Monthly Archives: March 2011

What I like about Rails3 by Gautam Rege

(This article by Gautam Rege is based on a talk he gave at Techweekend #8. It was first published on the Josh Software blog, and is reproduced here with permission.)

This is NOT a post about differences between Rails 2.x and Rails 3 but these are some musings about what I love in Rails. A lot of goodies come ‘in the box’ (I hate saying out-of-the-box) with Rails3 and some of them have been there since early version of Rails but somehow less frequently used or talked about. I spoke about this at Techweekend #8 and the presentation is here.


Ever had a production system crash one day – without any code deployment or even anyone logging in. After the initial ‘its not me’ excuses, one system administrator says ‘Hey, I had updated the system libraries’. Having been burnt already before (hopefully), you check on the system and find that some system library has been upgraded and some gems have been upgraded and that is causing incompatibility between other gems etc. We had the case where rack (1.0.1) was upgraded to rack (1.1) causing incompatibility with the Rails gem we were running! The fix is simple — upgrade or downgrade your gems or libraries and you’re on your way. A few days later, another developer needs to deploy a simple sinatra application. He takes the latest version which requires rack > 1.1 and it automatically upgrades the gem. Boom! Your Rails app crashed again.

Did I hear you freeze the gems? Nah – not a good approach, as it causes your application deployment bundle to be huge and ‘frozen’. Every application you use would require to freeze gems and this does not really solve your problem.

Bundler (by Yahuda and Carl) built this awesome gem which is now the de-facto standard for any Rails application. In fact, it was so cool, its not Rails 2.x compatible and very highly recommended. You can now specify your dependencies in a Gemfile and prevent any clashes with any other gem versions and their dependencies. Since the gems are installed in the system default location (not frozen in your app), it means it us re-usable and version friendly!

source ""

gem "haml" # the latest version
gem "rack", "~>1.1" # v1.1 or greater
gem "nokogiri", :git => "git://"
gem "splat", :path => "~/Code/splat" # local code base

group :test do # only in test environment
gem "rspec", :require => "spec"


Unobtrusive Java Script has been around for ages now but Rails lingered with prototype.js. Now, with the awesome features of JQuery, we can easily use UJS to solve some common and nagging problems:

  • Avoid submit if button clicked twice!
  • Make non-get requests from Hyperlinks!
  • Submit form data via Ajax

Add :remote => true to hyperlink, forms and other elements. This adds the data-remote=true in your html properties. The ‘live’ JQuery function binding kicks in and sets up the events for various elements. Simple and awesome – this is available here.


Cross site scripting has been a pain to handle for a long time. Rails does this under covers – you dont event need to know too many details:

protect_from_forgery is automatically added during basic rails project creation. This ensures that every form created by the application has an authenticity_token as a hidden data field. During a post request, this is verified and thus ensures that the source of the form creation is the same server – this avoid session stealing where a malicious form is posted to your server using an authenticated user’s session!

While using UJS, you need to add csrf_meta_tag in your layout to avoid silent Ajax errors.

SQL injection is cleanly avoided with new where syntax:

# Wrong
where("user_name = '#{user_name}' AND "password = '#{password}'").first

# Correct
where("user_name = ? AND password = ?", user_name, password).first

# Correct and clean
where(:user_name => user_name, :password => password).first

In Rails3, all html spewed out is HTML SAFE! So, you cannot leave gaps for non-HTML safe code, even by mistake! If indeed you do trust the source, you can use the ‘raw’ method to spew out the HTML as is.

Rails Eager Loading

The N+1 query problem is fairly common and largely ignored until you hit serious performance issues.  Straight out of the Rails guide, consider the case

clients = Client.all.limit(10)

clients.each do |client|
puts client.address.postcode

There are 11 queries fired here. Using the :includes construct, Rails does eager loading like this:

clients = Client.includes(:address).limit(10)

clients.each do |client|
puts client.address.postcode

Here only 2 queries are fired as Rails includes the address relationship too while fetching the client objects.

Transliteration / Babosa

What happens to your permalinks if a user enters the information in Arabic? We faced exactly this issue and were asked by our client to prevent input which is not English. Woh! ActiveSuppprt in Rails3 addresses a lot of these transliteration issues:

"Jürgen Müller".to_slug.transliterate.to_s #=> "Jurgen Muller"

Performance using Identity Map

The awesomeness of Rails progression – As of this inclusion the Identity Map pattern is now part of Rails 3 caching mechanism. An identity map is a design pattern used to improve performance by providing a in-memory cache to prevent duplicate retrieval of the same object data from the database, in context of the same request or thread.

