Monthly Archives: December 2008 Nurturing the passion of our engineering students

This week on PuneTech, we are going to feature a bunch of initiatives started by people who are passionate about helping students in our engineering colleges (actually anybody interested in technology, student or not, engineering or not) to be more, achieve more, learn more, all with the help of mentors from industry who would like to see all these talented students reach their true potential. Watch this space over the next few days for more such initiatives or better yet, subscribe for updates via RSS, Email, or twitter. Today, we are featuring, (Update: the next post in this series is about KQInfoTech’s industry-supported “free” PG Diploma in Systems Programming.) is a group that aims to create special interest technology clubs of students, with each club mentored by one or more people from from industry who have experience in that area, and are willing to spend time with the students to guide them. The club will have loosely structured activites, projects to complete, possibly presentations and discussions, all planned and guided by the mentors.

The club was started by Freeman Murray and has since been joined by a number of mentors – but there is no such thing as too many mentors. So, you should seriously consider signing up. The only qualifications you need are that you should be passionate about this, and you should have a little industry experience.

Freeman explains thus:

The basic idea is to find people with practical industry experience willing to spend some time each month creating or identifying useful exercises people interested in their field could do to develop their skills and posting them on a blog or mailing list. Additionally they spend time each week facilitating a discussion of the participants on a mailing list.

The intention is not to compete with existing online resources for technical training and support, but to provide some more human support and mentorship for people on the path. Mentors can and should encourage participants to engage in the existing online communities surrounding their technologies. Their guidance as to what communities to engage, and how to engage could still be invaluable.

In this way, over time people can develop significant skills in fields where they don’t have formal training while they continue their studies or working full time.

We all crib about the quality of technical education, but with the Internet we have the opportunity to do something about it. We can help eager young and the motivated who want to get into high-tech but are over whelmed at the amount of information available on the internet, or get blocked because of elementary problems.

It shouldn’t take much time, for mentors just a couple hours a month to research the monthly activities and post links to learning resources participants should look into, and then a couple hours each week responding to questions and facilitating discussion on the mailing list. For participants, activities should take 5 – 10 hours of effort each month, plus some additional time sharing with the community thru the blog and the mailing lists.

If there’s a field you are passionate about and feel more people should get into, please think about setting up a small club for it on the techstart wiki. If you see a club where people are exploring a technology you’ve been curious, by all means join the community.

The initial clubs we have are in blogging, advanced java and open source technology. Amit is also mentoring a group to write some automatic deployment scripts in php.

Find out more on the wiki –

How to participte – Students

To participate in one of the techstart clubs simply visit the clubs website, or join the their mailing list. Make sure to introduce yourself to the community when you join, and read over any introductory material the mentor put up on the website or in the group.

How to participate – Mentors

Start your own club or make yourself available for mentoring people on a project – simply create a mailing list for it on Google Groups or any other public mailing list site, and add a description of it and yourself to this wiki. At least every month post exercises to the list which participants can do to strengthen their skills, and spend some time every week monitoring the list, encouraging discussion, and helping people with problems. That’s it !

Contact [mailto://|Freeman] to get the wiki key. If you’d like to join the discussion about how to make TechStart better please join the TechStart Google Group

Clubs already formed

Title: Bloggers Club

Mentors: Freeman Murray Tarun Chandel


This track is for people interested in writing on the internet. All participants will set up and customize their blog initially, and then every two weeks participants are encouraged to share their next post with the group. The group will give feedback on the writers style, grammer and ideas. Members are additionally encouraged to comment on eachother’s blogs and do cross linking. Occasionally exersizes relating to google analytics and SEO will be given to the club members. Twitter, Videoblogging , Google Analytics, SEO, RSS and feedreaders will also be discussed in time.

Mailing List:

Title: Java Insights 101

Mentor: Parag Shah


This learning track is for developers who have completed at least one course in Core Java (or are familiar with basic principles of Java, like syntax, compiling, and running Java programs) and would like to improve their understanding of the Java language and ecosystem.


Mailing List:

Title: Open Source Technology

Mentor: Tarun Dua


This is a track for technologists who want to build upon their understanding of the free and open ecosystem being provided by the Open Source and relatively open and portable datasets. Do you dig a well everytime you want to drink water, then why do you insist on hacking a new solution when another more efficient solution already exists as Open Source. Leverage what already exists in the ecosystem instead of re-inventing the wheel.



Title: Auomatic Deplyoment Script

Mentor: Amit Singh


Ami of this project is to automate the process of deploying websites written in PHP. A very basic script exists at my blog, we will be enhancing it by putting continuous integration, database migration etc.


Mailing List:

Mentors already signed up

Name Affiliation Skills & Interests
Freeman Murray upStart Software development training, startup culture, internet video, internet advocacy
Subhransu Behera EnTrip Ruby on Rails, Web Application Development, Linux System Programming, Fedora Packaging
Parag Shah Adaptive Software Solutions Software development, Software development training, New media technologies
Tarun Dua E2ENetworks Efficient technology operations is the key to effective delivery of technology where it matters most.
Amit Singh Pune It Labs Pvt. Ltd. Web Application Development
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Pune’s Satish Talim wins “Ruby’s Top Teacher in 2008” award

Satish Talim

Satish Talim, whose RubyLearning onine classes have enrolment of more than 5000 students from over 100 countries, has been named the “Top Ruby Teacher in 2008” by RubyInside (the #1 Ruby news site in the world).

