Posted in Big Thought, Pulpit by Harsha on November 29, 2007

An oft-repeated question is “When will India become a superpower like the US or now like China?”

There are visions abound in India that forecast it’s supremacy in the next decade. The dream is that India will finally harness it’s economic horsepower and acquire a commanding stature in the world. Since 2000/2001, the economic and cultural climate in India has changed tremendously. Goods that were once luxuries are now commodities. Foreign nationals now are common sight in the city streets. Foreign Direct Investment is at an all time high. India is the leading outsourcing destination since a large chunk of it’s populace speaks fluent English (it is one of the official languages in India and a uniting factor in a country where every state speaks its own unique language). Over 400,000 engineering and business graduates come out of educational institutions yearly and Indians are adaptable. The top 10 Forbes richest include multiple Indians. The largest steel company is Indian-owned. Hotmail was an Indian’s creation. Bentley sold more cars in 15 days than what it planned for 1.5 years. You have diamonds encrusted million dollar cell phones. The list is endless.

All these are commonly known things in the world and often trumpeted by Indian politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists to show you that India is the next major force to contend with in the world. Next major force – that is an interesting phrase, kind of almost like setting up a constant expectant goal in the distance that is never reached. I am skeptical because I have suffered at the hands of Indian organizations that purport international awareness only to be backed up by ultra-poor Indian quality standards.

Try purchasing and using a calling card or a credit card or use an Indian website like or How lousy is your experience?

So, in order not to be skeptical or sound bitter, I spent sometime thinking about these problems and the two questions that go hand-in-hand. One – how is India going to become the next superpower and two – how did China become a superpower in ~10 years?

You think you know the answer for China: their non-democracy (what else can you call a capitalistic looking communist-dictatorial state?) is probably why they are leaders in today’s world as they are able to develop slave labor, charge nothing for resources and send their citizens to the US to improve their English and learn international/American customs. And India still seems to be stuck in a rut. True, there has been a lot of economic development but do you know that it is a tiny % of this largely agrarian based economy?

But the truth of the matter is, you need to look into history. Both countries were marauded by the British and America herself is a former colony. This is the common factor that binds these three diverse nations. Yet even though they are cousins in their legacy, America has been the world leader for 300+ years and now China is reaching up for the stars. India remains a distant last. Why?

Everyone jokes about how the world lives it’s life one way and America is pointed in the opposite direction (light switches, driving on the road .. you get the point). The fundamental reason is that America cast off it’s colonial shackles and the very basis of this country’s founding takes it away from colonial pressures and lifestyle. I believe that the only reason that China is where it is today, is because it is slowly doing the same – casting away the aspersions of it’s British legacy and going in the opposite direction.

India, dear India, on the other hand is firmly set in it’s British ways. It’s people, like me, are set in their approach and thought. We are still our British-servile selves because it gives us a “solid” foundation to base our preferences and lives on. It is deep rooted in our psyche. But it is not about preference for tea or old country clubs.

Until such time that Indians figure it out, we are going no where. I am not talking about the technological and economical development we see in India today – it is just a small piece of the pie. If you want to sum up the outsourcing industry in one word, then I believe it is “parasitic” – depending on others to feed you when your own infrastructure reeks.

No, I don’t hate the developments at home nor am I jealous of it. I am just frustrated at our ability to adapt so well and yet remain as a parasite, and be so reactionary to the whole situation. The variables for outsourcing presented themselves and we jumped on it. When are Indians going to create those variables for ideas and industries that the world has not yet seen? Nassim Taleb writes in his book and I paraphrase that despite all the ridicule, people around the world can’t seem to live without their iPods and their email and Internet – all American inventions. That is what I am referring to when I say that outsourcing and India itself is a parasite parasitic in today’s world.

China found it’s niche by employing it’s super-cheap natural resources, slave labor, lack of copyright protection, iron curtains and took it, no, embraced it.

So, what is India’s niche?

Nita Kulkarni, a freelance journalist in India writes about this topic.

Yahoo! Follow up

Posted in Big Thought by Harsha on November 1, 2007

As a follow up to my post on Yahoo! new and “improved” email site, I wanted to pen some thoughts on what would be termed as a good email system for me. For me. Now that level of customization seems impossible but follow my thought for a moment. This has intrigued me for a while now.

Gmail is way too bare and Yahoo! is way overpopulated. Isn’t there anything called moderation? These services look like their on some sort of diet! They either have too less of something or too much of something else…

Today’s trend is to open up development to the legions of open source folks to create widegts and apps for “platforms” like Facebook, Myspace etc. I wonder why that cannot be extended into email? (disclaimer: Don’t let any techie fool you into thinking that is is technically impossible or suicidal). For instance, since I am borderline crazy, I’d like to have my email read to me. Or I’d like to track when my email was read (better stats than currently available). Or I’d like to give high priority to certain emails, have them forwarded to my cell phone and if I don’t respond to it within oh, say 5 hours, then the system generates an auto-responder (customized to the recipient) that I am being notified via email, secondary email and wireless phone and that my response is being tracked. I’d do this only for my say my wife or my largest client or someone else that is #1 to either my personal or work life. Or a widget that records every spam address, traces the sending server and reports it to the SPAM commission (is there such an organization?). Or reports it to say Symantec that can surely use this data.

The idea is, if you sat down and thought of a pet peeve you have about your email, you can create a widget out of it. The company that creates these widgets should be able to create millions of such apps that can be distributed through yet another widget that now understands the kinds of things I want tweaked in my email service and suggests it to me. Don’t tell me this is science fiction.

On the business end, how would this company make money? Each widget is downloaded for a nominal amount (yet again collected by a widget). Renewals are also handled by a widget. So think of this business as a widget itself that is just creating one widget after another for even its own services like bill payment, collection, surveys etc. Think of a mini-Microsoft that is just spitting out one widget after another. So for instance, take Microsoft Excel and split it up as widgets. So now I can create a customized Excel version just for myself. I use it for my purposes and maybe even resell it for a fee through an eBay reseller widget?

I think it takes sometime to soak in the decentralized, broken-into-bits thinking because you’d imagine that one needs all these processes in place to churn out software. You don’t. You’d need a credible widget engine at the center that will allow your programmers to generate these little bastards at a super clip. Then you track how each download is doing (guess how?) and generate more widgets. Each project can be completed in a day and ready for production. Build a steady (small) slow stream of widgets and cash in on the recurring sales. Eventually, when batches of ideas (like email, social marketing etc) become entirely widget based, then I think you can a truly enjoy customizable experience online.

You saw it here first.