Monthly Archives: May 2010

ShopSocial.ly – A Pune-based startup that marries Facebook to shopping

ShopSocial.ly is a Pune-based startup that launched a couple of weeks back and immediately got coverage from both TechCrunch and GigaOm – which is a major achievement for any startup.

To give PuneTech readers some insights into what it takes to build and launch a startup like this out of Pune, we talked to a bunch of people associated with ShopSocial.ly.

ShopSocial.ly is a Pune-based social shopping startup. We talk to a number of Pune-based companies that worked on the product.
ShopSocial.ly is a Pune-based social shopping startup. We talk to a number of Pune-based companies that worked on the product.

First, here is a short interview with Jai Rawat, CEO of ShopSocial.ly:

Congratulations on the launch of ShopSocial.ly and the coverage from . Can you give a brief overview of ShopSocial.ly from your point of view?

We all trust our friends advice much more than what the advertisers tell us. Yet, currently most of our shopping is influenced by the ads. ShopSocially is built on the vision that the influence needs to shift from ads to our circle of trust – i.e. friends.

ShopSocially allows you tap into the collective wisdom of friends to get trusted recommendations. Friends can not only ask questions, they can also share their purchases to get comments and feedback.

The idea of social shopping is not new. In fact, many people in the Pune startup ecosystem will be familiar with the success of Kaboodle which launched in 2005. So how is ShopSocial.ly different?

First a disclosure – Kaboodle CEO happens to be a very good friend and fellow IIT Kanpur Alumnus.

While the original premise behind Kaboodle was similar to ShopSocially, they have really focused more on shopping search rather than creating a network for friends. Recall that at the time Kaboodle started, social networking had not taken roots.

On the ShopSocial.ly about page, I notice that you appear to have used a lot of small Pune companies/freelancers in building your product. I recognize Shashank Deshpande (of Clarice Technologies) who usually does usability, Prakash Thombre (of widemediaguy) who does graphic design, Rohan Dighe (of SocialWebFactory) who does social-media/facebook apps, Mangesh Yadav (of Joomlian) who builds websites, and I’m sure there are others that I do not recognize. As someone interested in the Pune “startup ecosystem”, I’m thrilled at this level of collaboration amongst Pune’s small companies. Would you comment upon how you approached this aspect of building your product, and whether you see this as a continuing/sustainable approach in the future?

There is certainly no dearth of great talent in India – even for the cutting edge web 2.0 technologies. My previous startup, AirTight Networks is also based in Pune and was one of the first product companies born out of India. Just like AirTight, ShopSocially product development has happened completely in Pune. The team has done a phenomenal job. In fact when people visit the site, one of the first question they ask me is who built the site and where did I find these people. They are quite incredulous that we were able to find such talent in India.

So yes, I very much see this as a continuing /sustainable approach going forward.

What do you see as the primary challenge for ShopSocial.ly to tackle now?

The immediate priority is to really understand and analyze user behavior and make necessary changes. If we can delight our users, they will feel compelled to invite their friends and it will go viral.

Your previous company, Airtight Networks, was an enterprise software company, and this one is a consumer web service. Can you talk about the difference in approach required for these two different kinds of companies? What extra efforts does a Pune-based startup need to take to be able to succeed in these two markets?

Enterprise software and consumer web service are two very very different animals. Enterprise products sell on functionality. Usability is important but it is more of a race to build the most number of features. The product comes with a thick user manual and is used by a few people who get special training to use that product.

Consumer web service on the other hand needs to be very intuitive and simple. It is very tempting to add a lot of features and the hard part is to maintain the discipline of keeping it simple.

I would say that building an enterprise product is a little harder especially if your customers are abroad. Unless developers understand the customer mindset, it is hard for them to build the right product. For consumer facing products, it is a bit easier because you can think like a consumer yourself. However, at the same time, consumer facing products require a lot of iterations on the user interface which can be very frustrating.

What are the most common mistakes you see amongst the young entrepreneurs these days?

I think one of the biggest mistake I see is that often they are more focused on perfecting their VC pitch rather than their idea. Their goal is to somehow convince a VC to put some money into the company. This is exactly the wrong approach. First and foremost you need to convince yourself that it is worth spending the next few years underpaid and overworked chasing this idea. Your energy should be focused on researching and refining the idea until you can honestly sell it to yourself. Once you are fully convinced, even if you don’t get VC funding, you may still find the passion and energy to pursue it anyways.

I always tell them to ask a simple question to themselves – is the idea worth failing at? The odds are stacked up against you. 9 out of 10 companies fail. However, even if you fail, you should be able to look back and say it was still worth it.

