Ratan Tata gets it

MUMBAI, INDIA - MARCH 23:  Ratan Naval Tata Ch...
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For all the buzz that Tata’s release of the Nano received last year,  the long term impact of the company’s new venture may be even greater.  The sprawling Tata empire, loosely held together by Ratan Tata, recently announced a plan to build affordable housing for India’s burgeoning middle class.  Here’s an excerpt from BusinessWeek:

Tata’s Nano Home: Company behind world’s cheapest car to sell $7,800 apartments – BusinessWeek

Tata, the Indian company that made worldwide headlines with its $2,000 Nano car, now plans to build 1,000 tiny apartments outside Mumbai that will sell for $7,800 to $13,400 each. The company plans to roll out low-cost projects outside other major cities.

Tata’s housing division is targeting a segment of the market that was largely overlooked during the housing boom. India’s builders were concentrating on building shiny new high rises and mansions on golf courses. Builders were after profits, but they were also trying to justify their fast-accelerating land costs, especially in and around Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) and other major cities.

As a Cornell trained architect, Ratan Tata clearly understands the value of creating spaces that foster a sense of being and community.  Like the Nano, the Shubh Griha community probably won’t attract the well connected, wealthy Indian, rather it is meant to serve as another building block for the rising Indian middle class.  This is the real growth market in India, this is the market that will truly shape the India of tomorrow.  Ratan Tata gets it.

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ReadWriteWeb discusses the state of software innovation in India

Image representing Dimdim as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

ReadWriteWeb recently ran a post about the state of India‘s innovation engine.  I’ve posted a clip here, but click through to read the whole thing:

State of Innovation in India: 2009 – ReadWriteWeb

That Big Wide-Open SaaS Opportunity

Indian start-ups that dreamed of creating the next SAP or Oracle faced massive hurdles on the sales and marketing front. Sure, they could invest five times more in R&D with the same budget. But the reality was that R&D was a tiny portion of the budget. The big money went into sales and marketing. The R&D budget arbitrage was not enough to move the needle.

This is totally and utterly different today. We have written about the SaaS opportunity many times. This opportunity is totally location-agnostic. But it is also totally price- and cost- sensitive, and R&D is the biggest cost. Success stories such as 37 signals, Automattic, and Zoho did not win by hiring an enterprise sales force or buying advertising. They “let the software do the talking.”

This is not just an opportunity for a few big winners. This is an opportunity for thousands of small companies to go after niche markets. The interesting thing about niche markets today is that they are inherently global and can be a lot bigger than people think. These small niche start-ups won’t make headlines and probably won’t get VC financing. But they won’t need VC financing. What is fascinating about SaaS globally is how few start-ups have been VC financed. Most have gotten to profitability on tiny seed rounds or even with revenue financing from clients.

As this portion of the post highlights, there are two important pieces of the puzzle that will enable Indian developers to thrive, a focus on building excellent software (DimDim being a good example) and the rise of SaaS and cloud computing delivery models.  Excellent software, along with a strong social media strategy, enables a natural sales process, and cloud computing allows development and delivery of software on a global scale.  Rather than focusing in on the struggling IT conglomerates, India’s near term innovation future may well rely on a group of agile cloud-based companies.

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Information Overload in call center environments

Call Center In Progress

Image by scottpowerz via Flickr

I recently posted an entry over at the blog for the Information Overload Research Group.  Click on the link to read the entire post:

IORG Forum Blog » Blog Archive » IO in a call center environment

The same successful companies that spend vast sums of money to optimize their supply chain and partner network, overlook the lowly call center as a place to radically increase productivity through some simple process and systems enhancements. Much of this productivity increase can come from simplifying the dizzying array of systems and databases that agents are required to interact with.

Call center environments are fascinating places to observe. Being more than a casual observer, one of the major problems I’ve seen in these environments is how poorly technology is aligned with business process. Most call centers operate in a forgotten ‘back room’ of the enterprise. The funny thing is, those that occupy the front office, are struggling to engage with their customer. They often lose sight of the fact that their customer is already engaging, and often with an under-equipped, over-burdened customer service agents. Many companies could improve their brand image and enhance customer loyalty by aligning customer service processes and technology, and let their agents focus on customer exceptions, not juggling technology.

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Twitter for Business webcast from O’Reilly

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

As a regular user of Twitter I often get asked by business people if I see value in using the micro-blogging service for business.  While the nuances of twitter may vary if you are in marketing, customer support, or other parts of an enterprise,  I do think its an important new channel to consider for most business folks.  For marketers it has become increasingly important to watch your organizations brand.  For some customer support organizations, twitter is becoming another channel to watch as customers begin to use twitter as a vehicle to broadcast their frustrations with products.  For others twitter can serve as a really useful tool to communicate with a wide array of people in a quick and efficient manner.  O’Reilly media recently did a webcast with just this focus.  I’ve embedded the Webcast here, followed by a link to the O’Reilly website.

