Monthly Archives: July 2011

Event Report: “Building Tech Products out of India” with Naren Gupta of Nexus Ventures

(This is a live blog of the event Nexus Venture Partners’ event “Building Global Tech Product Companies out of India” where Naren Gupta, founder of Nexus chatted with Abinash Tripathy, founder of Pune-company Infinitely Beta about the challenges faced by companies trying to build a global product. The other four partners at Nexus were also there. This is essentially a collection of observations made by the various speakers during this event.)

  • Indian companies are good with technology, but we don’t build sales and marketing organizations early. Most engineers think that if you build a great product, customers will be easy to get. This is the biggest shortcoming that needs fixing.
    • Having a sales & marketing person in the founding team is great, but not necessary. Having one of the technical co-founder play a sales/marketing role is really great. Customers tend to trust technical guys more than pure sales guys. And this is a skill that can be learned. Initially, it will be hard, as you will be turned down by a large number of people, but you’ll figure it out. We all know how to do sales & marketing – because we do a lot of that when dealing with our parents, teachers, siblings. We’ve just forgotten to apply those skills in the context of our work.
  • The large markets are in the US, so how do you build a good sales and marketing organization? The best people in the US are both expensive, and hard to find.
    • India now has customers who are willing to pay for tech products. So it is possible now to use India as a test market, and build a small sales/marketing team based on this.
    • Not all sales/marketing has to happen on the ground. You can achieve a lot with the internet and phone.
    • The market of the future is not necessarily in the US. For example, new technologies, the US is a maturing market (i.e. there are legacy products and you have to convince people to migrate) whereas less developed countries are green field markets who are more receptive to new technologies.
  • The most experienced companies in the world are not just building great products – they are building great customer experiences. And experience is everything – from how the customer first hears about your company, how your product functions and makes the customer feel, and afterwards, if there is a problem, how you handle the problem and how you treat the customer. You need to be building great experiences. Example: craigslist is the top classifieds site in the world, but has a not-so-good experience. AirBnB took one small slice of this market, built a great experience around it, and now has a billion dollar valuation. DropBox makes the experience of backup and file-sharing so smooth and unobtrusive.
  • The biggest challenge in building a company is how to build the right culture. Before hiring, Pune company InfinitelyBeta makes prospective candidates build a mini-product and then review that code. Hence their hiring process takes 2 months. But then they know exactly what kind of a programmer they are getting.
  • Pune is ahead of other Indian cities as far as people building or interested in building products. This is probably because Pune has traditionally not had that many software services companies, and it has had some large development centers of product companies (like Veritas/Symantec, nVidia), so the product DNA has thrived more in Pune.
    • Because it is ahead of others in product orientation, Pune is the Indian city that is best positioned to be able to reproduce the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
    • It already has a microbrewery (like Silicon Valley’s Gordon Biersch), so an important component of the valley culture is already here 🙂
  • Currently, top Indian tech universities (like IITs) are quite isolated from the industry. But as more and more product companies start coming out of India, there is likely to be more collaboration between universities and companies. So we should start seeing more of this in the next 5 years.
  • We are getting into an era where fast response to changing conditions is much more important than protecting your intellectual property. Thus building an agile engineering organization is more important than getting patents.
  • You can build a B2C company immediately after college, with minimal experience. But building a B2B company really requires you to have some experience in the industry.
  • Challenges of selling into the SME market in India: Selling products for the SME market is tough for the following reasons:
    • No one has really solved the problem of distribution. Creating a product that SMEs find interesting is not good enough. Creating an efficient system for selling the product to a large number of SMEs remains a challenge. Often the cost of selling a product to a customer turns out to be higher than the income from that customer. And it is sometimes easier to sell to large companies than it is to sell to SMEs (which tend to be very price and feature conscious)
    • Far too many Indian companies in this space are creating products that they think SMEs want, but in reality, SMEs are not really that interested. Finding products that SMEs really want is very tough. Few startup founders have a good understanding of the SME space.

Top tech influencers of Pune (@dnene @ScepticGeek @trakin) give Google+ a Thumbs Up

For the past few weeks, every techie in Pune has probably had Google+ on his/her mind. Many have tried it. Some have dismissed is as a Facebook wannabe that will never really catch on. Others think it is a little too complicated for the common man.