As indicated in one of the questions to Jai, we at PuneTech absolutely loved the fact that so many different Pune companies have been used by ShopSocial.ly in building their product. We tried to talk to some of them to get a feel for the interesting aspects of working on ShopSocial.ly.

Rohan Dighe, Pune-based founder of SocialWebFactory, who did the tight integration of ShopSocial.ly with facebook, points out that this exercise had some interesting challenges:

We noticed that people end up with two different networks of friends – one on ShopSocial.ly, which is smaller and more focused, and another on Facebook, which is larger and more diffuse. The conversations + comments that happen around any post are very different in these two settings. To ensure a seamless experience, what we now do is pull the entire Facebook discussion around any ShopSocial.ly post, and display it on ShopSocial.ly along with the native comments.

Another great thing about the Facebook integration is that ShopSocial.ly does not have a user registration or user login mechanims. We fully leverage Facebook for this, and thus we are able to get a full profile of any user (from Facebook) without them having to provide any data, and without them having to remember yet another username and password.

Shashank Deshpande of Clarice Technologies who helped ShopSocial.ly on user interaction design & product branding, points out that one of the most difficult things to do in a product like this is to keep it simple:

Shopping and socializing are two activities that we all have been doing for years, and hence we know a lot about them. Due to this, the first instinct would have been to add lots of features related to shopping and lots of features related to socializing to the product. However, doing that results in a product that non-techy consumers find a little confusing and overwhelming. We had to work really hard to reduce the functionality of the product and bring it down to a very small number of actions that are intuitive, and yet powerful enough that encompass the most important aspects of the product. The “Shout” and “Share” actions that you see on ShopSocial.ly are the result of that process.

Visual designers at Clarice Technologies had a challenging task to create product brand that would appeal to the international audience. Choice of product logo, colors & overall visual treatment was critical to make the product stand out from the plethora of consumer portals.

At the end of all these conversations, doubts still remain about what potential is there in this area, and we decided to get an expert opinion.

Basically, Social shopping is not a new concept, and there have been a number of startups in this space, including successful ones. For example, was started 5 years ago, and sold to Hearst corporation in 2007. Luckily for us, one of the co-founders of Kaboodle, Chetan Pungaliya, is now based in Pune. Although Chetan is not connected to ShopSocial.ly in any way, we caught up with Chetan to get his views on this market. Specifically, if social shopping is more than 5 years old, is there still scope for new startups to do interesting things in this space? Chetan thinks there is still a lot of potential:

The existing batch of social shopping startups, of which Kaboodle is one of the most successful, happened in the pre-Facebook era. They have their own social network, and users went there specifically. However, if social shopping can happen in the context of a user’s other social activity, for example, while doing other things on facebook, that can significantly improve the reach. New social shopping sites that nail this can do well. Also, as the internet becomes more entrenched and people start buying more categories online (which were not being bought online before – for example, art), new models of social shopping will emerge. I think, this remains an exciting space to watch.

There you have it – a broad multi-person view of ShopSocial.ly. This is an experimental format for PuneTech, so please let us know what you think of the format in comparison to a more conventional overview/interview.

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Overview of HTML5: CSI Pune Lecture – May 31

What: CSI Pune lecture on HTML5 by Swarraj Kulkarni, Principal Architect, Cognizant, Pune.
When: Monday May 31, 2010, 6pm-7:30pm
Where: 1st Floor Lecture Hall, I2IT (International Institute of Information Technology), Hinjewadi
Registration and Fees: Free for CSI members and students, Rs 100 for others. Register here and pay on the spot.

Click on the logo to see all PuneTech posts about CSI Pune
Click on the logo to see all PuneTech posts about CSI Pune

HTML5

HTML5 is the next generation of HTML, to reduce the need for proprietary plug-in based Rich Internet Application (RIA) development technologies such as Adobe Flash, Silverlight, JavaFx, etc. The new version will have capabilities of HTML v4.0 plus additional features like DOM management, offline storage database, document editing, drag-drop, etc. This talk will be focused on salient features of HTML5 and how it will influence the next generation RIA development process.

This lecture is useful for all IT professionals and students especially for those, who are seeking to have deep penetration in web and internet related activities in years to come. HTML 5 is probably going to be tomorrow’s mainstream platform for web development – so this lecture is surely going to be an eye opener!