An excerpt from the article:

How (and when) did you find your way into Ruby?

After being with Java since its beta days, my interest in Ruby was aroused after I read an article Ruby the Rival in November 2005. I decided to learn Ruby myself and started making my Ruby Notes for my site,

How have your Ruby & Rails related projects progressed in 2008?

I started my free, online Ruby teaching site in January 2008 and today it has over 5600 participants who have either learned Ruby or are in the process of learning Ruby with me. The experience has been very positive and fulfilling. I’ve also been promoting Ruby in India since 2006 with my PuneRuby User Group. I also managed to convince the the University of Pune to introduce Ruby as a full time paper in their computer science course from Jan. 2009.

With I am able to give Ruby exposure to people across the globe (there are currently students registered from over 140 countries) – we have people from far-flung places where no trainers (leave alone Ruby trainers) are available – my site facilitates that.

Read the full article for more about the award.

Satish runs two RubyLearning portals: namely (is a thorough collection of Ruby Study Notes for those who are new to the Ruby programming language and in search of a solid introduction to Ruby’s concepts and constructs) and (where, since 2006, participants from across the globe have been learning online and for free, the Ruby computer programming language).

However the RubyLearning portals are not Satish’s primary occupation. His experience lies in developing and executing business for high technology and manufacturing industry customers. Basically, he has helped start subsidiaries for many US based software companies like Infonox (based in San Jose, CA), Maybole Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (Servient Inc. based in Houston, Texas) in Pune.

You can also follow Satish on Twitter where as @IndianGuru, with over 700 followers, he is the top twitterer from Pune. (As to why you should be on twitter, see our article “Why you should be on Twitter“; and then immediately after that, you should follow @punetech, and all the others mentioned in in these posts over at AmIWorks.)

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Introduction to the World of Mobile and Embedded Devices (MED)

This post is an introduction to the world of mobile and embedded software, which is a sub-discipline of software with a bunch of interesting quirks of its own. This introductory post is a first in a series of posts by Mayur Tendulkar on his Gizmos and Geeks blog, and we are reprinting selected posts here with permission.

Unknowingly in our day-to-day life, we use many devices. Right from Microwave Oven/Electric Stove, Mixer/Grinder, Heater/Geyser, Refrigerator, TVs, Calculators, Cameras, Mobile Phones and what not. And surprisingly – all of these are embedded devices 🙂

Welcome to the world of Mobile and Embedded Devices. In this world, we’re going to get introduced to embedded systems and how we can write software applications which will run on these systems. Imagine, having a device at home, which will obey your orders – say, switch off Mains Supply, Switch off Gas Supply OR as soon as I enter – open the garage door!

Yes, we can do it very well, using embedded systems.

An embedded system is a system (hardware + software combo) which is designed to perform a particular task. Unlike our desktops, which can be used for gaming, business analysis, documentation, software development, entertainment or any other task, embedded systems are built to execute a particular function. Just like cameras are used for photography and not for listening to music, while MP3 players are good for listening music & not for taking pictures.

Sometimes, these embedded systems are categorized as:

  1. Hard Real-Time Systems : In these type of embedded systems, every second is important. If some action needs to be taken at a particular time – then it has to. Example of this system can be  controller in atomic station – where, if it doesn’t operate at specified time, there can be a major havoc. Another example can be a pacemaker, which monitors patient data. If it shows data with delay of few seconds, the life of the patient will be at toss.
  2. Soft Real-Time System : With these types of embedded systems, its totally okay if there is short delay in response – but there should be response. For example, toaster, if there is short delay, perhaps, toast will burn-out, but its okay. We can put another bread into it. But we can’t use Soft-Real Time systems in atomic station or to monitor patient data.

Just like computers, where we need Operating System or software to communicate with the hardware, we need some software which will run on-top of this embedded system and will provide its control to us. Otherwise how it will understand that – I’m at the door and that system needs to open the door. How?

For this reason, we need to program a software which will run and sit on top of this embedded system and will provide communication mechanism between end-user and system.

Hence, building or designing an embedded system mainly involves two parts:

  1. Designing of a Hardware
  2. Designing of a Software for that Hardware (which will include Operating System, Drivers, etc…) &  sometimes, if required, it also includes building specialized applications which run on these embedded operating systems.

Microsoft provides various technologies, which deals with embedded systems. This includes operating systems like Windows XP Embedded, Windows CE and application development tools/SDKs like .NET Compact Framework and .NET Micro Framework.

In ensuing blog-posts we’ll get to know about these technologies and will cover Windows Mobile development in depth.

Happy Coding 🙂

About the Author – Mayur Tendulkar

Mayur Tendulkar is a student doing his 2nd Year in Electrical Engineering and a Microsoft Student Partner Lead. He likes coding applications (hmm some what), biking, trying out gizmos, doing night-outs… Basically so many things that STUDENTS enjoy. You can follow him on twitter.

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PUG Community Day: Sharepoint 3.0; Windows Mobile. 13 Dec

What: Pune (Microsoft Technologies) User Group Community Day featuring presentations on SharePoint Services 3.0 and Windows Mobile Line of Business Solution Accelerator
When: Saturday 13 December, 4pm onwards
Where: SEED Infotech Ltd., Nalanda, S No – 39, Hissa No – 2/2, CTS 943, Opp Gandhi Lawns, Erandwana, Pune 411 004,
Registration and Fees: This event is free for all. No registration required.