However, three of Pune’s top tech bloggers have weighed in with positive opinions about Google+

Arun Prabhudesai of was first to say that Google+ will be adopted by Businesses and Brands:

After Google’s half baked and feeble attempts at Social Networking earlier, Google Plus is a refreshingly fresh & honest attempt at making people’s lives Social.


The biggest factor that Google Plus takes care of – Individual Privacy. It probably has simplest of privacy policies and user can control everything as to what is supposed to be public and what is not. Yes, initially users do have to spend time in creating circles (aka groups of people), but once you are done with that, it becomes far more easier.


Google Plus adoption for Brands & Businesses might be slow initially, but over a period of time, it will surely catch on. It will be a place where Brands can put up their profiles, their “+ses” and it will be accessible to anyone and everyone without having to actually “follow” the brand.

After that, Mahendra Palsule, the Skeptic Geek, and Editor at TechMeme, wrote to say that Facebook and Quora should be worried. His main points are this:

  • The future belongs to the “Interest Graph” of users complementing the “Social Graph”. Facebook does a bad job of capturing users interests. Google+ is taking steps in the right direction with Sparks.
  • Quora should be worried because:
    > It was reported earlier […] that code for Questions has been found in Google Plus. If this comes as a surprise, you haven’t understood Google’s ambitions with Emerald Sea.

Finally, Dhananjay Nene was initially lukewarm about Google+ (“good, but people will not shift from facebook for this”, and “circles are too complicated for average users”) but after spending some time with Google+, he has decided that Google+ is the social network of the future:

[Google+] is really building public / private, asymmetric networking built using social graphs based on friendships, work relationships, online discoveries and probably soon enough interest graphs as well. It is building the network that will be. While google wants to own the experience, it is liberal enough to publicly commit that the data is owned by the user. Combined with the awesome google portfolio and its evergrowing warchest built out of search advertising revenues – This is the network to beat.

You really should read the full articles that I have linked above. In fact, you should follow these guys on twitter (@dnene, @ScepticGeek, and @trakin) and follow them religiously.

PuneChips Event: Building an Autonomous and Scalable Semiconductor VLSI Business

PuneChips, the forum for everybody interested VLSI, semiconductor and embedded technologies in Pune, along with LSI Corporation invite you to a talk on Building an Autonomous and Scalable Semiconductor VLSI Business. This talk is by Dr. T.R. Ramachandra, a Senior Director in the Storage Peripherals division of LSI.

The talk is on Wednesdah, 13 July, from 9:30am to 11am at LSI’s office near the airport.

Abstract: Building an Autonomous and Scalable Semiconductor VLSI Business

The presentation focuses on effective ways to build autonomous and scalable semiconductor VLSI businesses. The trends in the VLSI industry and inherent challenges of growth make autonomy & scale-building essential elements of long-term success. This is particularly relevant to emerging geographies like India where there is increased focus on enhancing end-to-end capabilities and overall management.

About the Speaker – Dr. T.R. Ramachandran

T. R. Ramachandran is Senior Director for Product Operations in the Storage Peripherals Division at LSI. In this role, he reports to the Senior Vice President and General Manager of the division and is responsible for the operations infrastructure, business processes, IP and customer program management across the entire product lifecycle from planning through manufacturing ramp for LSI’s highest volume semiconductor business. Before assuming this role, TR held a number of positions in LSI where he brought to bear a unique blend of expertise in a range of areas from business, operations & program management, strategic/competitive analysis, large-scale M&A and business transformations, global product development and deployment, and supplier & manufacturing management. He lives in the United States in Northern California, and is keenly interested in various aspects of technology & broader public policy as well as problems of scale tied to private, public and/or non-governmental sectors.

TR received a Bachelor’s degree in Metallurgical Engineering from IIT-M (Indian Institute of Technology in Madras/Chennai) and is a recipient of the Dr. Dhandapani Prize from IIT-M and the Vidya Bharati Prize conferred by the Indian Institute of Metals. He received his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Materials Science from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. His Ph.D. was focused on structural and optical studies of semiconductor thin films & quantum dot nanostructures and innovative forays into nanotechnology using scanning probe microscopes.