About the Speaker – Swarraj Kulkarni

Swarraj has more than 17 years of experience in the IT industry. At Cognizant, he is working as a Principal Architect for BFS-Technology Consulting Group. BFS (Banking & Financial Services) is at the centre of any activity whether it is a commercial or manufacturing. BFS has a very vast array of direct activities and derived activities. Multiple technologies get involved in these services. Being an Enterprise Architect, he focuses on multiple technologies, architecture patterns and enterprise adoption of upcoming technologies including Web 2.0, SOA, etc.

He has been closely following Web 2.0 in general and its adoption in enterprises to solve business problems.

Call for speakers – IndicThreads conference on Cloud Computing

IndicThreads, the Pune-based organization that is best known for its annual Java conference that happens in Pune, is now diversifying and holding conferences on other areas of technology. The next conference is on Cloud Computing, and will be held in Pune on 20 and 21st August.

indicthreads logo small
The call for papers is out and the deadline for submissions is 31st May – actually, it’s a call for speakers – because you’re only required to submit an abstract now, and a slideshow just before the conference. Submitting entries to conferences like this is, we believe, a good way for Pune’s tech professionals to get visibility for their work, and a good way to get into a paid conference without having to pay the fees. Hence, if you’ve done any work in cloud computing, or virtualization, or Software-as-a-Service, or if you know enough about one of the related fields to be able to give an overview talk, you should submit an abstract.

For IndicThreads’ previous conference (on software quality assurance), we had given a list of reasons why you should strongly consider being a speaker at that conference. You should re-read that post, because most of the reasons continue to apply.

Suggested list of topics

Topics include but are not restricted to the following, stated in no particular order –

Diagram showing three main types of cloud comp...
Image via Wikipedia
  1. Cloud /Grid architecture
  2. Cloud-based Services and Education
  3. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  4. Software as a Service (SaaS)
  5. Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  6. Virtualization
  7. High-Performance Computing
  8. Cloud-Delivered Testing
  9. Cloud Lock-in vs. Cloud Interoperability
  10. Multi Cloud Frameworks & APIs
  11. Monitoring Cloud Applications
  12. Data Security & Encryption On The Cloud
  13. Elastic Computing
  14. Cloud Databases
  15. Private vs. Public Clouds
  16. Cloud Scalability
  17. Cloud Analytics

Submission

Submit your entry here.

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Demo Talk on “R” – software for analyzing and visualizing data – 29 May

What: Demo talk on R – free software package for analyzing and visualizing data, part of Bhaskaracharya Pratishthana’s lecture series for promotion of open source Math software
When: Saturday, 29 May 2010, at 3pm-4:30pm
Where: Bhaskaracharya Pratishthana
Registration and Fees: This event is free for all to attend. No registration is required.

Bhaskaracharya Pratishthana is a Pune-based research and educational institution for Mathematics. It regularly has free educational lectures that encourage use of open source software packages for mathematics. Click on the logo to go to its website.
Bhaskaracharya Pratishthana is a Pune-based research and educational institution for Mathematics. It regularly has free educational lectures that encourage use of open source software packages for mathematics. Click on the logo to go to its website.

Overview of R

R is a programming language and software environment for statistical computing and graphics. The R language has become a de facto standard among statisticians for the development of statistical software,and is widely used for statistical software development and data analysis. R is an open source software package and is a part of the GNU project.

Abstract of the Talk

This talk will attempt to introduce R, CRAN and http://www.r-project.org/ to non-specialists by a non-specialist. Appreciation of the Package-diversity that is available within R – framework for analyzing and visualizing DATA of all kinds will be the main goal.

Simple Examples drawn from the vast R-literature will be used for this purpose. The aim is to feel the characteristic easy R-style, even in practically useful important tasks.

PuneCleanTech meet: Energy Efficiency, Opportunities & Challenges – 5 June

What: An overview of the opportunities and challenges in the area of conventional energy efficiencies, by Shishir Athale
When: Saturday, June 5, 11am
Where: Venture Center, NCL Innovation Park, Pashan Road. Map: http://bit.ly/VenCen (To reach Venture Center, go past NCL towards Pashan, pass the cricket ground adjacent to NCL and then you’ll find NCL Innovation Park / Venture Center on the right hand side.)
Registration and Fees: This event is free for all to attend. Free seating on First Come, First Seated basis only
Further Info: Contact Harshad Nanal (harshadnanal@gmail.com), Anil Paranjape (amparanjape@gmail.com)

Energy Efficiency – Opportunities and Challenges

PuneCleanTech is a special interest group (SIG) of PuneTech focusing on clean tech. Click on the logo to go to the PuneCleanTech website for more details
PuneCleanTech is a special interest group (SIG) of PuneTech focusing on clean tech. Click on the logo to go to the PuneCleanTech website for more details

The new gee-whiz technologies such as solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels et cetera take all the limelight these days. But the fact remains that they are still a miniscule part of our energy mix and will remain so for the foreseeable future. A far bigger opportunity, however, exists all around us. There is enormous potential for making the conventional energy generation, distribution, storage and utilization much more efficient than what it is.

