Mobile computing: Whither?

Ten years back one would not have imagined that the cell phones would become much more than a cordless phone with a wide signal range. From a communication device that can store a few contact numbers it has, over the years, become ‘smarter’ by providing integrated features such as digital camera, FM radio, music/video player, games, multiple connectivity modes for the common user. For the advanced or business user it provides a Personal Information Manager (PIM), mailing features (push or pull), other office products and most importantly the ability to run business applications. There are, however, several other parameters that will dictate the way in which future mobile applications would run on modern mobile devices.

Hardware – PDA v/s Smart Phone

The gap between a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and a smart phone is getting shorter day by day. Most of the advanced phones these days have QWERTY keyboards, higher form factor, excellent processing power and almost the same memory capacity of comparable PDAs. As smart phones get more and more data-centric, the possibilities of running powerful LoB applications get better. Hence if the current trend continues, the long-term future of mobile computing will be revolving around smart phones.

Online v/s Offline

The bandwidth worries are to become the story of the past! As technologies are being developed to transfer megabytes of data at lower costs and in a matter of seconds, ‘almost-offline’ kind of applications will make way for ‘almost-always-connected’ applications. This would mean that the mobile client technology will run applications that are online with the enterprise backend systems but would not mind even if the connection is disturbed for a while. On restoration of the connection it would continue synchronizing the data that was collected or changed during the disconnected time period. This behaviour is comparable to that of the Microsoft Outlook mail client. Standard client side protocols will be soon available to manage session, state and queue persistence to facilitate the above concept.

Enterprise mobile apps v/s custom build

Built-in mobility would be the theme going forward. This would mean that you build your enterprise or mid-scale applications once and mobilize it using ‘a mobile infrastructure’ without significant effort. The organizations who build such mobility frameworks and build their enterprise applications keeping this flexibility (possible usage modes and channels) in mind would be the leaders in future business computing. These naturally mobilized applications would surpass custom build mobile applications that are difficult to maintain in the long run.

Public v/s Private network

A future mobile application would be able to run within a private corporate network as well as a public wide area network facilitated by a service provider without any difference in behavior at all. However, the usage pattern and the type of mobile applications in reality would vary within a private network and a public network. For example, a mobile service application may use a public network more often than an assembly line monitoring applet that is running within a manufacturing plant. The point here is that the usage pattern and location should not determine the architecture and technology behind the application.


In the future, voice activated NLP commands and touch screen entries will be used more often than keyboard entries. Mail usage will be around templatized content and smarter word fillers would make whatever entries to be made, a lot faster. Probably there is a lot of limitations when it comes to input mechanisms but something really innovative needs to be implemented here. Seamless integration and accessibility between office applications, PIM etc and the mobile enterprise applications will be what power users will be looking for. In order to achieve this the standards for exchanging data between PIM and mobile applications need to be defined.

Which technology – Java v/s .NET v/s ToBeInvented

As long as a standardized mobile platform protocol is available, it will be insignificant to talk about the technology used to write the applications and/or frameworks. Even the operating system may not play a bigger role here. The present problem is that the cool proprietary features that various mobile devices provide are often mistaken as built in O/S features rather than added application features. With conscious effort the integration points (PIM, Enterprise backend connectivity, Media players, Synchronization, Device management etc) can be really standardized. At the moment, open standards such as OSGi is purely talking about a raditional open application architecture that is far away from the current needs and capabilities of mobile computing

Future mobile computing device (MCD)

If the technology grows at the current pace, we would soon get to see devices that have computing power and memory capacity of the current desktops. They will also have foldable LCD/Plasma screens (something like the airport multi-display-monitor hoarding) that can change form factors easily and could substitute a laptop or tablet PC via retractable keyboard mat. Seamless synchronization with other devices (not just computers) will be a reality. Video streaming and recording features will soon be utilized for mobile TVs and video conferencing services while on the move (using 3G or ‘moreG‘). Also, don’t be surprised if all your TV channels are accessible via your smart phone in less than two years from now!