Optimistic Locking

A really old concept which has been there since REALLY early versions of Rails. This is commonly overlooked but is critically important when it comes to concurrent request processing. By adding a ‘lock_version’ field in the table, Rails automatically kicks into optimistic locking mode and prevents concurrent writes when the data is stale. The StaleObjectError is raised incase the lock_version is not the same as when it was read.

Named Scopes

This is almost cliched now 🙂 Mames scopes were added since Rails 2.1. Its one of the things I love about Rails. The scopes are chained together and the query is fired only when the data is really needed. This is excellent for report filters! Adding new filters is a breeze as its only one of the scopes to be chained. Remember that scopes do not return an Array but an association object like has_many. That is how they can be chained to other scopes.

I’m pretty sure I have missed some things here. Do comment on what features you like best about Rails3! 😉


ACM Pune Event: Computer Ethics and Technology by Dr. Don Gotterbarn – 31 March

The Pune Chapter of ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) presents a talk on Computer Ethics and Technology by Dr. Don Gotterbarn, East Tennessee State University, USA. The talk is on Thursday, 31 March, 5:30pm to 7pm, at COEP (Ground Floor Seminar Hall, E&TC Extension Building).

Abstract of the talk – Computer Ethics and Technology

This talk focuses on computer ethics as it relates to the day to day activities of practicing computer professionals (technologist to manager). The emphasis is on real world moral and legal issues for the practicing computer professionals and with a focus on how one resolves these issues. How do you identify professional/ethical problems and how do you make ethical decisions?

About the speaker – Dr. Don Gotterbarn

Don Gotterbarn is the Director of the Software Engineering Ethics Research Institute and Professor Emeritus at East Tennessee State University where he developed and taught in the Master of Software Engineering Program. He is a visiting professor at the Centre for Computing and Social Responsibility in England. He chairs the ACM Committee on Professional Ethics. He worked as an independent computer consultant on software projects for the U.S. Navy, the Saudi Arabian Navy and the commercial sector. He has taught computer courses for NSA, the military, and commercial organizations as well as being a visiting scientist at the Software Engineering Institute. He has also worked on: the certification of software for vote counting machines, missile defense systems, and software development decision support tools.

He also holds academic appointments in software engineering and ethics at universities in England and New Zealand. He has published over 100 articles, contributed to more than a dozen books and written several encyclopedia articles. He chaired the committee that wrote the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. His technical work includes funded research on performance prediction, object-oriented testing, and software engineering education and computer ethics.

In addition to being recognized by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) as a distinguished national lecturer, Gotterbarn has been invited to lecture in Australia, China, Great Britain, Germany, New Zealand, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and Wales. He holds faculty appointments in New Zealand and the UK.

Active in Professional Computer ethics for over 20 years, he was awarded both the Computers and Society “Making a Difference” award and the ACM “Outstanding Contribution” award for his work in promoting professionalism in the teaching and practice of software development. Most recently has been recognized by the International Society for Ethics and Information Technology (INSEIT) and will receive the 2010 INSEIT/Joseph Weizenbaum Award for his contributions to the field of information and computer ethics.

Fees and Registration

This event is free and open for anybody to attend. No registration required.

A brief history of the Pune Open Coffee Club (Happy Birthday!)

(This month marks the 3rd anniversary of the creation of the POCC (Pune Open Coffee Club). A few days back, POCC membership crossed 4000. We decided to mark the occasion by writing an article about the history of PuneTech, how it got started, and the various milestones along the way. If you have any good story/anecdote about your association with PuneTech, and how it affected you, we’d love to hear about it.)

The Pune Open Coffee Club is a community of all those interested in the startup ecosystem in Pune. With 4000+ members as I write this, including founders, entrepreneurs, early employees, wannabes, investors, lawyers, accountants and freelancers who work with startups, it is a huge and very active community. POCC usually meets on the 1st Saturday of every month in Shivajinagar and in Koregaon Park. Attendance is open to everyone and admission is free, and you can actually network and grow under the umbrella of experience and fellow-feeling.

The Pune Open Coffee Club was started by several individuals in their own ways. The Open Coffee Club movement had become fairly popular abroad before it reached its pioneers in Pune.

