development. The other ones include greater focus on pure research, and venture funding. [I will discuss these and more in further detail in following articles in this series.]

 

As I was continuing with this brainstorming and gap-analysis, I stumbled upon a great article written by the well-known Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist and Essayist, Paul Graham on ‘How To Be Silicon Valley’, in May 2006. He describes the key characteristics of the San Francisco Bay Area that led to the development of this amazing ecosystem over the past few decades. He also explores how similar Ecosystem Development could happen in other cities/towns anywhere in the world.

 

In my article, I make an attempt to use the key characteristics identified by Paul Graham, and try to map them to Pune. I believe that Pune is amongst the best places in India where a Silicon Valley like Ecosystem can take shape. Obviously, there are many challenges. I am not going to use sobriquets such as ‘Pune – The Silicon Valley of India’. Silicon Valley is unique – there can be only one.

 

I am also not doing a comparison (either/or) between different Indian cities here. Many writers routinely refer to Bangalore as the Silicon Valley of India. While to me, Bangalore is definitely not there at this point, it might very well be on the right track. To me, if places like Bangalore, Pune and others introspect and strive for the key characteristics that are described by Paul Graham, then all of them have a shot (tough, it might be!) at creating Silicon Valley like Ecosystems someday.

 

Note – I recommend that you do read Paul Graham’s article: “How To Be Silicon Valley”, before reading further. This will enable you to better relate to my observations below.

 

I am going to follow a format, similar to that used by Paul Graham. Listed below are the key characteristics and how Pune fares with respect to these.

 

Presence of Rich People who are not Bureaucrats

 

Paul Graham argues that a technology ecosystem needs rich people who can take risks, and invest the necessary seed capital. These investors shouldn’t be purely financial investors who don’t understand the domain that they are investing in. Nor should they be bureaucrats who simply evaluate short and medium term financial returns and are risk averse.

 

Paul Graham describes the example of how the money made on the risks taken in the 1980s (e.g. Sun Microsystems) was then re-invested again in the 1990s (e.g. Google, Amazon) and now being re-invested again. Essentially, startups create startups – this how this ecosystem starts and grows.

 

Does Pune have rich people, who are technocrats? The answer is yes. Maybe nowhere enough, but the successful technology entrepreneurs of the 1980s and 1990s have built up some good reserves and have started looking for interesting technology ideas to fund.

 

Not Just Buildings

 

Large buildings and nice campuses don’t make the Silicon Valley! The massive new IT Parks we see today in many Indian cities, don’t equate to Silicon Valley. We need the DNA of a startup that was founded here and grew.

 

Unfortunately, Pune doesn’t have many IT firms that became very big (like Infosys – though one could argue that Infosys in fact started in Pune, and moved on…). However, there are a few good examples of non-IT technology companies (Manufacturing, Industrial Automation, Green Energy, etc.) that made it big.

 

Universities & Research Institutions

 

Pune has a strong education culture and some excellent engineering and science & technology colleges, including the 2nd oldest engineering college in India. A new Indian Institute of Science Campus is also being planned. Distance wise one can argue that IIT Bombay is less than 3 hours (150 km) from Pune.

 

In addition to the universities, Pune has many leading research institutions in a variety of technology areas – National Chemical Laboratory, Institute of Virology, Indian Meteorological Office, Inter-University Center for Astronomy & Astro-Physics, Agricultural Research Institute, Various Defense Research Organizations, etc.

 

Personality

 

Paul Graham talks about a city/town having a ‘personality’. He further states that you don’t build such a personality – you let it grow. I believe that Pune has grown a strong personality over the past many decades. In fact, this is one of the attributes that Pune is quite famous for. A ‘Punekar’ (resident of Pune) can be identified by many interesting traits!

 

Pune has a personality of a small city/town; a personality of knowledge & learning; a personality of creativity (not just in technology, but in other areas such as arts and music); a personality of a distinctive life-style; a personality of tolerance & openness to new ideas. Historically, it has embraced and assimilated people from different parts of India (and the world).

 

And while the new Pune is morphing into a cookie-cutter solution of suburban development seen in other metros, the old – new Pune combination still maintains a distinct identity.

 

Nerds

 

According to Paul Graham, ‘Nerds’ constitute one of the most critical building blocks of such an ecosystem. You can call them anything – But Pune is increasingly a preferred destination for many techies (or nerds, or whatever you want to call them!). Historically, Pune has always been a center of attraction for the learned – not only in technology areas, but in other areas such as History, Sociology, Arts, Music and Languages.

 

Many of these people find Mumbai and other Metros to be too big, too fast, and too glamorous. Pune is compact, liberal and relatively quiet in comparison to most Indian cities. These nerds don’t mind paying a lot more to live in such a place with it’s unique identity (see earlier section). Quality of life is important for them.  Note – Pune real estate is quite expensive, and the overall cost of living is amongst the highest in India.

 

Youth

 

Given Pune’s strong education ecosystem, Pune is a ‘young’ city. It is vibrant with fresh energy and drive. Culturally, it is less conservative/more liberal – whichever way you want to look at it. There are also quite a few people here who are ‘young at heart’.

 

Time

 

Even after having all the right mix of the above key characteristics, you need to provide ‘Time’ for a Silicon Valley to be built. While Pune has many of the desirable ingredients, it still needs more time. And it is critical that these characteristics don’t degrade/disintegrate over that time period. I will discuss this further in future articles in this series.

 

Competing with the ‘Original Silicon Valley’

 

Paul Graham’s last point relates to competing with the ‘original Silicon Valley’. Any new challenger will definitely face competition from the original one!

 

I do think that there is room for more challengers. Speaking about Pune/India, we have an advantage of having more generalists (engineers who are more application oriented that theory oriented; and can quickly span interdisciplinary boundaries). The costs in India have risen significantly this decade, but still remain low compared to the west. Thus, if planned and used correctly, the same capital can stretch longer here. Pune and India have a large and growing young population. Many innovative ideas are driven by young people – both as innovators, as well as consumers. It is here where India in general and Pune in particular has a strong credential.

 

In future articles in this series, I will explore specific steps that I think Pune needs to take towards its goal of emulating a Silicon Valley like technology ecosystem.

 

Please provide your feedback, other ideas and comments on this article. I will try to incorporate these in the future articles in this series.

 

This is a very important topic for all people interested in and/or working in the technology area in Pune!

 

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How Did ‘Maha’ DeshMart Survive The Economic Slowdown And Thrive

Posted in Information Technology, Retail Management, Science & Technology, Supply Chain Management by Amit Paranjape on January 14, 2009

I recently published an article on Retail SCM (Supply Chain Management) in PuneTech.com. The article discusses the key SCM Business Process Workflows in a typical Retailer. It also highlights some of the critical challenges, management best practices and policies. The article talks about a story of an India based retailer ‘Maha’ DeshMart.

‘Maha’ DeshMart is a large (fictional) supermarket chain with a pan-India presence. Special emphasis is put on the importance of ‘Information Technology’ and how it enables ‘Maha’ DeshMart to run one of the most efficient Supply Chain & Operations. Benchmarking is also done with global industry leaders such as Wal-Mart. 2008 represented a challenging year and we will take a look at how specific Supply Chain Processes and the other aspects of Retail Operations react to the global economic challenges, and can still deliver on the overall goals and objectives of the company. This fictional story about the fictional ‘Maha’ DeshMart is in continuation of PuneTech’s series of articles on Supply Chain Management.

To view the complete article, please click here, “How did ‘Maha’ DeshMart Survive the Economic Slowdown and Thrive”

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