About Pune Chips

PuneChips is a special interest group on semiconductor design and applications. PuneChips was formed to foster an environment for growth of companies in the semiconductor design and applications segment in the Pune area. Our goal is to build an ecosystem similar to PuneTech for companies in this field, where they can exchange information, consult with experts, and start and grow their businesses.

For more information, see the PuneChips website, and/or join the PuneChips mailing list. Please forward to anybody in Pune who is interested in renewable energy, solar technologies, semiconductors, chip design, VLSI design, chip testing, and embedded applications.

Fees and registration

This event is free and open for anybody to attend. RSVP Reshma Arthani:, Mobile: +91.992.320.3557

The talk is at: Sargam Auditorium, 4th floor, LSI India, Commerzone, Samrat Ashok Path, Off Airport Road. Wednesday 13 July, 9:30am.

Event Report: Dr. Ramesh Raskar of MIT Media Lab

(This is a live blog of the talk given by Dr. Ramesh Raskar, of MIT Media Lab in Pune. Since this is a live-blog, it will not be as well structured as a regular article, and might contain more-than-normal grammatical errors.)

About EyeNetra

EyeNetra is a very small, cheap device (that costs less than Rs. 100) that can be clipped on to a regular smartphone and which can be used to detect vision problems including detecting their lens prescription, astigmatism, and even cataract. Since it is so cheap, and portable, it can be used in villages all over the world. In India alone, about 6% of the people wear glasses, but it is estimated that about 40% of them should be wearing them. That’s 200 million people in India who don’t have eye glasses that are needed.

Why is this a big deal? Blurry vision means that a child cannot learn. Blurry vision means that there are certain jobs that a day labourer cannot do. So EyeNetra can have tremendous social impact.

In EyeNetra, the software on the smartphone displays a number of dots on the screen. The clip on device has a number of tiny lenses which are placed in such a way that if you have normal vision, the light rays from all the dots will actually convert on the retina of your eye and you’ll see a single dot. If your eye has a problem, then you’ll see multiple dots. Now the UI of the software asks the user to adjust things until the dots converge and the user sees only one dot. Based on what adjustments are needed, the software will be able to figure out what are the defects in the user’s eye (in terms of spherical and cylindrical corrections)

EyeNetra needs high resolution displays, but in recent years the resolutions of phones have really gone up, from 160DPI for samsung to 300+ for the iPhone 4G. User demand is driving industry to improve the resolutions of their phone. So, every time you use your phone to see video clips and take photographs, you are forcing the industry to increase their resolutions, and will indirectly end up helping people around the world get better vision through EyeNetra.

Netra prototypes are now in dozen+ countries.

The next device in this series is EyeMotia – for detecting cataracts. It is a similar clip-on device for a smartphone which uses similar techniques to determine whether you have cataract. The basic idea is similar – the software draws various patterns on the screen which pass through a specific area of the lens in your eye before reaching the retina to form a clear green dot. If you have normal vision, you will see a simple green dot going around in circles. If you have astigmatism, you will see the green dot going around in an oval path. If you have cataract, the green dot will disappear at certain times as it goes round. This is because at a certain location, when it has to pass through a cataract affected portion of your lens, the rays will get scattered and will not form a nice green dot on the retina.

What else?

The eye is the only part of your body where you can see blood vessels directly without having to cut you up. Similarly, if you know what to look for, you can look into the aqueous humour (the colorless liquid in the eye), you can make deductions about the blood sugar levels in your body. So, the eye is an amazing device, and you can use clever visual computing to do various interesting deductions about your body using simple devices and smartphones.

EyeNetra is setting up a team in India which will work with hospitals, government organizations, NGOs and other groups to take the EyeNetra device to rural India. They tried just giving the devices away to NGOs, but that did not work well – so the current thinking is that it needs to be run like a business using a focused team for success. So, EyeNetra is looking for people who will join the team. A COO, maybe a CTO, BizDev are needed. Anyone interested should contact Ramesh.

Challenge to People – the smart phone is an amazing device. There is lots and lots you could do with it. Think of various ways in which you can use it for purposes that it was not originally intended for. There is the camera, the display, accelerometer, GPS, internet, bluetooth, RF. You can do magic.

Think of this example of thinking out of the box: create a video game in which people with normal vision will shoot one way, and people with abnormal vision (astimatism, color-blindness) will shoot a different way. So you get a medical test done while playing a video game.