Harshal Vaidya was the first of the lot who attempted to get the OCC off the ground by organizing the first meet up in February 2008. The first meet up helped send out the first few sparks in the community.

The real start spark came a month later, in March 2008, Anjali Gupta and Santosh Dawara created, an online social network for the POCC on (This was later moved to the current home of the POCC.) On April 5th, they put together another POCC event, and they worked hard to invite all the movers and shakers of the start-up community in Pune to the BookEazy office terrace for tea, coffee and networking. The idea of the POCC was seeded in their mind by Vijay Anand.

Says Santosh:

“This time around, the conditions were right and the word about the Pune Open Coffee Club spread out quickly. Our first meeting was very well attended by over 75 individuals including some very well-known names in the Pune circle such as Anand Deshpande (Persistent Systems), Chetan Shah (Synygy), Jaspreet Singh (Druvaa) and more.

On June 7th, 2008, Nick Karnik an early member of the POCC (who has since moved out of Pune), created the Pune Startups mailing list.

Although the second meetup was a great success, there was a problem. Santosh called the next meeting in the Barista on Law College Road, expecting “maybe 15” people to attend. 40+ people showed, and there was a significant amount of chaos.

After this, Navin Kabra got in touch with Prof. Harshad Gune at SICSR, Model Colony, for permission to hold POCC meetings in one of their classsrooms. The first POCC meeting at SICSR happened on 23rd August, 2008. SICSR then became the ‘regular’ place for POCC meetings. With that the final piece of the puzzle fell into place. The next few set of events was a mix of exciting talks and discussions that resonated very well the start-up community in Pune and the movement began gathering momentum.

More recently POCC is attempting to go deeper into Pune by replicating the Open Coffee Club across Pune. This initiative is seeing a lot of initial success, with the creation of POCCs in Kothrud, PCMC, Aundh, Kalyani Nagar, Tilak Road, some of which have already announced their second meetings.

Santosh, who came up with the idea, says:

“I have my fingers crossed that these will be just as successful as the original, if not more so. They are all backed by a very impressive set of individuals who want it to succeed.”

Amruta Ranade now brings out a fortnightly newsletter to cover start-ups in detail for the benefit of the community. These are posted on the Pune Startups mailing list, and on her blog on

So is it all serious and work?

No, says Santosh,

“We also have a very “fun” side to the Open Coffee Club. In the past, we have had a group paintball competition, football games, dinners and movie nights where entrepreneurs and their families can relax, mingle and enjoy. Apart from this, we intend to meet regularly every month over the weekend.” POCC has been creating POCC subgroups in each region of Pune and Santosh says the team has high hopes about the new initiative.

“Anyone who has been an entrepreneur will tell you that entrepreneurship can be very rewarding and at the same time very unforgiving. For those who have quit their jobs to become entrepreneurs, the pressure to perform is fairly intense. Moreover, there is no going back to the same skill-based boxes as entrepreneurs are expected to excel at multiple roles.

By replicating the Open Coffee Club, we hope to encourage those who have been unable to participate actively due to distance to come forward and seed their own groups just as we have done so. In good time, we are certain that each of these groups will build their own camaraderie and dynamics locally and at the same time contribute to the overall development of start-ups in Pune.”

The Open Coffee Club was always intended to be a support group of entrepreneurs who get what each other are going through and can intervene to help each other out, share ideas and motivate each other. It looks like POCC is going in the right direction since day one.

Don’t all the books that matter to mankind advise just this?

Call for Speakers – IndicThreads Conference on Cloud Computing

Pune’s, which organizes various conferences in Pune every year, has a call for speakers for their 2nd Conference On Upcoming Technologies to be held on 3rd and 4th June 2011 in Pune. The theme for this year is again Cloud Computing.

Look at these PuneTech posts (article 1, article 2) to get an idea of what last year’s conference was like. Look here for slides of all the talks last year.

If you’re an Industry Professional and have any experience with Cloud Computing, you’re encouraged to submit an abstract by March 31st April 10th. The suggested topics are:

  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

But don’t be limited by these choices.

Click here to submit a proposal. Remember the deadline is 31st March… and all you need to submit at this time, is a one paragraph abstract.

Upcoming Tech Events In Pune: Testing / Rails / Mobile Networks / e-Commerce

The PuneTech Calendar lists 7 different Tech Events in Pune over the next 3 days. And these are just the free events that are open for anybody to attend – we’re not even counting paid events (since it’s against PuneTech policy to promote events whose entry fees are more than Rs. 1000).