What is this opportunity? Where is it? How does one find it? How big is it? What can be done about it? How can it be addressed? Does anyone address it today? How do they do it? What qualifications do they need to do it?

We are fortunate to have Mr. Shishir Athale enlighten us on all these questions on June 5th, 11am at the NCL Venture Center (June 5th is also the Environment Day, a fitting coincidence!). Shishir is one of those very few intrepid entrepreneurs, who have the guts to get into this very tough market, where he has been painstaking building his company called Sudnya Industrial Services. Sudnya is an ESCO (Energy Services Company) which identifies energy efficiency improvement opportunities for clients, often putting their own money on the line, getting paid only if those savings materialize (now you know why this business is not for the faint-hearted!) Besides guts, this business also needs a rare mix of capabilities: engineering, project planning, management, finance, marketing all rolled into one. It will be exhilarating walking Shishir’s journey (while safely holding his hand ūüôā on this tough trail.

Before Sudnya, Shishir spent many years at Thermax and other companies, getting trained on many engineering skills in heat and co-generation fields that ultimately culminated into Sudnya. Before Thermax, he managed plants for CPG companies where he often implemented energy saving projects, sometimes achieving 25% energy savings.

Shishir is well recognized as a trainer for energy managers by none other than FICCI. He was on CII’s sub-committees on Cogeneration and Energy End-use Efficiency and on an MNES Committee for evolving a National Policy on Bio-mass Based Cogeneration. He is a qualified Lead Assessor for ISO 9000 certification and has undergone training in India and abroad. He qualified as a Certified Energy Auditor in the first examination conducted by the BEE in 2004.

Shishir is a graduate in Chemical Technology and now resides in Pune.

As always, seating is limited, no reservations and strictly on a first-come, first-seated basis.

About PuneCleanTech

PuneCleanTech is a special interest group of PuneTech focusing on Clean Technologies. It is an awareness, education, and networking platform to showcase Clean Technologies developed and used in and around Pune, one of the largest Industrial hubs in India. The network brings together technology professionals, entrepreneurs, students, policy makers, investors, and citizens interested in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Waste management, Water Management, and Environmentally-Friendly Design/Development/Delivery Alternatives to Traditional Products and Services. Those interested in this area are urged to join the PuneCleanTech mailing list, Anil Paranjape (amparanjape@gmail.com) with support from PuneTech and NCL Venture Center.

About NCL Venture Center:

Venture Center – a CSIR initiative – is a not-for-profit company hosted by the National Chemical Laboratory, Pune. Venture Center strives to nucleate and nurture technology and knowledge-based enterprises by leveraging the scientific and engineering competencies of the institutions in the Pune region in India. The Venture Center is a technology business incubator specializing in technology enterprises offering products and services exploiting scientific expertise in the areas of materials, chemicals and biological sciences & engineering.

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Interview with Dr. Chitra Lele: Pharma and Biotech outsourcing in Pune

(This is an interview of Dr. Chitra Lele, Chief Scientific Officer of Sciformix Corporation, by Pallavi Kelkar, a Pune based tech entrepreneur, who interviewed Dr. Lele on behalf of PuneTech.)

Dr. Chitra Lele is the Chief Scientific Officer at Sciformix Corp, a startup focusing on providing KPO (knowledge process outsourcing) services to pharmaceutical and bio-tech companies. Chitra has done her PhD in Statistics from Stanford University, and she has more than 15 years of experience in this area.

This interview of Dr. Chitra Lele gives an idea of some of the areas of outsourcing the the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, as well as some of the challenges of doing this out of Pune.
This interview of Dr. Chitra Lele gives an idea of some of the areas of outsourcing in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, as well as some of the challenges of doing this out of Pune.

Before this, she was an Executive Director, at Pfizer Global R&D, where she set up India’s first biometrics center, providing services in clinical data management, statistics, programming and medical writing, and she successfully grew it to a size of over 400 staff. She has also worked as a faculty member at the School of Statistics at the University of Minnesota, and IIT, Bombay. She was instrumental in setting up Academy for Clinical Excellence (ACE) at the Bombay College of Pharmacy (BCP). She is a visiting faculty member at University of Pune, teaching Statistics courses and supervising PhD students. She is one of the founding members of “Indian Association for Statistics in Clinical Trials”.