(For a full list of tech activities in Pune this weekend, see yesterday’s post on PuneTech)

Session 1 – Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

This session is First introductory session for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. This session is a must for the Developers/Users who are new to this technology and want to start off with Windows SharePoint Development.

Built on Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Windows SharePoint Services also provides a foundation platform for building Web-based business applications that can flex and scale easily to meet the changing and growing needs of your business. Robust administrative controls for managing storage and Web infrastructure give IT departments a cost-effective way to implement and manage a high-performance collaboration environment. With a familiar, Web-based interface and close integration with everyday tools including the Microsoft Office system, Windows SharePoint Services is easy to use and can be deployed rapidly.
WSS 3.0 enables the user to create web site with following capabilities

  • Collaborate
  • Manage Document and Integrity of Content
  • Content Management Capabilities
  • Integration with Office Application


Sudhir Kesharwani is from Accenture and having over 6 yrs of experience in Microsoft Technology, 16 Months experience in SharePoint Application Development. He holds many certifications like MCTS – Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, MCTS – Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, MCPD – EA & MCSD


Akhilesh Nirapure is from Accenture and having over 2.5 yrs of experience in Microsoft Technology, 16 months experience in SharePoint Application Development. He holds many certifications like – MCTS in Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MCTS – MOSS) and MCPD – EA

Session 2 – Windows Mobile – Line of Business Solution Accelerator 2008

The Windows Mobile Line of Business Solution Accelerator is a sample line of business application that showcases the latest design principles and technologies in the mobile space.

Delivering new innovations and development best practices to the Windows Mobile platform with Visual Studio 2008, the .NET Compact Framework 3.5, SQL Server Compact 3.5, a working Supply Chain application, over 5,000 lines of commented code.

In this presentation, we’ll see how we can use provided sample code in our applications and how we can build Line of Business apps more rapidly.


Mayur Tendulkar is a Microsoft Windows Mobile professional who loves talking about mobile and embedded technologies. He has been a Microsoft Student Partner Lead since 2006 and representing Student and Professional Community. He has delivered sessions in Microsoft Virtual TechDays and PUG DevCon 2008. Apart from that, he conducts regular community activities in Pune. You can read his blog at OR reach him at mayur.tendulkar{at}

Upcoming tech events this weekend, and PuneTech Event Reminder SMS service

Do you forget about an interesting tech event in Pune, and then regret the fact that you did not attend it? PuneTech is pleased to announce the Free PuneTech Event Reminder SMS service that will send you reminders about tech events in Pune one day before. Basically, this is a Google SMS channel, where we post the basic information about events: title, date, venue. In most cases, this will be posted twice – once when the event is announced (or when we find out about it) and once one day before the event. In case of events with submission/registration/nomination deadlines, we’ll also post a reminder a day before the deadline. Every reminder will be contained in a single SMS. For details, you’ll be expected to use a web browser to check out the PuneTech calendar (or ideally, you’ll already know all the details of the event because you are already subscribed to the PuneTech daily email updates (which is also free)).

This service is totally free. To subscribe, SMS “REGISTER” to +91 9870807070 to register with Google SMS channels, and when you receive confirmation, reply to that message with “ON PUNETECH”. Remember the second part – your PuneTech reminders will not start until you’ve sent the “ON PUNETECH” message. You cna also subscribe via a web browser by going to the PuneTech SMS Channel page, sign in to your google account (i.e. if you use GMail, enter your GMail username and password, if you don’t have a google account, create one), and then follow the instructions there. For more details about the Google SMS service, see their homepage and FAQs.

And to launch this service we have arranged a number of exciting tech events in Pune this weekend. (Actually no, we did not arrange them (except for part of the POCC meeting), but everything is fair in love, war and the internet, right?)

2 day conference on Technical Writing

Full day on Friday and Saturday at Le Meridien.

The Society for Technical Communication, India, conference is the largest gathering of technical communicators in the country. On December 12 and 13, 2008, the thriving city of Pune (Maharashtra) will play host to the technical communication fraternity from across the country, and even the world.

During the two-day conference and the one-day preconference workshops, distinguished speakers from a cross-section of the high-technology industry’s blue-chip companies will address the audience on a variety of topics. Sessions at this year’s conference range from effective documentation project management to an unconference-like, well, unconference!

Full details including venue and agenda are here.

PMI Pune Seminar: “Business Analysis and IT Strategy” and “Portfolio Management in SMBs during recession”

10am to 12:30 am at Cummins Auditorium, on Saturday.

There will be two talks. One on Business Analysis and IT Strategy by Prof. Pradeep Pendse, and the other on the Role of PMO in Portfolio Management within SMB enterprises in a Recession Driven Economy by P. Seenivasan, PMP, CSQA.

See here for details of the venue, abstracts of the talk, speaker profiles and other details. Free for anyone to attend.

POCC Meeting: SEO; web scalability; Sun Startup Essentials Programme

Dimakh Sahasrabuddhe will have an overview of Search Engine Optimization. Then representatives from Sun will talk about how to build scalable websites, and finally they will give information about the Sun Startup Essentials program intended to help jumpstart startups. For further details, see the PuneTech post yesterday about this event.

Update 1: The next event was announced a few hours after this post was written. Hence it was not included in the original version of the post

PUG Community Day: Sharepoint 3.0 and Windows Mobile

Pune (Microsoft Technologies) User Group Community Day featuring presentations on SharePoint Services 3.0 and Windows Mobile Line of Business Solution Accelerator. On 13th December, 4pm onwards, at SEED InfoTech, Erandwana. For details of venue, speakers, and abstracts of the presentations, see the full PuneTech post.