So, in order to simplify your life, and make it easier for you to choose, here is a handy guide to the events this week. The listing here just gives the name of the event, and reasons for why you should attend. For more details like venue, timing, and registration, check the full listing in PuneTech Calendar

Twestival Pune – 6pm, Today, 24 March – if you’re interested in Social Media and Charity, go to the 1st Brewhouse at the Corinthian Club (more popularly known as the Doolally microbrewery), pay Rs. 350 “cover charge” which goes towards charity, and in return you get 2 pints of beer, live screening of the India-Australia Cricket match, and a live band between innings.

Startup Founders, especially those who are working on commercializing a non-trivial technology innovation, can apply for funding (or even grants) from TePP, an entrepreneur promotion programme from the Government of India. Today, 24 March, 4pm-6pm, the Venture Center, at NCL, Pashan Road, will have an informational programme giving you an idea of what TePP is, and how to apply.

If you’re a quality assurance / testing professional, you should definitely attend vodQA Nite – The Testing Spirit night, on Saturday, 26 March, 11am to 2:30pm.

If you’re a Rails developer, you can attend the all night Pune Rails Hackfest which will go all night on Friday, starting at 6pm. (You don’t need to stay the whole night – can can leave whenever you’re tired or have had enough). Great place to meet the really serious Rails hackers in Pune.

If you’re doing eCommerce and worried about online payments over the internet (and all the associated problems for merchants in India), check out the “Amazon Global Payments Services” talk on Friday, March 25, 6pm, and also the “Setting up an ecommerce website using Paypal and Google Checkout” presentation on Saturday, March 26, 1pm.

And finally, if you are an entrepreneur in the Kothrud area, or you are someone else interested in the startup ecosystem (student who might want to join a startup instead of an established company, someone interested in starting a startup one day, or a service provider/vendor who’s interested in marketing to startups), go for POCC-Kothrud kickoff meeting, i.e. the meeting of the Kothrud branch of the Pune Open Coffee Club (Pune’s incredibly active, free, open forum for startups).

That’s what’s going on this weekend.

In addition, on Tuesday and Wednesday, for those interested in Chemical Science/Technology we have a distinguished visitor, Prof. CNR Rao, FRS, National Research Professor & Honorary President and Linus Pauling Research Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore. On Tuesday he is giving a talk “Chemical Science: Glorious Past & Exciting Future” and on Wednesday it is “The Man Who Did Not Get a Prize – a Story of Modern Chemistry”.

So, overall, a very active few days for us. So many events, so little time – what a good problem to have, right?

Note: The PuneTech main blog/feed/mailing list (i.e. what you are reading just now) does not always write about all the interesting events going on in Pune. If you want to know about everything, and you want to know well in advance, please subscribe to the PuneTech Calendar – get all PuneTech events sent to you via email or via RSS

Niwant TechVision – A team of blind software engineers in Pune

Niwant TechVision, Pune
The TechVision team in Niwant, Pune who are a team of blind software engineers who do outsourced development

What’s common to Stevie Wonder, Surdas, Helen Keller and Siddhant Chothe, Nitin Dhaware, Sandhya Murkute, Sanghapal Bhowate and Vikas Waghmare? All of them are achievers whose visual impairment did not spell an end to their world. The latter five people form the Team TechVision, ‘a software writing firm’ at the Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya in Pune.

Niwant is doing work in helping not just the visually impaired but society too in understanding their need for empathy and dignity. It is an organization that helps visually challenged students in pursuing higher education after the age of 18. Many of them are branded by their family and society as non-productive and useless. But in last fourteen years ‘Niwant’ has tried to change the picture by putting them back in the social fold. Many are now employed, have families and lead a mainstream life through Niwant efforts. More, they are now contributing back, through the alumni club, ‘So Can Eye’.

TechVision has just completed a paid project from the Silicon Valley, at BoardWalk Tech, a U.S. based company (whose founder, Sarang Kulkarni, recently moved to Pune) and they are raring for more. Sourabh Nolkha, Chief Strategic & Development Officer of Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya waxes eloquent about how it all started.

“14 years back Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya was established to help the visually challenged youth of India get a chance at holistic development in this fast growing new age world. When they did not have any education material, Niwant offered them the opportunity to gain knowledge initially through hand written Braille books and cassette recording for audio. This increased their zeal to study further which made Niwant look further into options of providing more knowledge at a faster rate. Niwant received a Braille Embosser, which opened a new eye for the Visually Challenged as they were able to compete with the sighted world.