She is a lady who wants to do quality work, and to make a difference.

Tell us more about Sciformix

My Company is positioned as a KPO and the primary domain is pharma & healthcare. Ours is a data management/analysis/interpretation related company. We work for Global Pharma companies, primarily based in North America, who outsource the work to us. There are four primary areas in which work:

  • Statistics & programming: Pharmaceutical companies have to conduct clinical trials before they bring new drugs into the market. These experiments / trials have to be designed statistically & analyzed. A lot of statistics & programming is involved in it. This includes complex statistical simulation, modelling and analysis. It involves extensive programming, primarily using the software SAS, which is the most commonly used statistical software in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Scientific Writing: We do all kinds of scientific writing that pharma companies need. For example, once a drug is in the market and consumed by a large section of a population, what kinds of adverse reactions are getting reported & what do they mean medically? We summarize that data and submit a safety report. All the pharmacological details of a drug, protocols and study result reports for the trials, medico-marketing literature and much more comes under scientific writing.
  • Safety Data Management (Pharmacovigilance): There is a toll free number present on package insert of medicines that are sold in the West. There you can report any issues regarding the drug. In the western countries, more so in North America, there is lot of awareness about this. Consumers as well as health care professionals, and pharmacists call that number to report adverse reactions. We run such call centres. There consumers might call to report adverse reactions to the drug, or any other quality issues with the drug, or medical doctors might call to ask if a particular medicine can be given along with other medication that their patients are already taking. We record such data, enter the data in Safety Databases, analyze and interpret it medically (for e.g, we assess if the adverse reaction is medically serious, and if it could be causally related to the drug) and submit reports to regulators around the world, including US FDA.
  • Regulatory affairs: We primarily provide document authoring and compilation services in the Regulatory Affairs area. For example, if there is a small change in the manufacturing process of the drug, it has to be reported, along with a pharmacological justification that this manufacturing change has no impact on the availability and action of the drug on the body. The report has to be submitted to regulators. When companies want to market their product in different geographies, dossiers have to be written, compiled and submitted as per the country-specific regulations.

Any specific problems you faced while setting up your office in India?

Well, although connectivity & other infrastructure has improved significantly over last few years, (smiles) it’s still not the ideal, optimal scenario. We had some challenges. For example, when we started our office in Mumbai, although we chose a commercial & industrial area in order to have good infrastructure, only one provider was available at that time (3 years back), who could provide connectivity from this location. We had to connect to the client’s domestic office in Mumbai, and the client didn’t want us to use this provider. However, we didn’t have a choice, and had to manage the client’s dissatisfaction. But now other companies are available to provide connectivity from this location.

Another, and a bigger, problem is about availability of skilled resources in the areas that we are focussed on. The entire area of pharmacovigilance was very new in India, and hence people were not aware of it. There are a lot of training institutes who train people in clinical research domain, so we do get people who have some basic awareness. But getting health care professionals to work in this area is not easy. In the west, it is common for certified nurses to work in pharmacovigilance. In India, it is not common for people having a degree in nursing to enter the corporate world. Not many MBBS doctors are willing to get into it. The clients often don’t want doctors with degrees in alternate medicine to do the medical review and analysis of safety data. So, to find the right people is the biggest challenge. And of course, we need to invest a lot in training these individuals once we hire them. The other problem area is statistics and programming. There is a pool of people in India who have a basic degree in statistics or who have done some course or certification in SAS software. But the average quality of these resources is not good, hence it’s difficult to recruit good statisticians and programmers.So we also recruit fresh graduates and train them form scratch.

One of the reasons we have our office in Mumbai is availability of experienced professionals in Mumbai, and we expanded in Pune because we can easily get fresh graduates here.

Do you find any difference in terms of quality of graduate students, between Pune and elsewhere?

Not really. One clear advantage of Pune is that Pune University’s Statistics department is very good. We don’t recruit hundreds of statistics graduates – we just need 1 or 2. We get them easily in Pune.

On a negative side what we have been experiencing is on an average, English language skills are significantly inferior in Pune compared to Mumbai.

In terms of infrastructure, what are the advantages and disadvantages of Pune?

Advantage: In Pune, it is easy to get office space. The scale of the city is such that you can reach anywhere in an hour. This is not the case in Mumbai.

Disadvantage: Every time they dig the road our phone lines are down. This is not the case in Mumbai. And of course, the biggest problem in Pune is the power situation, which is not at all an issue for us, given our office location in Mumbai.