Update 2: The next event was announced on Thursday, and hence included late.

Pune GNU/Linux Users Group Monthly Meeting

The PLUG monthly meeting, where Linux enthusiasts get together to discuss Linux enthusiastically. Normally happens on first Saturday of every month, but postponed to the second Saturday (13th December) this month because of the CMDA IT Expo in Pune last week. Time is always 4pm to 6pm, and place is always SICSR, 7th floor. (Yes, it is in the same place as the POCC meeting, but they are in different rooms.)

POCC Meeting: SEO; web scalability; SUN startup essentials, 13 Dec

What: Pune OpenCoffee Club get-together with a 3-point agenda. 1. Search Engine Optimization, 2. Web scalability, 3. SUN startup essentials program

When: Saturday, 13th December, 4pm – 7pm

Where: SICSR, Model Colony. Here is the map.

Registration and Fees: This event is free for everyone – no registration required


4pm – 5pm: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Dimakh Sahasrabuddhe, Dimakh Consultants

In the last POCC meeting (Pain Points of Pune Startups), people wanted to know how to do SEO for their websites, and the consensus that emerged was that you should either do SEO yourself, or at least have a good understanding of SEO before you outsource it to a consultant. As to who would be a good consultant for SEO, someone suggested that we should simply do a google search on “SEO Pune” – whoever claims to be good in this area should be the first hit. We tried that and the first Pune company that showed up was Dimakh Consultants. We’ve invited CEO Dimakh Sahasrabuddhe to give members an overview of SEO.

Dimakh Consultants is a Pune-based web consulting company with a decade long specialization in web designing, application development, hosting, networking, SEO & SEM. To date, Dimakh has managed the set-up and delivery of 5 Internet Service providers all over India. He manages more than 20 servers placed all over the world and hosts more than 1600 websites in India, US, Europe and far east. He regularly conducts workshops on SEO and SEM around the country.

5pm – 6pm: Overview of Web scalability by Sun Microsystems; and overview of Sun’s Startup Essentials Program

Representatives from Sun Microsystems will give a presentation on scalability of websites – something they are in a unique position to understand since Sun’s servers and Sun’s MySQL database form the key elements of the stack for some of the biggest websites in the world. Specifically, they’ll talk about: Web Application & Performance Considerations, Web2.0 toolkit – An overview, Sun Systems for Web Applications, Getting Best out of MySQL on Solaris.

After that, Sun will give an overview of their Startup Essentials program. This is a program designed by Sun for startups. Get industry-leading servers starting under $750. Storage up to 70% off, installed and configured under 5 minutes. Access to their network of investors. Your choice of OS (Solaris, Linux or Windows). Open Source and discounted enterprise-class software. Free technical advice and training, discounted partner hosting, and discounted storage. Anyone can apply, and you get access to all the above if you are selected.

6pm – 7pm: General Networking

Mingle. Ask follow up questions to Dimakh, or the Sun folks. Try to recruit trespassers. Brag about your startup’s achievements. Ask people if they know any angel investors. Show people how to open a beer bottle in 10 different ways. Live-twitter all the exciting developments as the meeting progresses. Play housie. (Actually that is not part of the plan, but if SocialWebFactory shows up, who knows what will happen.) Maybe even watch a movie.

Message to Pune Startups

Nominate yourself for See Santosh’s blog post to know why you should do this, and how it will help you.

Message to Everyone

This weekend is going to be a rather active weekend (again) for tech activities. Check the PuneTech calendar for details.

Problems faced by Pune startups, and suggested solutions

Together, we can solve our problems faster than alone
Together, we can solve our problems faster than alone

The Pune OpenCoffee Club (POCC) had a meeting a few weeks ago to discuss the various pain points faced by Pune Startups, and to see what solutions or workarounds people had come up with. POCC member Mandar Vaze has captured the main points of the discussion for the benefit of those who were unable to attend. In places where my notes had additional info that’s missing from Mandar’s notes, I have taken the liberty of interspersing my points – those are in italics.

I joined the meeting slighly late. When I arrived there were about 50+ people seating in a circle, and few more people occupying seats on the sofa behind. Topic planned for the meeting was “Startups – pain points”.

Initial round of introductions

Internet connectivity :

  • BSNL seems to be the best in terms of stability
  • BSNL’s Business plans for internet not cost effective
  • Several startups use multiple Home connection plans – Is it legal to do this?
  • Someone mentioned that for the team of 15, 40GB/month plan is sufficient
  • (Another suggestion was to take a limited bandwidth BSNL connection in the office, and then do heavy downloads at home using your personal unlimited bandwidth connection.
  • If you are using multiple connections (possibly from different ISPs) to ensure stability, then free, open source software is available that can seamlessly allow you to multiplex between these two connections. -navin)

Dealing with Power cuts :

  • Laptops work best to avoid worrying about power cuts.
  • If you need to use Desktop, LCD better than CRT (low power usage -less load on UPS/inverter)
  • With laptops, team can work from home, in case extended power cuts

    • Assuming team mates stay in different area than office
    • When team grows, this may not scale – possible security issues
  • Suggest using 9-cell battery
  • Have common pool of spare charged batteries around to extend the battery life even further
  • Spare batteries cost around Rs. 3000 as against UPS for Rs. 5000
  • UPS/Inverter :
    • Anjali (I think) mentioned that 4.8 KVA inverter costs about Rs 48000
    • She also suggested that multiple smaller UPS better than single bigger one of higher capacity – avoid single point of failure.
    • Someone asked to post reliable vendor for UPS/Inverter