Webcast: Twitter for Business

Twitter–the messaging service that lets you send instant, short updates to people around the world–is fast becoming a mainstream communication tool. Hundreds of brands and thousands of companies use it to connect with customers and co-workers, and new micro-messaging services are springing up every week to meet specific corporate needs.

Credit: Guy Kawasaki

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Quick thought: Uncertainty dominates enterprise software market

City of Las Vegas

Image via Wikipedia

So I figure I’d write a quick post this morning while I wait to catch my connecting flight home. This is also my first post via the iPhone WordPress application, so it’s somewhat of a test from this device.

This week I was at the SSPA trade show in Las Vegas, and it was the quietest I’ve ever seen a major industry event. I don’t have actual numbers, but it seemed like attendance was down. I’m sure some of this reflects general economic softness, but I also think that the dramatic gyrations in the financial markets must have led to last minute cancellations. Either way, if this one data point reflects the level of activity in the overall market, then enterprise software is about to face the biggest slowdowns since the beginning of this decade…at least from a new license perspective.

The week before, Consona had their annual user meeting, also in Las Vegas. While attendance was down, the existing user base in both the CRM and ERP divisions seemed to be energized.

If the two events reflect any larger trend, those enterprise software companies that have a business model that is built on new license sales are in for some very choppy waters…

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A good post about the challenges, and fun, of being an Entrepreneur in Residence

Andrew Chen, who’s blog is a new addition to my regular feed, has a nice post about being an E-i-R and what he learned from working inside a Venture Capital firm.

I spent most of 2007 affiliated with Mohr Davidow Ventures, where I started out as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, and then transitioned into a consulting role about mid-way through the year. It was a great experience –

Read his post here: Futuristic Play by Andrew Chen: Quick professional update, and what an Entrepreneur-in-Residence actually does

Is JotSpot finally ready to be unveiled by Google?

InsideGoogle is reporting that JotSpot may finally emerge from the Googleplex as a part of the Google Application Suite for enterprise customers.  It was just a few days ago that I expressed concern that JotSpot seemed to have fallen into some void at Google.  It’s good to hear that the wiki application may finally be ready for prime time.

Hopefully, this time the news is for real (not like the last time).

Thanks to Googlified for the update.

Grand Central invitations available

Although Google has acquired Grand Central, it looks like they are still allowing existing users to invite a few people into the beta site. So, if you are interested, please leave a comment, and I’ll send out an invitation. I’m not sure how many I have, so I’ll update this post when I run out.

Update: Comments seem to have broken on the blog. Please email me directly if you would like an invite.

Update2: I’m out of Grand Central invites now, thanks for stopping by.

Sad to see Performancing sold off to PayPerPost

Michael Arrington broke the news yesterday, Performancing – makers of the excellent blog posting add-in for FireFox – has been acquired by PayPerPost. PPP has been very controversial in the blogging world, as it operates a service whereby bloggers get paid by product companies to blog about their respective products. Hired guns, essentially. Many have argued that this amounts to blog spam…others are less kind. As for me, I’m sad that Performancing sold itself to PPP; I can’t imagine they were the only offer around for this toolset. I’ve been using Performancing to post for a while now, having switched from BlogJet (which is excellent too, but not as ‘in-line’ as Performancing is), but I may consider leaving it as my blogging tool of choice given these turn of events.

Techcrunch » Blog Archive » PayPerPost In The News Again

They will be announcing the acquisition of blogging tools and services company Performancing

UPDATE:  It looks like I, and others, may have come to the wrong conclusion on the PPP acquisition of Performancing.  As Matt states, PPP is buying some of the assets of Performancing.  This deal does not involve the Firefox add-in.  That’s great news.  I guess all’s well on the blogosphere this evening.

NetSuite looks to go public

This is interesting, and encouraging, news.  NetSuite – a company that started off as an online personal accounting company – is preparing for an initial public offering.  Michael Arrington has the scoop over at TechCrunch:

Techcrunch » Blog Archive » NetSuite’s Going Public, Looking for $1 Billion Valuation

NetSuite, the fraternal twin of SalesForce (both companies CEOs came out of Oracle and have similar business models), is preparing to go public next year based on 2006 revenues of about $70 million.

I remember NetSuite when it was NetLedger, a tiny (and boring) startup from the web 1.0 era that was funded by Larry Ellison himself.  Back in the day when ubiquitous connectivity was not a given, I had a beta NetLedger account to manage my personal expenses.  It was an interesting concept, but a bit of a leap of faith to put personal information online – not to mention trying to access the application on flaky internet connections.  The company eventually evolved out of the personal accounting business to build a rock solid all-in-one ERP-CRM application for small and medium sized businesses.

What’s encouraging here is that NetSuite is an ‘old guard’ web company, one that survived a bursting bubble.  Of course, they could have ridden the growth wave coattails of SalesForce.com, but nonetheless, it is good to see that they’re still around and well enough to go public.