One of the reasons to have an office in Pune is the low expenses. After accounting foreverything, it is much cheaper to operate from n Pune than Mumbai.

Being a woman in a team of men, was there any advantage or disadvantage?

I was in charge of my unit in Pfizer, my previous company. I didn’t find any disadvantage of being a woman at all, although I was the only woman in the senior executive team for quite a long period there. I was respected for my work, my capabilities. Even in my current company, I am the only woman in the senior executive team. Disadvantages, if any, are primarily due to personal biases of one or two individuals, and are not a general issue.

Advantage: In general, there’s a gender difference in terms of the style of management. Women have an advantage in some aspects, but I can’t generalize to say that there’s an advantage to being a woman manager. There are many men who are good managers as well.

There is a general impression that women take their work casually, have you experienced this?

I don’t think so. In fact, 2/3rd of my staff at Pfizer consisted of women, and even at Sciformix, more than half the staff comprises of women. The impression is created, mostly because of family responsibilities. Even today, in general the expectation is that women will take more responsibilities of house and kids than men, even though their husbands try to help. But women are able to deliver things in whatever limited time they have.

Also, there are enough examples of men taking their work casually, especially young graduates.

How do you balance the work-life cycle?

(Laughs…) In terms of work life balance, I don’t think I am doing a good job at all; I know I need to improve on that. I am a workaholic, working for very long hours on weekdays and working on weekends too. When you take an entrepreneurial route, it is even more challenging. There is no limit to how much you want to do & how much you want to grow.

So, what I do is that for 1/2 or 3/4ths of a Saturday or Sunday, I try not to work.

As an entrepreneur, what are the changes you had to make in your personality after starting a business?

Before starting my company, although I was doing a job and my employer was a large company, I was given the responsibility of starting a separate unit for them. I set up the group of 400 people. I had support, but lot of things I had to do myself. So, I had that experience with me, nothing was new for me in this aspect.

I had to change my personality quite a bit to bring in the business. Lot of persistence is required here. If I want to get some work from people then I have to keep following-up, and pushing people, which was new for me. Sometimes, I knew that I am much better than some of the people I am talking to, and I would wonder why do I have to give in to their whims and fancies…but I need the business, and they are in a position of providing me with that business, so I have to do it – this where I had to change myself. All such things require a very different mindset, persistence and aggression. Over the last three years, I think I have developed a good amount of skill of talking to clients. The way I talk now is very different from the way I used to speak before. Trying to market your company, talking about your capabilities now comes spontaneously to me in every conversation I have with the client. But I had to develop this very consciously.

How do you manage your stress? It must have increased compared to before.

Yes, it has increased. I try to manage by doing some exercise every day, which is a good stress buster for me. I have learned playing musical instruments. I do not play currently, but I want to start again – that can also be a stress buster. As I have already told, I try to be stay away from company work for at least half a day every weekend. Also, I have significantly increased the number of movies, plays and concerts that I go to. I catch one of these at least every other weekend. That is the stress buster too.

Did you think of giving up at any point of time for any reason?

Yes, such thoughts do come. When we have to deal with unreasonable customers, it is difficult. But things stabilize after a while. Sometimes, you have a difference of opinion with your peers and you strongly believe you are right, at that time it happens – but there has never been a make or break situation so far. I take it as a probably good learning for the future. The thing is, I look at the bigger picture.

I left my job because I wanted to test my credibility in terms of bringing in business and building an organization, without having a big company’s backing. I also wanted to do something that makes a difference to the environment. I think I have done a reasonably good job in this respect. This experience has given me greater confidence to encounter and mange difficult situations in the future. I believe that every experience, good or bad, teaches you something and makes you a better and a stronger person.

How is your family support system like?

My support system is primarily my husband. Ever since we got married, we have stayed away from each other a lot, in terms of being based in different cities, both in the US and in India. I took up whatever seemed to be the best opportunity at every stage of my career. He always believed that I should do what I think is good for me and has always encouraged me work where I can use my capabilities. Everything that I have been able to do and achieve has been possible because of his strong support & backing.

Was your career planned, I mean had you decided that I will do PhD and be in business after some time?

No, nothing was planned as such. By nature I am not the kind of person who decides what I will do 15 years down the road. At every point of time I did whatever I thought I wanted to do.

The only thing which was planned was my PhD. Nothing else was planned. So, if you ask me, what I will be doing after 3 years then I won’t be able to tell you that.

What are your hobbies?