Incubation Space :

  • IT Park / Incubation centers were suggested as a solution where you don’t need to deal with any of these hassles. They take care of power, internet, and other facilities issues that you don’t want to worry about. Pune IT Park and Connaught Place were the two possibilities suggested. This entire section written by Navin with inputs from Amit since after actually visiting Pune IT Park and Connaught Place and clarifying many of the misconceptions people at the POCC meeting had about these places
  • At Pune IT Park the cost in the region of approximately 5500 per month, per person – and this includes the internet connection. (Someone at the meeting had indicated a cost of 8000 – which is incorrect.)
  • Facilities include shared reception, printer and fax machines, gym, swimming pool, 24×7 security, shared parking, internet connection for smaller (e.g. 4-person setup), free coffee/tea, (paid) cafeteria.
  • Someone mentioned that you can stay there for only 2 years after which you have to leave. This is not true.
  • Capacity of up to 20 seats is available currently (Someone mentioned that there is a long waiting list – that appears to be no longer true.)
  • Connaught place near Bund Garden has offices for rent – but their rates suggest that they are not targeting startups, but are probably geared towards senior executives of MNCs. Our rough calculations indicated that the cost would be in excess of 30,000 per month for two people.
  • Another possibility suggested by a few people was to convince some friend of yours who owns a company to give you a couple of seats to work on your startup. We’ve heard of a number of people going this route.

How to share experiences?

  • Several people seem to get stuck at same issues – How can we address this?
  • Wiki doesn’t work
  • (For many startup issues, especially those related to partnership / proprietorship / private limited, registrations, and other legal issues, Vikas Kumar, CTO of BrainVisa pointed out that he knows many of the answers, based on his own experiences, but doesn’t have the time to put the information on a wiki, or even to respond to questions on a mailing list. However, if someone were to call him up on the phone, he would be happy to help them out. -navin)
  • Ask Pune Tech” was started as one possible solution for this problem.

Student internships

  • People wanted to know whether it is possible to successfully use students from local colleges to do useful work for the startup, either as part of a paid internship or as part of their final year project.
  • Many people have had bad experiences. Some had good experiences too. People had good experiences with the following colleges: COEP, PICT, MIT, SICSR.
  • Sahil, who is a student at SICSR, suggested that we should use the SICSR R&D cell, which has enthusiastic students who would be happy to work on such stuff. Just drop into SICSR and visit the R&D cell.

Other topics discussed

  • Anthony talked about Startup Hive – How resources can be shared. (Basic idea is for a bunch of startups to take space near each other, possibly in the same complex, and this would lead to a lot of synergies, energies and other goodness. -navin.)
  • There was a discussion about SEO/SEM – several people were of the opinion, that it is better to learn yourself than out source. (With this in mind, we are trying to organize a lecture on SEO from an expert for this month’s POCC meeting. An announcement will be made in a few days. -navin)
  • Shushrut mentioned about IBM SMB website. Similarly there is ICICI SME website. (These sites have lots of resources for startups. Check them out for answers to common questions. Another suggestion was -navin)

Presentations : – Search engine for searching bride/groom

  • Main problem they are trying to address is how to market their product
  • They ( wish to “play nice” with established players like Bharat Matrimony and by not offering syndicated search to other sites

The Tossed Salad – Lifestyle magazine

  • Problem they are trying to solve – How to market
  • Several suggestions about finding niche, rather than being generic
  • Amit suggested looking at and

After these presentations, there was Startup Cinema – “The office space”

About the Author – Mandar Vaze

Mandar Vaze is Linux Enthusiast since 1997, using linux at home on and off. He was associated with Twin Cities LUG in US, and PLUG after returning back to India. After working in corporate environment for 13 years, he has recently quit his job at Avaya. He plans to have his own business some day, but currently looking to be associated with some Pune based start-up as a consultant. He thinks Pune Tech is cool 🙂

Supply Chain Management in Consumer Goods – An In-Depth Look

Amit Paranjape, a regular contributor and primary adviser to PuneTech, had earlier written an article giving an overview of Supply Chain Management, and companies in Pune that develop software products in this area. This article, the next in the series, goes into details of the problems that SCM software products need to tackle in a consumer goods supply chain. This is a longer-than-usual article, hence posted on a Friday so you can read it over the weekend (assuming you are not attending one of the various tech activities happening in Pune this weekend.)

Here is a story about a packet of ‘Star Glucose Biscuits’ in ‘SuperMart’ on FC Road in Pune, told from the point of view of Supply Chain Management. Buckle up your seat belts because this story has tension, drama, emotion, and suspense (will the biscuits reach the shops in time for the T20 World Cup Promotion?)


The story begins at the Star Biscuits Factory in Bangalore where flour, sugar and other raw material are converted to the finished cases of biscuits. From Bangalore, the biscuits are shipped to a regional Distribution Center on the outskirts of Pune. This center then ships the biscuits to the local depots in different parts of cities such as Mumbai, Pune and from there they ultimately end up at the neighboring retail store, such as SuperMart on FC Road, Pune. In this seemingly simple journey are hidden a host of difficult business decisions and issues that arise on a daily basis. And to complicate matters further, we will throw in a few ‘interesting’ challenges as well! Throughout this story, we will take a deeper look at how the various business processes, and software programs associated with planning this entire supply chain network work in concert to bring you the extra energy and extra confidence of Star Glucose Biscuits.