Four business ideas in the auto space

In the last article I touched upon the changing face of the Indian automobile industry and the brisk pace at which it is growing. The entire automotive echo system has greatly benefited out of this sudden surge, in the past ten years or so, providing job opportunities to millions of people in India – thanks to the auto ancillary establishments, forging units, service centers, mechanic shops and agencies that provide related skills/services etc. However, there are still quite a few untapped market opportunities in this space, which does not necessarily provide jobs to people in bulk but are good business ideas to invest in. In this write up we will explore four such business opportunities (I should warn you that there is nothing innovative about them).

Multi-storied parking lots

Parking woes, along with strenuous traffic conditions, are common phenomena in all our metros and tier 1 cities. While the government and private-public partnerships need to work on the roads, nothing is preventing the venture capitalists or business men from starting a number of multistoried parking lots in key access locations in and around our big cities. Each of these parking lots ideally should accommodate 100 to 250 cars and should have automated machines at entry/exit that charge either hourly, daily or monthly parking fees from its customers. There can be services like round the clock security, parking full/free indicators, easy access via elevators or stairs etc that you can find in any modern parking lots in the western world. This is a very exciting business opportunity whereby the investments per such a building could be anywhere between 5 to 20 crores, depending on the city, locality and desired capacity etc.

Automated car wash centers

One of the worst things that could happen to your expensive, brand-new car is the scratches on the body – either owing to the packed traffic conditions or caused by the unskilled cleaner who is usually your gardener, house maid, security guard or chauffer. The latter issue can be addressed by introducing touchless automated car wash centers. This is an even better business opportunity compared to the first one as the number of expensive cars that are coming into the Indian market is growing day by day. The car wash centers automates the entire process of spraying water, applying shampoo, scrubbing the bottom/tyres, drying the car and applying wax in a sequence that takes hardly three to five minutes. It is high time we introduced such facilities in India. The initial investment per such units could be anywhere in the range of a crore or so but returns are guaranteed manyfold.

Traffic Radio channel

While our popular FM radio stations are updating listeners on the traffic conditions in respective cities, it is about time we had dedicated traffic radio stations. This has to be a public-private partnership in Indian conditions as getting relevant information from the traffic personnel on duty may be the only reliable input for providing such a service. This kind of a traffic radio station can be set up at a very minimal cost (say less than 15 lakhs or so) and the revenue model is driven by commercials. The recurring expense may include funding the government a little bit in the wake of the additional services that the traffic police department has to provide to the radio station. But this venture will definitely make more money than many of our popular FM stations as there is not much content production cost involved.

Mobile basic breakdown service

There are several breakdown services already provided by the service stations and big body shops. However, there are still opportunities for the small and medium scale entrepreneurs to enter this space. We are talking about providing very basic breakdown services like tyre repair/change, minor accident repair, replacing battery or uses, basic engine failures, etc. Depending on the number and type of service vehicles one would want to start with, this business can be set up at a cost of 1 to 10 lakhs. At 10 lakhs one can have five or six used Maruti Omnis on errand serving a whole city from various locations. The returns on investment would depend on the type and reliability of the service provided.

Do you have any other business idea related to the auto-industry?

Enterprise SOA for Agile Enterprises

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often – Winston Churchill

Sir Churchill seems to be completely right in a general sense, and it is very much relevant in this modern era of information technology. In a competitive, complex and dynamic business environment, organizations are fast realizing that the ability to transform their IT for their future business needs will determine their success. An agile enterprise or an organization that continuously reinvents itself, would be successful only if they have a flexible IT infrastructure that depicts their current organizational structure and business domain. The need for this kind of flexibility resulted in what is called an enterprise architecture that is nothing but a bundle of loosely coupled functions and processes from the organizations’ point of view.