Nothing unique. I like classical music; I am not practicing it now but I do listen to it, and reading and traveling.

Any guidelines for upcoming entrepreneurs?

I would say 2 things. First & foremost, be very clear about what you fundamentally want to do and achieve through the entrepreneurial venture that you undertake, and second, have the right kind of people with you.

Any regrets looking back & anything that you think of as a turning point?

Looking back, I think that every experience was enriching whether good or bad, so I have no regrets. The turning point for me was, when I decided to go for BSC in mathematics. I was a good student throughout my academic years. So it would have been natural for me to go in for medical or engineering degrees. I thought at that time that I liked Mathematics and Medicine. After the 12th standard, I chose to go in for BSc instead of trying to get into medicine or a field related to medicine I am convinced that it was the right decision. Though my parents were disappointed at that time, they are now happy that I chose this path.

About the Interviewer – Pallavi Kelkar

Pallavi is a co-founder of Krishna Infosoft, a software services company based in Pune. She has 3+ years experience in programming & development, and she works on .NET technologies, PHP etc. Pallavi is involved in design and development of customized desktop and web applications, and enterprise applications. Pallavi is also a co-founder of TechMarathi, a non-profit venture, where you can find information in Marathi for everything related to Tech.

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Research Institutions in Pune

(This article by Amit was first published on his blog and is being reproduced here with permission.)
Pune is well-known in India and internationally for being a hub of education and research. It has a wide range of academic & research institutions spanning various domains in science, technology, medicine, agriculture, arts, humanities, law, finance, etc. This blog article is an attempt to list out these various institutions. If you find any missing, please add a comment.

Science & Technology

The University of Pune (photo credit: Shreesh Kawthekar, via Wikipedia)

Arts, Humanities, Management & Law

Defense Related

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PuneTech is back from a vacation

Click on the logo to get all PuneTech articles about PuneTech
Click on the logo to get all PuneTech articles about PuneTech

As you might (or might not) have noticed, PuneTech and the PuneTech Calendar have not been updated since the beginning of May. The reason is that PuneTech was on a summer vacation during this time. We’re back from the vacation, and our regularly scheduled programming is resuming starting today.

Subscribe to PuneTech for the latest information about some cool tech events, some interviews, and other interesting articles.

If you’re interested in writing articles for PuneTech, or you’re interested in interviewing some interesting Pune companies, or personalities, please let us know.

Panel Discussion: From Jugaad to System Innovation – May 21

What: MCCIA & KPIT Cummins presents a panel discussion on “From jugaad to systematic innovation”
When: Friday 21 May 2010 at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Hall no. 6 & 7, A wing-5th floor, MCCIA Trade Tower, ICC Complex, SB Road, Pune
Registration and Fees: This event is free for all to attend. However prior confirmation is desired. Mrs. Vinaya Ingale (email : vinayai@mcciapune.com, tel : 25709180) Mrs. Madhura Chipade (email : madhurac@mcciapune.com, tel : 25709213) Mr. S. H. Kopardekar (email : sudhanwak@mcciapune.com, tel : 25709211)

(Note: NCL also has a seminar by Prof. Krishnan on this same topic on 20th May. See the PuneTech calendar for details.)

From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation

MCCIA Pune is the premier business organization in Pune. For more PuneTech articles about MCCIA, click the logo
MCCIA Pune is the premier business organization in Pune. For more PuneTech articles about MCCIA, click the logo

Grassroots innovation that adds value for many has emerged as the strongest theme driving innovation initiatives in India. This has resulted in some outstanding examples of frugally engineered products, that impact many people across a wider area. It is indeed a reason to be proud that many of these have been steered from Pune.

To foster the culture of innovation among businesses in Pune, MCCIA the apex trade body in Pune and KPIT Cummins – a leading product engineering and IT consulting company with a strong commitment to innovation have come together to present an exclusive opportunity to meet thought leaders who have played a key role in driving innovation.

MCCIA and KPIT Cummins invite you to a panel discussion ‘From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation’ based on a book by Mr. Rishikesha Krishnan, Professor of Corporate Strategy & Policy and Jamuna Raghavan Chair Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB). The panel discussion will explore the innovation paradigm in India and its implications.