This chain, from the raw materials all the way to the finished product sitting on the retail shelves is called the supply chain, and managing it efficiently is called supply chain management. Supply chain management is one of the most important aspects of running a manufacturing business, and doing it well has been the key to the phenomenal success of such giants as Walmart and Dell. The basic conflict that SCM is trying to tackle is this: you must have the right quantity of goods at the right place at the right time. Too few biscuits in the store on Sunday, and you lose money because have to turn customers away. Too many biscuits in the store and you have excess inventory. This is bad in a number of ways: 1. It eats up shelf space in the store, or storage space in your warehouse. Both of these cost money. 2. Your money, your working capital is tied up in excess inventory which is sitting uselessly in the warehouse. 3. If the biscuits remain unsold, you lose a lot of money. The same trade-off is repeated with intermediate goods at each step of the supply chain.

The Supply Chain in detail

Schematic of a supply chain. From bottom to top: multiple suppliers supply raw materials to multiple factories. Finished goods are then sent to regional distribution centers. From there it goes to smaller regional depots, and finally to individual stores.
Schematic of a supply chain. From bottom to top: multiple suppliers supply raw materials to multiple factories. Finished goods are then sent to regional distribution centers. From there it goes to smaller regional depots, and finally to individual stores.

At the Star Biscuit factory in Bangalore, they are gearing up to meet forecasted production requirements that were recently communicated by the Star Biscuits headquarters (HQ) in Mumbai. This is the ‘demand’ placed on this factory. These production requirements consist of weekly quantities spread over next 12 weeks. The factory planning manager now has to plan his factory to meet these requirements on time.

Let us see what all he needs to take into account. First, he needs to figure out the raw material requirements – wheat flour, oil, sugar, flavors, etc. as well as packaging material. Each of them has different procurement lead-times and alternative suppliers. He needs to pick the time to place orders with the right suppliers so that the material is available on time for the manufacturing process.

The manufacturing process itself consists of two primary steps – making the biscuits from the flour, and packaging the biscuits into individual boxes and cases. Typically, multiple parallel making and packing lines work together to achieve the desired output. The packing process scheduling is often complicated further by a series of different sizes and packaging configurations.

Ensuring that the right amount of material is available at the right time is called Material Requirements Planning (MRP), and in the old days, that was good enough. However, this can no longer be done purely in isolation. Even if the amounts of the different raw materials required are predicted precisely, it can be problematic if the various making and packing machines do not have the capacity to handle the load of processing the raw materials. Hence, another activity, called capacity planning, needs to be undertaken, and the capacity plan needs to be synchronized with the materials requirement plan, otherwise excess raw material inventory will result, due to sub-optimal loading of the machines and excessive early procurement of raw material. Excess inventory translates to excess working capital cash requirement; which in the current hyper competitive world is not good! Luckily, today there are sophisticated APS (Advanced Planning & Scheduling) software tools that are far superior to traditional MRP systems that enable him to simultaneously do material and capacity planning.

Happy with the production plan for the next 12 weeks, the factory planner then makes sure that individual making and packing lines have their detailed production schedules for the next two weeks. The finished cases leave his factory on truck loads. But where do they go from here? The journey to SuperMart where our customer wants to purchase the final product is still far from over!

The next stop is a big distribution center (DC) for the western region that sits on the outskirts of Pune. This distribution center is housed in a large warehouse with multi-level stacking pallets (each pallet contains multiple cases) of multiple different products from the manufacturer. A set of conveyors and fork-lifts enable material to flow smoothly from inbound truck docks to stocking area, and from the stocking area, to the outbound truck docks. These products come not only from our Star Biscuits factory in Bangalore, but from various other Star Biscuits factories located all over India. In fact, some of these products could also be directly imported from the parent company of Star Biscuits in the UK (the ones with the bitter, dark chocolate!). This Pune distribution center stocks and stores this material in proximity to the western region – with specific emphasis on the large Greater Mumbai and Pune markets. How are all these warehousing related activities smoothly managed? The DC manager takes full advantage of a Warehouse Management System Software (WMS). The truck loading and load containerization is managed by a Transportation Management Module.

From here outbound shipments are sent to smaller regional depots that are located in the cities, nearer to the stores. From these depots, the biscuits are finally shipped to the stores to meet the end customer demand. How is this demand calculated? Clearly, it is impossible to predict the demands coming from individual customers at the store, few weeks in advance! Hence it is necessary to ‘forecast’ the demand.

Forecasting demand and determining stock levels

Who decides how much material to stock? And how is it calculated? Clearly, as we briefly indicated earlier, keeping too much product is costly and keeping too little results in stockouts (material unavailability on store shelf) at the stores, thereby resulting in unhappy customers and lost sales. Too much product equals excess working capital (similar to the excess raw material problem) and is not good for the company’s financial performance. Too little, and we will run out if there are any major demand swings (commonly referred to as ‘demand variability’). To achieve the optimum level of the desired stock on hand to buffer against demand variability a ‘safety stock quantity’ is maintained in the warehouse. This quantity is computed by the central Supply Chain Management (SCM) team at HQ.