For more information about EyeNetra, see

Why Visual Computation Will be Big

  • In the next few decades, the world will move from text and audio based communications to more and more visual information. Vision crosses language barriers, socio-economic barriers, and will help the next billion consumers. Hence, processing visual information intelligently becomes a very important capability.
  • In 6 years, the world went from zero cameras in mobile phones, to a billion cameras in mobile phones. And today, a billion mobile phones with cameras get sold every year. There is a major visual revolution underway, but most people haven’t realized it yet.
  • Hence, the Camera Culture group spends their time exploring various ideas related to visual computing. They spend 60% of their time on hardware and 40% on software. With this, they build crazy cameras – like the camera that can look around corners.
  • Looking around corners: How is this done? Use the flash from a camera. The light hits a wall/door/obstacle and bounces off in various directions. Some of the bounced photons actually go around the corner, hit various objects that are not directly visible, and then an even smaller fraction of them bounce back all the way to the camera. If you’re clever about analyzing the photons, you can actually figure out where each photon has come from and hence reconstruct features of the objects around the camera. For this you need to do an extremely fast camera – which does one trillion frames per second.

Other tips:

  • If you do the work that you’re supposed to be doing, and then spend a little more time doing ‘something extra’, that something extra has a high chance of being noticed. So everybody – do your job well, but make sure to do something extra
  • In a way, it is good to work in an emerging country like India. Here, you are not totally constrained by draconian governmental regulations that limit your creativity and possibilities. Of course, we also have regulations, but they’re not as strong, and not as strongly enforced. Hence, you can achieve much more here, and more quickly than what would be possible in the US. In fact, you can help people more because the Government is staying out of the way.
  • MIT has a $100k Entrepreneurship & Ideas competition every year. This has 3 stages. A 1-minute elevator pitch contest in October, with $1000 instant prizes, followed by a Executive Summary competition in November, with $1000 instant prizes, followed by a full-fledged Business Plan competition in Jan/Feb which has various track prizes, and a grand prize of $100k. Tip: get on their mailing list and you can get an idea of everything that’s going on. So that is something worth doing.
  • If Pune would like to start such competitions Ramesh is willing to put in some money from his Entrepreneurship class (Imaging Ventures) to fund the competition.
  • There are dozens and dozens of classes in MIT for converting innovation to commercial success. This includes basic+applied research all the way to classes targeting people in established companies. What you can do, sitting in Pune, is join the mailing lists of these classes, and see the course material on the web. For free.
  • Thinking about difference between Pune and Boston (MIT) – the same people who don’t do much here go to Boston and do amazing things. What is the difference? Network. Everybody has to go out of their way to help other people in the network – and this has a huge multiplier effect.

Java 7 Launch Event: Speaker Chuk-Munn Lee – 16 July

Java 7, a major upgrade to Java was released recently, and the Java Pune group, with support from Oracle is organizing an big launch event to celebrate. Chuk-Munn Lee, from Sun Singapore, who has been associated with Java since 1996 will fly in to speak about the features in Java 7. And there will be goodies given away.

The event is on 16 July, 5pm, at Symbiosis Vishwabhavan, SB Road. The event is free and open to all, but registration is required

Java 7 Launch Event Details

Harshad Oak writes:

Java 7 is an upcoming major update to Java and is expected to be released (GA) on July 28th, 2011. A detailed list of features & a developer preview is available online.

Wouldn’t it be great if even before the actual general availability of Java 7 there was an event where we could learn & discuss exactly what’s coming in Java 7?

So, supported by Oracle, the Java Pune google group is hosting a great big launch event & celebration right here in Pune! Join in to learn & to celebrate the launch of the newest release of JAVA!

The event is free for all, however the seats are very very limited. So register early, but we do request you to register only if you are sure you will be able to make it to the event. We definitely do not want to waste any of the few seats we have on offer.

Psst: Apart from the learning there would be some goodies as well

What’s new in Java 7

The feature set for Java SE 7 is driven, in large part, by a set of themes. The themes describe the main focal points of the release. Some themes are fairly abstract guiding principles; others are more concrete in that they identify particular problem areas, significant new feature sets, or specific target market segments.

