Users in India should have opt-in rights

Rediff, McAfee

Last year I posted on “Indian websites haven’t earned my trust“. What had annoyed me enough to write that piece was Once it got hold of my email, it started sending me an email a day with an inane “Sensex was down 89 points, your networth?” Unsubscribing hasn’t worked so far. Eventually, I relegated it to “spam” in my email client where it finds company with all the Viagra and penny stock spam. I wonder what they’ve done with my email though. Probably sold it half a dozen times already, along with those of a thousand other unsuspecting subscribers.


Open Letter to the Bollywood Music Industry

Dear Mr./Ms. Music Executive,

First of all, let me compliment you on your pricing strategy so far. You have aced the test on how to price information products. Information products like music are tricky – the content is all in digital form, the fixed costs are high and marginal costs approach zero. How do you price such a thing?

Your current strategy seems to be working well. You have segmented the market according to the listeners’ ability to pay. To each segment you offer a different product (or sometimes the same product) at vastly different prices. I checked prices at different places for the same album – Don. Here’s what I found:


Apple and the Music Industry

Last week’s post on YouTube and Viacom got some great comments. If you get a moment go read them. Ram Medury brings up the case of VAS content providers in India, who get a small fraction of the revenues. The rest is kept by the Indian mobile service provider. Senthil says that it’s about the quality of the content. If the content is compelling it will pull in the dollars. Also, Robert Young at Gigaom has a very thought provoking post on the subject of Google and old media companies.

Onward ho! As promised, this week I take up another interesting space where the “Content vs. Distribution” battle is being played out – digital music.


YouTube vs Viacom: The Return of the King

The old adage “Content is king” doesn’t seem to be borne out by the post-bubble resurgence of new media. The three companies that have benefited by this resurgence the most are Google, Apple and YouTube, which is now part of Google. None of them create content.


The Fortress IPO

The IPO of Fortress (NYSE: FIG) on Friday closed at $31 or 70% above the IPO price on the first day of trading. It was the largest first day jump in a while. The fact that the forward P/E is now at 40x speaks to the frothiness of anything associated with hedge funds and private equity. But another interesting question that needs to be asked is – should a hedge fund be a public company?


A Tale of Two Techies

Taking up from where I left off last week. Based upon the analysis it appears that the dramatic growth in the IT Services industry in India is the primary force in shaping the Indian techie. The Indian techie is a bright person who did well in college, but even after a few years in the industry, is low on technical depth. Before he can really sink his teeth into something, he is pulled into project management. Not because Indians or Indian companies don’t care about technical depth, but because if they have to meet demand and grow, they have no choice. And to paraphrase Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street – Growth is good.

A study in contrasts is that other techie – the American techie.


Where are All the Senior Developers in India?

I hope you got a chance to play around with the spreadsheet that I posted last week. I finally got the embedded spreadsheet to work, so you can make changes and see the outcomes right there on the blog post. Isn’t that just a thing of beauty?

The model in the spreadsheet is quite simple, but it can explain a few things – for example, why in India ‘experienced developer’ has become an oxymoron. You simply don’t find developers with more than 5 years of experience. The Valley stands on the broad shoulders of seasoned developers who can weave magic with their keyboards and relish being individual contributors. Try finding these guys in Bangalore.


Model for Indian IT Services

The Indian IT Service industry has seen some phenomenal growth numbers. This year, some of the bigger companies like Infosys and TCS continue to post gravity-defying growth figures. Growth has many implications for the industry – most of them positive. A not-so-positive fallout of growth is its impact on the staffing model.

Growth has a pretty direct relationship with two variables:

– Average experience of Project Managers
– Span of control in projects

To illustrate these relationships, I have created a staffing model for the IT Services industry. The model vastly simplifies the dynamics but is nevertheless a close approximation of reality.


Runaway CEO compensation

Directors of US public companies can’t seem to get a break. First it was Sarbanes-Oxley. Lately, it has been options backdating. And now, with the Democrats controlling the legislature the volume on CEO compensation is so high, it could shatter eardrums. Runaway CEO compensation is certainly an issue, but knee-jerk legislation is not the right way.

Bob Nardelli’s recent departure from Home Depot adds fuel to the fire. Last week newspapers reporting his resignation, very typically, simplify the headline to such an extent that it distorts the truth. The directors of Home Depot apparently gave him a $210 million severance package after he did very little to the stock price in the 6 years that he was CEO.


The Rise and Rise of Private Equity

This week rumours were rife about what could be the biggest private equity deal ever – the buyout of Home Depot. The company later quashed the rumours that they were talking to private equity firms.

These are sweet times for private equity. The deals are bigger and more numerous. Capital is easy to raise. So is debt, that is needed to leverage the buyouts. A recent Fortune article paints a very rosy picture of the private equity business. Here’s a different perspective on it from NPR (audio).