An enterprise architecture gets even better if it is a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). An SOA is a collection of services that can interact with each other to carry out the business processes. Each service in this case, would be self-sufficient, in terms of data and state maintenance, and would form a node in a distributed computing environment. Each business process, thus becomes a series of request-response cycles involving one or more services. Please note that we are not necessarily talking about web services here.

SOA really puts some of the beautiful technology concepts into practice – Reusability, Encapsulation and common protocol for usage and data exchange to name a few. Each independent service as such could be implemented in any language or technology platform. It also provides tremendous possibility for organizations to integrate their existing solutions with other external systems by keeping similar protocols for publishing and accessing the services. This is achieved via the standardization of protocols by leading independent research & standards organizations like World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). We may recall that first generation service oriented architectures like DCOM or CORBA didn’t help everyone mainly because access protocols across heterogenic systems were not standardized.

Enterprise SOA seems to be the new buzzword now, that promises a scaleable, adaptable and open service oriented architecture for developing and/or adapting enterprise solutions. Leading business software vendors like SAP is investing heavily to port their traditional ERP and domain specific enterprise applications and suites towards service orientation. While newer applications can be fully service compliant and will work as per the current vision, it is yet to be seen how organizations can adapt their existing applications to the SOA platforms that these vendors offer. One-time adaptation may not be a feasible option for many huge organizations. So they can buy the new enterprise SOA applications for fresh requirements and integrate them to their existing infrastructure. Over a period of time, probably they can adapt the systems towards enterprise SOA, and until it is fully achieved they have to be satisfied with a side-by-side model in their IT infrastructure.

A clean enterprise SOA solution is not there in the market yet. However the next two or three years could witness a surge of service oriented enterprise offerings for both medium and large scale organizations. The success of these solutions at the end may depend on enterprise-wide protocol standardization (how long the current standards last?) and lower cost to get started (for IT optimization). After all, these technological shifts should help the enterprises to concentrate more on their core business rather than spending time and resources on IT infrastructure alone.

Homeloan rates heading north – What to do?

Home loan rates are skyrocketing following several hikes in the rates (repo and reverse repo rates) and cash-reserve ratio, by the RBI. While the central bank’s main agenda is to provide enough liquidity for the banks and to help the government control inflation rate to an ‘acceptable’ limit, nothing seems to be in the vicinity to save the middle-class from the home loan headache. In this scenario let us analyze what are the best strategies for you in planning your debts for long term financial stability.

First of all, let us not forget the thumb rule that if you have good enough funds – either as loose cash or parked in other investment instruments – with you, it is always better to pre-close the loan, either fully or partly. Two years back the scenario was different, where a tax-free and risk free 8% return from the provident funds like investments complemented a long-term home loan at 7.5% or 8.0% rate. The case now, however, is that if you want to maintain both the home loan and liquid investments, then the before tax returns from the investments should be at least 12%. And if you would like to make a part payment, make such decisions faster before the next interest hike is effected.

Secondly, if you are in no position to pre-close or part-pay the loans, you need to work out the best possible loan options for you. First and foremost thing to do is to call up your bank and check the fresh loan interest rates for your kind of loan amount and tenor. Usually, there will be a disparity of 0.25 to 0.50% between fresh loan rates and already running ones. You need to correct it via personal requests made to the bank, without fail every quarter. Also while the rates are going up opt for an increased tenor against increasing the EMI option. If not, knowingly or unknowingly it could affect your monthly budget (could even run into higher risk debts like credit cards over usage). Also you don’t want to shell out more money early enough when the rupee has more value. In the long run, the interest rates will anyway come down to bring the tenor back to your original term or even lesser. However, there is an exception here. You should know that your interest part of your EMI will steadily be coming down every year while the contribution to the principal goes up. If the annual interest portion has fallen far below 1.5 lakhs, you might want to opt for an increase in EMI option (once in a while) to avail maximum tax benefits on interest. Care should be applied here to make sure that you don’t end up paying a lot more than 1.5 lakhs an year, via adjusting the EMI. Another thing not to be done at all at this point of time is to convert your floating loan debt into fixed rates.