The actual computation of the safety stock for different products in the distribution center is calculated using a statistical computation (In some cases, a manual override is also done over the computed value). The most common technique consists of using Poisson distribution, demand & supply variability historical data, demand & supply lead time data, and desired customer service levels. Customer service levels are assigned based on an “ABC” classification of the products. ‘A’ category items are the fast movers and have a high revenue share and are typically assigned a 99% customer service level. Roughly speaking, a ‘99%’ customer service level implies that the safety stock quantity is adequate to guard against demand variability signals 99 times out of 100. Proactive planning on a daily basis that involves daily monitoring of stocks of all products is done, based on actual outbound shipments, can many times help in even reacting to that ‘1 in 100’ cases with rapid corrective measures.

The forecasting process for all the products is done at Star Biscuits Head Quarters. Let us continue with our example of ‘Star Glucose Biscuits’. The modern forecasting process is more accurately referred to as a ‘Demand Planning’ process. Statistical forecast is one input to the overall process. Statistical forecasts are derived from shipment history data and other input measures such as seasonality, competitor data, macro-economic data, etc. Various statistical algorithms are used to come up with a technique that reduces the forecasting error. Forecasting error is typically measured in ‘MAPE’ (Mean Absolute Percentage Error) or ‘MAD’ (Mean Absolute Deviation).

The statistical forecast is then compared with the sales forecast and the manufacturing forecast in a consensus planning process. This is often done as part of a wider ‘Sales & Operations Planning Process’ in many companies. Often times, a ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ forecasting technique is used. Here, individual forecasts at the product level are aggregated up the product hierarchy into product group forecasts. Similarly, aggregate product group level forecasts are disaggregated down the same hierarchy to the individual product level. These are then compared and contrasted and the expert demand planner then takes the final decision. Aggregated forecasting is important, since often times this reduces the forecast error. In case of Star Glucose Biscuits, the aggregated product hierarchy would first combine all sizes (e.g. 100 gm, 200 gm), then aggregate along sugar based biscuits type, and then into ‘All biscuits’ groups.

The end result of the demand planning process is the final consensus forecast that is calculated in weekly time intervals (commonly referred to in planning terminology as ‘buckets’) for a time horizon of 8-12 months. The demand forecasts drive the entire Star Biscuits Supply Chain. To simplify the overall Demand Planning process, modern DP software tools provide great help in statistical forecasting, OLAP based aggregation/disaggregation, and in facilitating interactive collaborative web-based workflows across different sets of users.

Managing the Supply Chain

It was easy if all we had was one DC in Pune and one factory in Bangalore, supplying to one store. But Star Biscuits has a much more extensive network! They have multiple factories throughout India and the same biscuits can be produced by each factory. How much of the demand to allocate to which factory? This problem is addressed by the Supply Chain Management (SCM) team that works in close concert with the Demand Planning team. The allocation is made based on various criteria such as shipment times, capacities, costs, etc. In coming up with the sourcing, transportation and procurement decisions – minimizing costs and maximizing customer service are amongst the top business objectives.

Now, getting back to Star Biscuits, they have over 300 products across 5 factories and 4 DCs. The DCs in turn, receive demand from nearly 100 depots that are supplying to thousands of stores all over India. Determining the optimal allocation of demands to factories, safety stocks to DCs and all the transportation requirements is beyond the abilities of humans. Such a complicated scale and decision problem needs computer help! Luckily, advanced SCM software tools can help the SCM team make these decisions fairly efficiently. Good SCM tools allow user interactivity, optimization, and support for business specific rules & heuristics. The SCM process thus determines the 12 week demand in weekly buckets for our factory in Bangalore, where we started.

To summarize, the overall supply chain – we saw how the product demand gets forecasted at HQ by the demand planning group. The SCM group then decides on how to allocate and source this demand across the different factories. They also decide on the ideal safety stock levels at the DCs. The WMS group ensures the efficient management of the distribution center activities. The factory planner team decides on the most efficient way to produce the biscuits demand allocated to their plant. The transportation management team is assigned the task of shipping material across this network in the best possible way to reduce cost and cut down on delivery times.

Dealing with drastic changes

And all of this is just to do “normal” business in “normal” times.
All the processes described earlier are great if the business works at a stable, reasonably predictable pace. Our safety stock policies guard against the day to day variability. But what about drastic changes? Unfortunately in the current environment, the only thing that is constant is ‘change’.

Here is what happened at Star Biscuits. One day, out of the blue, the entire planning team was thrown into a mad scramble by a new request from the marketing department. In order to react to a marketing campaign launched by one of their top competitors, the marketing department had a launched a new cricket promotion of its own for the next month.

Promotions are extremely important in the consumer goods industry. They entail targeted customer incentives, advertising spending and custom packaging – all in a synchronized fashion. The success of promotions often times make or break the annual year performance of a Consumer Goods Company. Promotions driven sales often times contribute large double digit percentage of total sales of consumer goods companies.

This particular cricket promotion involved a special packing requirement with the star logos on the packet. The target customer demand was not only upped by 50%, the offer also had a ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free’ incentive. As a result, the total demand was going up by nearly 300%.

The SVP in charge of Supply Chain was trying his best to get a handle of the problem. He was getting irritated by the constant pressure he was under from the SVP Marketing, and the CEO.