Speakers at the Panel Discussion are :

  • Mr. M. S. Unnikrishnan, Managing Director of Thermax Limited
  • Mr. Shrinivas Sharangpani, former Head of Knowledge Centre, Teardown & Benchmarking Centre and Innovation Centre at Tata Motors.
  • Mr. Kiran Deshpande, President, Airtight Networks (Winner of the NASSCOM Innovation Award 2009)
  • Mr. Rishikesh Krishnan, Professor of Coprorate Strategy at IIM Bangalore and author of the book ‘From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation’
  • Mr. Anup Sable, Senior Vice President, Automotive Engineering, KPIT Cummins

About the Speakers

M S Unnikrishnan

M S Unnikrishnan is the Managing Director of Thermax Limited, the Rs. 3200-crore energy and environment solutions company, headquartered in Pune, India. The company operates in the areas of heating, cooling, power, water and waste management, air pollution control and chemicals. The company has been consistently listed by Forbes as one of Asia’s best under a billion dollar companies. Prior to Thermax he has worked in companies like EID Parry, Terrazzo Inc, U.A.E.He is a Member of the Development Council constituted by the Ministry of Heavy Industries, Government of India, towards creating strategies for the Industrial development of the country. Apart from that he is actively involved with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) as a National Committee Member for (i) Power and (ii) Capital Goods. He also served as a Member of the special Sub-committee created by the CII for enabling the Civilian Nuclear Agreement between India and USA. He is also co-opted as a Member of the Advisory Committee co-chaired by the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir for creating a 2020 vision and plan for the state. Mr. Unnikrishnan is known for his strategic and human relations skills and is a keen champion of green technologies. He is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Programme.

Shrinivas Sharangpani

Shrinivas is the former Head of Knowledge Centre, Teardown & Benchmarking Centre and Innovation Centre at Tata Motors. An author and researcher, Shrinivas has a patent on process of making mirror like reflective coating on large bodies and has 3 more patents pending. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Metallurgy and is an expert in the area of Innovation, Benchmarking, Product Development, Value Engineering, Cost Reduction and Creativity. Prior to Tata Motors he has worked with Bajaj Tempo Ltd (now Force Motors).

Kiran Deshpande

Kiran is the President of Airtight Networks, a global leader in wireless intrusion prevention systems, wireless LAN monitoring products and Radio Frequency management. Kiran brings 24 years of management and technology experience in the software industry. At AirTight he oversees sales and operations for the EMEA and Asia Pacific regions. Kiran was formerly the Managing Director and CEO of Mahindra British Telecom (MBT). Kiran grew the company from US $7m in five years achieving over 60% CAGR on revenue and 110% CAGR on net profit. The company became one of the top software services companies from India. Under his leadership Airtight Networks won the NASSCOM India Innovation in the New Technology Advancement category for 2009. Kiran has worked with companies like IMR (later acquired by CGI) and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Kiran has a BSEE from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India and MSEE from Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. He is a senior member of IEEE.

Rishikesha T. Krishnan

Rishikesha T. Krishnan is a Professor (and currently Area Chairperson) in the Corporate Strategy & Policy Area, & Jamuna Raghavan Chair Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB), India. His research interests are in the areas of strategy, innovation and competitiveness. Prof. Krishnan holds degrees from IIT Kanpur, Stanford University and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He has been a member of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) National Panel on Intellectual Property, R&D, Technology and Innovation; the Advisory Council of CII√Ęs National Innovation Mission; and on the jury of Nasscom’s innovation awards. He has been a member of government committees to review the performance of the National Innovation Foundation, and to study √ĘThe Future of Aviation and Aeronautics in India.√Ę He has done external reviews of the plan schemes of India√Ęs Department of Scientific & Industrial Research and the Department of Biotechnology√Ęs SBIRI scheme. Prof. Krishnan is an independent director on the boards of several companies He is a trustee of the Foundation for Excellence India Trust (www.ffe.org). He was the Fall semester 2008 Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania. Professor Krishnan√Ęs first book, From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation: The Challenge for India (see http://jugaadtoinnovation.blogspot.com), was published in February 2010.

Anup Sable

Anup is the head of the automotive line of business at KPIT Cummins. With his commitment to innovation in product engineering and solutions delivery he has built strong relations with customers and has been helping them to globalize & standardize their products and operations efficiently. He has been instrumental in creating a robust delivery ecosystem which supports clients in bringing complex technology products and systems faster to markets. Passionate about technology in cars, Anup began his career as a research engineer at the Automotive Research Association in India (ARAI). With over 15 years of experience in the field of automotive electronics, Anup has played a key role in setting up the Automotive Electronics practice at KPIT Cummins. Anup has done his engineering from Government College of Engineering, Pune where he was awarded the Best Outgoing Mechanical Engineer. Anup has authored numerous articles and frequently speaks at national & international forums on automotive technologies and electronics in particular.