The journey of making Visually Challenged students technologically savvy started with Niwant providing them with MP3 players, on which they could record the lessons. With this, Niwant understood the importance of the technology and computers. The students were also fascinated with the potentials it hold for them and the enhancement it could do to their learning process. But some of the students ventured even a step further and opted for Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Application (PGDCA). Then some more followed their footsteps and started early with Bachelor’s in Computer Applications.

Niwant had students capable of making a career in IT but there was a lack of trust by the main-stream IT industry. That is when Niwant, with the help of some friends and volunteers, decided to provide the prospective Techies, a launch-pad and started Tech Vision. We had our first break with BoardwalkTech Inc.”

So how do they learn software programming?

Sourabh says the team comprise of five visually impaired, all of whom have studied computers at their Bachelor degree level or have done special certification program in computer science from renowned Pune University. The curriculum consisted of computer basics, Operating Systems (Linux, Windows), MS Office, Tally and many program languages C, C++, Java, VB, ASP, SQL, HTML, Dot (.) Net.

“In addition to their regular classes at the college, we provided them with additional coaching classes at Niwant with the help of some volunteers and also sent them to specialized computer coaching institutions.”

Sourabh says initially, there was a resistance to the whole idea of visually challenged learning computers. Some of their students had to fight hard to get admission into the computer courses. But finally they could convince the colleges to accept them at par with other sighted students and the students proved their mettle quite frequently, raising their stock value and dissolving prejudices. For the subsequent batches, the going has been smoother.

But it has not been enough just to get the admissions. The course curriculum is not very accommodative of the visually challenged and requires drawings / diagrams, thus limiting the scores of the visually challenged. There was also trouble regarding finding suitable scribes. But in due time, the mindset has undergone a sea change resulting in increased co-operation. The teachers have now started accepting the assignments in electronic form and norms for scribes have also been re-defined.

So Niwant was able to achieve the ultimate? No, says Sourabh, there were yet more challenges waiting for them.

“The licensed version of the audio-aid software like Job Access With Speech (JAWS) was out of reach for most of the visually challenged due to its cost. In addition to this, some of the applications are not supported in totality or partially by the audio-aid software. This was not conducive for their studies. After they had completed their studies, the problem was to find suitable job opportunities which were hard to come by. That is when Tech Vision came as their saviour.”

So what are the software tools they use (specifically for the blind)? Sourabh provides a list.

  1. Job Access with Speech (JAWS) – audio-aid software for windows operating system
  2. Talks and Mobile Speak – audio-aid software for mobile
  3. Abbey – scanning software for better OCR scanning
  4. Win Braille – converts normal English script into Braille script
  5. JAWS Sangeetha – converts normal English script into audio
  6. Shri Patrika from Modular Infotech – converts regional languages into Braille script

The work have they done in one year is impressive too. Other than Boardwalk where they worked on Java Servlets for the BCP Demo Version and Boardwalk Collaboration Platform demonstration version where they still work on Visual Basic for Application for the API development project, they have done an HSBC Sample Accessibility Testing where they conducted a sample web accessibility test case on HSBC Private Bank home page.

The profile of the current staff of Tech Vision is also quite comparable to industry standards. While Siddhant Chothe has completed MCM and has 2 years of work- experience, Nitin Dhaware has completed PGDCA and has 2 years of work exposure. The others, Sandhya Murkute, Vikas Waghmare, and Sanghapal Bhowate are all in their 3rd year B.C.A and have 1 year of part-time work-experience. They also have a visually challenged volunteer Shrirang Shahastrabuddhi, from Infosys Technologies.

The currently capabilities include competence in Visual basic, Java, Oracle, C++, PHP, MySQL, Web Design, Accessibility testing of User Interface, Web Accessibility testing and solutions. (USA 508, WCAG2 guide lines). Niwant is looking for clientele, and any company interested in product development based on VBA, Java, MySQL, PHP etc. and getting their website tested for accessibility under Section 508 of US Rehabilitation Act, 1998 and WCAG2 guidelines, GIGW (Guidelines for Indian Government Websites, 2011) are welcome to tap their talent.