Thirdly, owing to the new monetary policy of the RBI, loans below 20 lakhs are likely to get some sops from the banks. This is due to the fact that risk weightage of loans below 20 lakhs have been reduced from 75% to 50% which might result in banks offering marginally lower interest rates for this category. If your current outstanding balance is slightly above 20 lakhs, you might want to check with your bank (or another bank) for a switchover option. This should be, however, done with care after working out the processing fee factor etc.

Next, be aware of the hidden charges and the penalties that banks might be revising from time to time. The home loan market for them will be coming down by 15% to 20% due to the rate hikes and other parameters in the construction industry. Banks will try various ways to make money to keep their bottom line intact. Fresh loan seekers too should be more careful now than ever before.

It is a good time now to sit back and think of own expenses structure of your monthly salary. Ideally, you should not have more than 25% of your take home
salary going towards the payment of loans. This figure is probably optimal if it’s below 20%. If this is the case, you should be in a position to save 30% of your income into various short and long (mixed with high risk and low risk) investment instruments. If you are a young (less than 40 years) borrower, you might want to restructure your investments now. You might want to convert up to 60% of your savings into high risk instruments like equities or equity oriented funds for long term investment horizon (>5 years) in mind. Another great option is to put up to 20% of your investments in gold with an investment horizon of three years. The gold is sure to return 15% or more annualized returns for the next three years (Visit Investments like this will surely compensate for the money outflow caused by high interest loans.

What is a developed country and what does it take to build one?

India is cruising on an economic boom following the reforms that started a decade ago! As a result it is now leading the rat race of attracting the foreign investment – ahead of countries like China, Brazil and Russia. India has some advantage over the relatively non-English speaking and ‘closed’ business world in the other countries. However, the spending pattern seem to be much more planned in their cases and there are a few things that India needs to workout carefully in order to take the country to a different level in the next fifteen to twenty years.

Most of the developed nations in the Americas, Europe and Oceania achieved that status in the 20th century via exploiting the aftereffects of the industrial revolution. Some of the parameters that supported their positive development included low population figures, early democratization, less corruption and education reforms. If India has to get there in that list it needs to work on more topics than the above in a more intensive fashion. Let me try to analyze some of the key issues (not necessarily in the order of priority) that we have and try to identify some solutions for the same.


The population growth in India for the past few years have been at an annualized growth rate of around 2%. While for the developed nations this figure sounds perfect, India has to really work on cutting down this growth rate by half. If we go at this pace, by 2020 we will have 1.5 billion people in this country. There has to be strict measures to bring the population growth rate to around 0.75% annually at least for the next twenty five years. This can result in a manageable figure of 1.30 billion people by 2030, taking into account the current mortality rate. Further on, the growth rate has to be brought down to 0.4 to 0.5% which is optimal for typical developed nations. The drastic guidelines to achieve this target for a better tomorrow, could include enforcing the one-child-per-family rule. An easy way to enforce this is via imposing heavy consumption taxes (Chinese model) to the government, if there is more than one child in a family. Further more, increased school fees, power/water bills etc can be enforced if the size grows further. But this can work only with 40 or 50 percent of the middle class community. For the slum dwellers and illiterates there has to be a special drive to induce awareness and prioritize the rehabilitation of those who are following one or no child rules. If there are religious, social or racial rules that promote more children, it’s time to abolish such rules via constitution amendments. Providing free contraception and free consulting etc are other options. The government could even think of providing additional benefits and tax exemptions for those who plan to go childless. Some of these things may sound unethical for typical Indian culture, but we have no other go.