The demand planning team had to quickly alter its demand numbers to meet the new targets. The real trouble spot was brewing at the SCM team. The team had to rapidly make decisions on where to source this sudden demand spike. While cost optimization is important, meeting customer demand at ‘all costs’ is the key. The Bangalore factory was already running at 90% capacity and was in no position to produce much more. Luckily for the SCM team, their SCM tool quickly ran a series of scenarios and presented possible alternatives. These scenarios looked at various alternatives such as contract packing, new factories, expedited raw material shipments, direct shipments from the factories to the stores, etc. One of the resulting scenarios seemed to fit the bill. It was decided that bulk of the extra demand be routed to the alternative factory in Faridabad which had some spare capacity. From here, the product was going to be shipped directly (where feasible) to the Mumbai and Pune depots, where a large chunk of the promotion driven demand was expected. The rest of the country’s demand was going to be met by the conventional approach, from the Bangalore factory. The new package also resulted in demand for new packaging material with the cricket logos. New scenarios were generated that source this material from packaging material suppliers from the middle-east. (Interesting to note, that in some time crunched promotions, packaging material often times ends up being the bottle neck!)

Satisfied with this approach, the SVP Supply Chain ordered his team to come up with process improvements to prevent such scrambles in future. Luckily there was an easy solution. The Demand Planning software tool had a nice capability to support an integrated promotions planning & demand planning workflow. Such workflows look at various promotions related data, such as timing, costs, volume, competitor strategies and efficiently plan future promotions – instead of reacting to them at the last minute. In turn, such effective promotion planning can not only drive revenues, but also further improve supply chain efficiencies.

The SVP is happy, but what happened to our end customer on FC Road Pune? Well, she walked away happy with her promotion pack of Star Glucose biscuits, completely oblivious of what had happened behind the scenes!

About the Author – Amit Paranjape

Amit Paranjape is one of the driving forces behind PuneTech. He has been in the supply chain management area for over 12 years, most of it with i2 in Dallas, USA. He has extensive leadership experience across Product Management/Marketing, Strategy, Business Development, Solutions Development, Consulting and Outsourcing. He now lives in Pune and is an independent consultant providing consulting and advisory services for early stage software ventures. Amit’s interest in other fields is varied and vast, including General Knowledge Trivia, Medical Sciences, History & Geo-Politics, Economics & Financial Markets, Cricket.

CSI Pune Workshop: Introduction to Agile/SCRUM – Saturday 6th December

What: CSI Pune’s introductory workshop on Agile/SCRUM
When: Saturday, December 6th, 2008, 3:00pm to 6:-0pm
Where: BMC Software, S.B. Road, 5th Floor Tower A, ICC Tech Park, Senapati Bapat Road, Pune, Maharashtra 411016
Entry: Free for CSI Members, Rs. 100 for others, Rs. 50 for BMC employees. Register here.

Details – What is SCRUM?

What exactly is Agile – and which Agile? What is Scrum? The growing evidence base that Agile project methods deliver value faster and with higher quality is all well and good. However, if you and/or your organisation have little or no Agile experience – deciding where to start can be quite daunting.

Scrum is the fastest growing Agile methods which is increasingly being used by IT and non-IT organizations worldwide. Introduced to the world in 1996, Scrum has become the foremost Agile methodology for IT giants like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Verizon etc.

Benefits of the workshop provides participants with a top-level overview of Scrum and a balanced appreciation of the different Agile methodologies.

Delegates will take away with them a clear understanding of whether Scrum is ‘right’ for their organization, its pros and cons and those of the different methodologies.

Participants will have ample opportunity to ask questions and interact with the presenters in order to relate Scrum to their own organizations. They will also be provided with onward knowledge and learning resource sources.

Who Should Attend

  • Business managers
  • Program Managers
  • Project Managers
  • Software Development Managers
  • Software managers
  • Software Quality Managers
  • Developers and Testers


15 minutes: Registration

30 minutes: Introduction : How did Agile arise? What is Agile? Where is Agile Now? The Emergence of Scrum

45 minutes: SCRUM Breeze-through

15 minutes: Tea Break

30 minutes: Comparison and Summary of Leading methods with Scrum

  • SCRUM Comparative Strengths
  • XP Comparative Strengths
  • DSDM Comparative Strengths
  • The common aspects

30 minutes: Panel Discussion / Q & A

  • Selection of context?
  • Do different contexts favour different methods?

There are a lot of other tech activities going on in Pune in the next few weeks. Check out the PuneTech calendar for details.

How is the Indian IT industry handling the recession – facts and figures from NASSCOM

Ganesh Natarajan, CEO of Zensar, and President of NASSCOM, gave a talk last week about how the Indian IT/ITES industry is tackling the recession. It was full of facts and figures about the state of the industry, and the initiatives that are being taken by NASSCOM. This talk was given during the IndicThreads conference on Java technologies. I’ve already included this in my overall report on the IndicThreads Conference, but thought that it was interesting enough and important enough to warrant a post on its own.

The basic point he made was that we are not going to affected as badly as the rest of the world because of the following reasons:

  • We had already been tightening the belt for almost an year now, so we are in much better shape to handle the recession than those who weren’t being so prudent
  • We are creating new products, tackling new verticals, and focusing on end-to-end service (and these claims were all backed by facts and figures), and this diversification and added value makes us resilient

And he spent a lot of time pointing out that to do even better, or primary focus needs to be the tier 2 / tier 3 cities, 43 of which have been identified by NASSCOM and whose developement will get some attention. Also, our tier 2 / tier 3 colleges are sub-par and a lot of work is needed to improve the quality of students graduating from there. NASSCOM has started a number of initiatives to tackle this problem.

His full presentation with a whole bunch of interesting graphs, facts and figures from NASSCOM is here. Definitely worth checking out.