Check them out at

Overview of KLISMA – Loyalty/Group buying startup incubated at Persistent

So Customer is King; and the “loyal” King gets rewards. But how many of us really carry all the paper/plastic around or remember to redeem these? KLISMA, is a new customer loyalty program, that can be used via your mobile – which you always have with you.

KLISMA is primarily focused at providing group buying benefits to employees of corporate and institutional clusters for its services, but it also supports individual customers as well.

KLISMA offers a mobile based membership card. A corporate employee or an individual user can register (free) and get a mobile based ID across all participating retailers in the program. The user can even group family members under one ID. Once the account is setup, the user will be able to obtain digital receipts, return products, redeem m-coupons, and participate in retailers’ loyalty programs using mobile-based KLISMA ID. This service eliminates paper clutter, lost receipts for product returns, the frustration of keeping track of discount coupons and plastic loyalty cards in wallet, purse or key chain. So, you are now a “green shopper” as well.

KLISMA goes far beyond linking everything to the cards a user already carry in their wallet or purse. KLISMA constantly searches through promotions and offers to find the best deals on everything from clothing to groceries to electronics to restaurants. KLISMA’s suggestions are unique to the user, as they’re based on what you typically purchase. For example, if we like a certain store, it might offer us a m-coupon from them for “10% Off All Purchases of Rs.1000 or more”. Or, if we like a certain product, it might show us a “Buy 1, Get 1 Free” m-coupon.

Ajay Aggarwal, the Chief Customer Experience Officer at KLISMA says ‘KLISMA is a comprehensive platform for modern consumers to plan, shop and manage their entire consumption cycle and it also enables modern retailers to deliver desired shopping experience to these consumers.” To say it in a simpler way, KLISMA works more like the “armed forces canteen service” for corporate employees. In a way it engages with corporate customers to deliver its services to its employees.

I bet you are now reminded of Groupon or Snapdeal. But KLISMA begs to differ. KLISMA enables its members to buy anything ranging from a car to a cinema ticket at the time they wish to buy, the price they wish to buy and retailer they to buy from. Since KLISMA is completely member driven and not retailer driven it is truly a pull platform which is the core difference whereas all others are push models. Apart from that, it offers deals to its members. There is a unified loyalty program across all retailers, personalised promotions based on individual shopping pattern and behaviour, very wide products & services range (unlike Groupon and Snapdeal) and mixed channel experience over internet, mobile and phone support.

Ajay Aggarwal has been associated with retail industry since 1993 and post 2006 he tracked the consumer challenges in this industry when he felt the need to have a platform to push for shopping experience advocacy. “I firmly think this will be the future need of matured modern consumers”, assures Ajay.

KLISMA comes from Persistent, and Ajay Aggarwal waxes eloquent when he is asked about his experience of being incubated in Persistent.

“I started working on KLISMA in June 2009 and its basic framework comprises of Cloud, BI, Mobile and Collaboration technologies. This is where I shared the concept with Dr. Anand Deshpande in November 2010 and he invited KLISMA to be part of Persistent and committed his support to make it happen. We worked out a unique innovative model of incubating this within Persistent and it has been a great experience of working as an entrepreneur within a corporate. Very soon KLISMA shall be spun out as a separate entity, jointly owned by Persistent, founders, employees and other investors. I must say large amount of credit for the success goes to Persistent to allow us to operate independently and objectively without any bias.”

We asked Anand Deshpande, CEO of Persistent about how and why Persistent, traditionally a software product outsourcing company, is getting into incubating technology startups. Anand says:

“I am a great believer in the Indian consumer story. KLISMA is a technology based Company for the Indian consumers and we are excited to have built the platform. Persistent has funded and participated in other technology platforms another example would be Parasharplus (

“In addition to incubating products within Persistent we have also announced a partnership to connect entrepreneurs to customers. Recently, we have partnered with 1M/1M an initiative setup by Sramana Mitra who has a goal to help a million entrepreneurs reach $1 million in revenue. Persistent as a technology partner will be reselling and also be a channel for products from select 1M/1M entrepreneurs. In addition, Persistent Systems will also provide outsourced product development services to these companies. In this way, we look forward to help entrepreneurs succeed by bringing new technologies to market.”

In short, other Pune startups that are targeting Indian consumers, and would like some help in reaching the market could approach Persistent for some sort of a partnership, similar to Ajay & KLISMA’s incubation in Persistent.