Literacy & Education reforms

The population issues are directly linked to the literacy rate. The proof is the state of Kerala (my home state), the most literate state in India, that has the lowest annual population growth (~0.9%) and the highest health index. Back in the 80s this particular state government triggered a mass campaign with the help of various non-profit organizations and thousands of individual volunteers to achieve 100% literacy and at the end of one year they were very close to that reality. This is something that other states can easily implement. The need for education reforms comes next. It is about time the state governments set up larger number of free basic education institutes for primary and middle schools.

Public health

Health is indeed wealth for a state, not just for an individual. Health awareness is primarily induced via basic education and if the latter is taken care of, the health index will naturally improve. What the government has to do is to improve the free supply of basic medicines via more channels than just the government hospitals. In addition, the vaccination drives etc, has to be done via more effective campaigns. The public sanitation facilities really need a face lift the availability of good quality drinking water has to be ensured in each and every village of this country.

Arresting corruption

Bureaucracy is synonymous to democracy in many developing nations. Corruption complements bureaucracy very well and this usually begins with the politicians themselves. Most developed nations have managed to arrest corruption at all levels and this makes sure that funds and taxes collected for development purposes reach the targeted audiences or projects. In India, we need to definitely act fast on a few things. It is high time we set some basic qualifications and clean history requirements for somebody to compete the state assembly or parliament elections. Many of our politicians come from criminal backgrounds and to top it all their educational qualifications are questionable.

For India to become a developed nation, we need people with good sense, great knowledge and vision ruling us. Laws need to be enforced to make sure that our
rulers and leaders are acceptable personalities. Recent developments of disqualifying many politicians from competing the UP elections is indeed a great move. To curb corruption, it is also necessary to empower independent bodies like Lok Ayukta (in Karnataka) that has the power to bring corrupt government officials to the law.

Continue the reforms

With a GDP growth rate of above 9% and current approximate GDP of USD 800 billion, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. Right now it has a healthy foreign reserve of USD 200 billion that has doubled since 2003. At the current pace, it is safer to use part of it to pay off some of our long term debts. Also, the measures taken by the current government to boost exports of cotton products, jewelery, software etc should take the country into an accelerated growth orbit for the next few years. Improved tax collection, extra ordinary performance of Indian companies, resurgence of PSUs, alarming growth in profit of the Indian Railways, Indian companies buying out companies in Europe etc are some of the examples of a great developed nation in the making. We just need to and continue reforms and keep up this pace (or even better it) in the next ten years or so.


If there is one single thing that stands in the way of development in India, it is the infrastructure related issues. We are nowhere near many of the leading developing nations in terms of providing infrastructure to attract even bigger foreign investments. We really need world class road-rail-air connectivity in this country. This has to be supported by uninterrupted power for industries and good sanitation, drainage and pollution-free air and water. These issues have to be addressed with utmost priority and rest of the things will fall into the right places automatically. It is time we concentrated on tier 2 and 3 cities and even satellite towns to build the infrastructure rather than relying on stagnated metros and cities.


In India we have a variety of crops, oil seeds and spices produced in its states. What we have been doing so far was to bank on the huge man power available and do agriculture the traditional way. This is not a good approach going forward. We need to really modernize our agriculture sector by adopting scientific methods and machinery to prepare the country for a better agricultural growth rate for the future. The agricultural products can top our exports chart if we revolutionize this sector and enough funding is made available. ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kissan‘ is still a great slogan, but I would really like to see the defense budget cut by 20% (for the next ten years) to allocate the same towards agriculture. The agriculture sector growth prediction is not so interesting for the next two years. It stands at around 2% annualized and this is what pulls down the GDP which otherwise is doing great due to stable services sector and manufacturing.


Maintaining a growth rate of above 10% (as in the case of past year) in manufacturing sector is a great thing but India would be targeting a growth rate of above 14 pc in FY2008. This is indeed a great news though long term target should be more realistic, say 9-10pc. Looks like the current government wants to prove a point by reaching a great milestone in manufacturing while the growing inflation rates and slower agricultural growth doesn’t do any good to anybody.