The themes are not prioritized, except that the first one is the most important.

Compatibility: As the platform has matured, yet continued to evolve, many community members have naturally come to expect that their investments in Java-based systems, whether large or small, will be preserved. Any program running on a previous release of the platform must also run-unchanged-on an implementation of Java SE 7. (There are exceptions to this general rule but they are exceedingly rare, and they typically involve serious issues such as security.)

Productivity: Java SE 7 will promote best coding practices and reduce boilerplate code by adding productivity features to the Java language and the Java SE APIs. These features will increase the abstraction level of most applications in a pragmatic way, with no significant impact on existing code and a minimal learning curve for all developers. We propose to enable, among other improvements, the automatic management of I/O resources, simpler use of generics, and more-concise exception handling.

Performance: The Java SE platform has traditionally offered developers a range of features for writing scalable multi-threaded applications, for example with monitors in the Java language and VM and the concurrency utilities defined in JSR 166. To keep up with the inexorable trend toward multicore CPUs, Java SE 7 will add new concurrency APIs developed by Prof. Doug Lea and the JSR 166 community. These include, in particular, a Fork/Join Framework which can adaptively scale some types of application code to the available number of processors. Java SE 7 will further enable I/O-intensive applications by introducing a true asynchronous I/O API as part of JSR 203.

Universality: Building upon the initial work in Java SE 6 to support scripting languages, Java SE 7 will introduce, via JSR 292, a new “invokedynamic” bytecode instruction and related APIs which will accelerate the performance of dynamic languages on the Java Virtual Machine.

Integration: The Java SE Platform provides developers with a wealth of capabilities, but Java applications do not operate in isolation. A specific pain point for many years has been that of interacting with native filesystems, where a good user experience often requires exposing some details of the underlying platform. Java SE 7 will include a new, flexible filesystem API as part of JSR 203 which will provide portable access to common filesystem operations yet also allow platform-specific code to be written when desired.

About the Speaker – Chuk Munn Lee

Chuk Munn Lee has been programming in the Java language since 1996, when he first joined Sun Microsystems in Hong Kong. He currently works as a senior developer consultant and technology evangelist for Technology Outreach at Sun in Singapore. Chuk’s focus is in: Java APIs, Java EE, Java SE, and Java ME. Chuk worked with key Asia-Pacific independent software vendors (ISVs) during the last six years to helped them design, prototype, develop, tune, size, and benchmark their Java applications. Chuk is also an avid gamer; he shares his enthusiasm for Java technology adoption with other game developers. Chuk graduated in 1987 from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, where his favorite subject was compiler theory.

Fees and Registration

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

Talk by Ramesh Raskar, MIT Media Lab – 6th July

Mark your calendars. This is an event you cannot miss.

Ramesh Raskar, Associate Professor at MIT Media Lab (that’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology, not Pune’s MIT), considered one of the top young innovators in the world, is in town, and we’re taking this opportunity to have him give a talk. The talk is at 5:45pm on Wednesday, 6th July, at the Venture Center, in NCL, Pashan. He will talk about various topics including:

  • Netra, the mobile phone based eye exam for developing countries,
  • His other work in the field of computational vision and imaging,
  • His initiatives in India and Pune,
  • Help/Collaborations he is looking for from people organizations in India
  • MIT Media Labs, commercializing inventions, the startup ecosystem in Boston.

This will be followed by time for discussions and networking

About Ramesh Raskar

Ramesh Raskar is the head of MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture research group. His research interests span the fields of computational photography, inverse problems in imaging, and human-computer interaction. Recent inventions include transient imaging to look around a corner, a next-generation CAT-scan machine, imperceptible markers for motion capture (Prakash), long-distance barcodes (Bokode), touch + hover 3D interaction displays (BiDi screen), low-cost eye care devices (NETRA) and new theoretical models to augment light fields (ALF) to represent wave phenomena.

Awards and Honours for Ramesh Raskar:

  • Top young innovator under 35, from MIT Technology Review in 2004
  • Top 20 Indian technology innovators, from Global Indus Technovator Awards, MIT, 2003
  • Sloan Research Fellowship, 2009
  • DARPA Young Faculty award, 2010
  • 40 US patents
  • 4 Mitsubishi Electric Invention awards

Fees and Registration

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