Ajay is of the opinion that this is the decade of e-commerce in India. Consumer maturity, internet and mobile penetration, 3-G and maturity of supply chain infrastructure in India will give a huge push to this channel in the next 10 years. Like the traditional retail e-commerce growth will also be controlled and limited by government policies, especially FDI in retail. He has no doubt that post 2020 e-retailing space in India will not be different than anywhere else in the world. So if going green and paperless and intelligent is something you like, check out KLISMA’s website

TechWeekend 8: Web Development Frameworks – Rails, Grails, Django

TechWeekend #8 (#tw8) this Saturday will focus on Web Development Frameworks. We have the following talks lined up, and one more is likely to get added in the next day or two

  • Grails, and other web development techniques in Groovy, by Saager Mhatre
  • Interesting new things in Rails3, by Gautam Rege
  • “A Django Case-Study: Use of advanced features of Django in” by Navin Kabra. This talk will be structured in such a way that people who are not familiar with Python/Django might find the features interesting; while Django developers will be interested in how they were implemented in Django.

TW8 will be this Saturday, 19th March, from 10am to 2pm, at the Sumant Moolgaonkar Auditorium, Ground Floor, A Wing, ICC Trade Center, SB Road.

About Techweekend

TechWeekend Pune is a volunteer run activity. TechWeekend talks are held on the 3rd Saturday of every month from 10am to 2pm at Sumant Moolgaonkar Auditorium, Ground Floor, ICC Trade Center, SB Road. Each TechWeekend event features 3 or 4 talks on advanced technical topics. These events are free for all to attend. See PuneTech articles about past techweekends to get an idea of the events.

Join the techweekend mailing list to keep in touch with the latest TechWeekend activities.

About the Sponsor – Microsoft

Many thanks to Microsoft for sponsoring the venue for Techweekend. Microsoft wants to get more closely involved with the tech community in Pune, and particularly the open source enthusiasts – with the intention of making everybody aware that their cloud technologies (like Azure) actually play well with open source, and that you can deploy your php applications, your drupal/joomla installs on Azure.

When, Where, How much

TechWeekend #8 will be on Saturday, 19th March, from 10am to 2pm, at Sumant Moolgaonkar Auditorium, Ground Floor, Wing A, ICC Trade Center, SB Road.

This event is free and open for anybody to attend. Register here.

Overview of Sokrati – Online Ads Optimization Startup

(A few days back, Pune-based startup Sokrati announced that it has received an undisclosed amount of Series-A funding from Inventus Capital Partners, a company that has also invested in such companies as, TeliBrahma, and FundsIndia.

PuneTech chatted with co-founder and CEO Ashish Mehta to get more details of the Sokrati story.)

About Sokrati

Sokrati is a company that provides technology and services to merchants on the web for automated optimization of the placements of their online ads. For example, if you’re an e-commerce company, you probably spend a lot of money on buying Google AdWords, and other ads on various websites around the world. As the competition in your market heats up, it becomes more and more difficult to figure out where exactly to place ads, and what kinds of ads to get maximum conversions (in this domain, a “conversion” is when a person who sees your ad clicks on it and becomes a customer.)

On Founders and How Sokrati was Founded

Sokrati was founded by Ashish Mehta, Santosh Gannavarapu, and Anubhav Sonthalia, who were previously working for Amazon in Seattle, USA, but then quit to form Sokrati, and moved to India about 3 years ago.

The founders managed the Paid Marketing for Amazon from business & technology perspective. They saw that Paid Search Marketing (and Online Marketing in general) is very challenging for advertisers with dynamic content on their website – typically catalog based Advertisers in Shopping, Travel or Classifieds domain. And none of the established players like Marin Software, Efficient Frontier or Kenshoo provided an apt solution. They had some ideas on how to make it work for advertisers in these domains and started moon-lighting in November 2007. They signed up as one of the Amazon Affiliates, and spent weekends and after-work hours to build a proof-of-concept model. Within a year, they drove an incremental revenue of $20 million to Amazon – purely from the rudimentary PoC that they built on the side! It was easy then to quit their jobs in Dec 2008 and came to Pune to build a more production ready, more intelligent and sophisticated technology.

The idea & focus overall has still remained the same; though they are constantly taking feedback from clients and building product extensions to entail a larger piece of a more unified Digital Marketing & Analytics.

For more information about the founders see the Sokrati management team page.

Case Study to Illustrate Sokrati Offerings and Technology

To get an idea of what exactly Sokrati does, and how, consider this case study with a client who is a prominent jobs portal in India.