Change mindsets

More than the scientific ways to maximize growth, what really can take India to the next level is its greatest asset – its people. Historically Indians have been having laid back attitude and we were taught to be lenient and tolerant. This cannot be the case going forward. We need a new generation of people that is aggressive, hardworking, focused and career oriented. This does not mean that our forefathers didn’t do any good to us. They fought their own way and fetched us freedom. The next generation built on top of it and now it’s time for us and the coming generations to maximize the opportunities that lie ahead. This has to be our pledge going forward!

The Indian food styles

The other day I was just thinking about the versatility of Indian cooking and the variety of food items it is offering. Far east countries, China or certain Latin American countries might have the concept of ‘make-food-out-of-anything’ but only Indian food promises so much of varieties and most importantly the usage of hundreds of spices.


India is a country that has got six or seven major religions. The vegetarianism (if not veganism) was mainly influenced by Hinduism. Also geographically speaking, one will find that North Indian food style is majorly vegetarian in nature. The percentage of population having non-vegetarian food is much more in South India – keralites being extremists in this case who do not mind having all kinds of meats and seafood.

Broad categorization

Though there are various sub-categories, one can broadly categorize the food style in India into two – North Indian style and South Indian style. North Indians prefer more bread items (wheat based and mostly grilled/toasted) and thick gravied rich curries mainly based on dairy products such as cottage cheese, yoghurt and milk cream. In the south the main food grain is rice and mostly rice along with some thin gravy curries make a meal. In both cases salads mean chopped onion or chillies and accompaniment mostly will include hot pickles. The traditional South Indian meal is served in plantain leaves where as the North Indian food is served in brass plates. In both cases it’s eaten with bare hands rather than spoons, forks, knives or chopsticks.


Though one might claim that Indian food style is quite unique and originated in India alone, you can see a lot of influenced or imported styles here. For example the Mughals brought in the kebabs and spiced rices culture to India where as the Chinese influenced stir-fried items such as gobi manchurion (cauliflower stir-fried and spiced) are more common in India than China itself. The British and Indian mixed (anglo-indian) styles became popular during the British rule and it is still common in parts of the country. The Portugese and the french gave us their own unique style which is still common in Goa and Pondicherry respectively.

Various Styles

There are hundreds of food styles and cuisines across the states and regions of India. Some of the prominent cuisines in the North include the Mughalai style, Parsi style, Punjabi style and the Gujarati style. Mughalai style is synonymous with biryanis or pulav that has dried fruits and nuts aplenty. Parsi style is a mix of western, Persian and Indian styles. Punjabi style is mainly tandoor (a large traditional oven) grill based where as Gujarati style basically include sweetened main courses and curries. In the South, Andhra style, Chettinadu style, Malabar style and Coorgy style are the major categorizations. Almost all these styles are rich in spices and chilli usage. All of them offer a wide variety of non-vegetarian delicacies as well. Apart from these, the western coastal Indian food style has a distinction of using coconut milk or paste in almost everything whereas coastal areas in general use seafood a lot. The Bengalies also eat a lot of fish but they prefer fresh-water fishes to seafood. Bengal and Orissa are also famous for mouthwatering sweets and desserts. The type of cooking oil used is another differentiator in Indian cooking. Most commonly used oils are sunflower oil, palm oil, mustard oil, groundnut oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and coconut Oil.

Good, bad, ugly

The Indian food offers variety. The right usage of spices results in good appetite and stimulation of the senses that results in overall health. However, overcooking of vegetables and meat is a common phenomena here that takes out the vitamins and natural taste out of food items. Another unhealthy part is the amount of oil used (that normally remains in the food and served) and the number of deep or shallow fried items. Despite all these it is really amazing how these hundreds of styles and thousands of delicacies co-exist in one big land. Yet another example of unity in diversity – Truly!