The client was managing Paid Search Campaigns (i.e. buying of search ads on Google and other search engines) in-house, incurring heavy spends. The key issue was – for the trailing 1 year or so, performance had started to plateau and there wasn’t much momentum in the campaigns. Scaling the campaigns with a controlled Cost-per-Action was getting very challenging & difficult for the client. And while experimenting various ways (mostly manual), the campaign structure + quality of keywords were just getting worse by the time.

Sokrati helped the advertiser ramp up their volumes by almost 2x within 8 weeks of campaign management by Sokrati.

The basic approach Sokrati took was to use Sokrati’s proprietary data mining & clustering algorithms to generate extensive set of keywords (from about 68000 to roughly 1.5 million) & very targeted ads. This allowed a lowering of CPCs (cost-per-click) & improved relevancy – eventually leading to better CPAs (cost-per-action) & higher volumes. This combined with real-time optimizations leveraging decay-rate algorithms has helped lower the overall CPA by 25% without sacrificing on any of the volumes. In other words, to get exactly the same amount of resumes, it cost the client 25% less in ad spending using Sokrati’s algorithms.

The other critical improvement provided was the ability to track beyond “binary” conversion flag. Sokrati’s proprietary tracking system is able to capture several more conversion parameters. For example, before Sokrati, the client was measuring only the number of resumes and the amount incurred to acquire them. Now, with Sokrati tracking, they are able to track the quality of the resume – whether it was an IT or Bank related; whether its a Fresher or had 5+ years experience. Not only that, the advertiser is now able to provide differential ROI targets for different “mix” of conversions; and Sokrati is able to optimize the mix in real-time.

About Their Technology Stack

Sokrati technology is built using Ruby-on-Rails for the front end and has Linux + MySQL + Java on the backend. They are using the cloud quite extensively have close to 50 servers now, all hosted on Amazon EC2 (US & Singapore). They did evaluate a few vendors in India – but didn’t find anything interesting or as reliable.

We asked Ashish whether it was difficult to hire developers with the required knowledge in Pune.

Hiring has always been a challenge & I don’t think, its a function of Pune specifically, but India overall. Though we’ve been very fortunate to get the key senior members of the team that are like-minded and truly start-up oriented, it has been lot slower than we would have liked. For example getting talent with data mining or machine learning skill-set is a struggle. We have interviewed over 100+ candidates but still haven’t been able to fulfill the positions; and have a long list of open head-counts in the company.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to founders of other technology companies in Pune – something you learnt during your journey so far and you wish you had known earlier.

Our start-up stint has just begun and there will be many things that we will learn either upfront or by failing over the next few years. But I’d like to share 2 learnings that we’ve gained from our stint so far –

1) One key learning that I’d like to share is to not procrastinate on raising funds. Once a start-up feels they are ready to raise funds or think they “need” to raise funds to grow faster (and only IF they feel so) – then the founders should not delay this process. As the funds will provide the stimulus to exponentially grow faster. I think we could have raised funds about 6 months back by being more aggressive but we let it take its own sweet time. In the internet world, where competition is so cut-throat & landscape so dynamic, even a small delay or a few missed opportunities could prove to be very fatal.

2) Customer Servicing & listening to their feedback is ultra-important. Coming from Amazon, we ingrained this idea directly & indirectly, on how to value each and every feedback from customer (big or small). But we’ve experienced that several start-ups, especially in India, are so obsessed with their product / services that they tend to overlook this aspect of the business. Its very vital to put yourselves into the customers’ shoes while building the product.

Joomla!Day India 2011 – Joomla conference in Pune on 12th March

Joomla!Day India 2011 is a large conference targeting developers, designers, administrators and users, Business owners & technologists as well as end users of the Joomla! Content Management System. For those who don’t know what Joomla! is, it is a software program that allows easy creation of very flexible, very customizable websites which can be administered and modified by non-technical end users. It is written in the PHP programming language.

Joomla!Day India is an annual conference and delegates will come from a range of public and private sectors, both national and international, in various markets, actively seeking information about Joomla! and other areas of web-based technology.

The list of speakers for this conference is rather impressive, and click here for the detailed schedule

Joomla!Day happens this weekend, 12th and 13th March, at Bajaj Gallery at 5th Floor of the ICC Trade Towers, SB Road. This event is free and open for anybody to attend. Please register here