September 28, 2007

T20 Cup - Presentation ceremony gag

In the post-match presentation, Ravi Shastri to Dhoni -

"Congratulations to you and the whole Indian team for winning this world cup. You guys have produced a great nail baiting show.. and deserve the cup. We welcome you to share the joy with us."

Dhoni -

"Thanks Ravi, the match was pretty close encounter between two great teams and our guys held the nerve to win the game and cup."

Shastri -

"Who was the one behind this thrilling victory?"

Dhoni -

"All us played well but I would say the man behind this great victory is Ajit Agarkar"

Shocked Shastri...

"Agarkar ? ? .. how come Agarkar... he didn't play in the final.."

Dhoni -

"Yeah.. that's the reason we won this low scoring match.. if he could have bowled in final, Pakistan would have scored the winning runs from his 4 overs...."

Shastri -

"ok.. fine, whom will u thank for winning this final..."

Dhoni -

"The team doctor deserves the credit... he really helped us to prepare for the final..."

Shastri -

"Is it? ?.... how did the doctor help u to prepare for the final...

he is not the coach or physical trainer...Dhoni.. I am confused"

Dhoni -

"Ravi... he failed Sehwag in the fitness test according to our game plan and we managed to pick a good playing team.. thus we weigh the doctor's contribution very high...infact its better than our team effort in the field.. our game tactic worked well"

Shastri -

"To whom will u dedicate this World Cup?

Dhoni -

"The entire team including myself wants to dedicate this cup to Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly..."

Shastri -

"I really really appreciate you... its good that you respect ur seniors....and you ...."
Dhoni interrupts....

"Ravi.. let me complete... India would have exited in the Group matches if they decided to play in the series... thank god they opted out and we managed to play cricket and won the cup.."

Shastri -

"The match was thrilling and was concluded by a single mistake of Misbah.. Isn't it? "

Dhoni -

"Yes you are right, after lofting the ball Misbah told me that he has send the ball to where there was no one....but he didn't know that there is a malayali in every corner of the world.... This single mistake has coasted the game and won the cup..."

Shastri faints and Dhoni receives the CUP and thats the end of the great Twenty-20 world cup...

Mind your Health - Good personalized programmes from BBC

Here is an interesting link from BBC Health - Personal Health & Fitness Programmes

Check out your personal plan after filling out a questionnaire here.

September 27, 2007

How to Create a Startup for 5 Steps

September 25, 2007

Building an effective change agent team

A very nice article from McKinsey. Couldn't stop making this information redundant - For the benefit of tracking at a later point in time!

A carefully constructed change agent program is essential to any successful operational transformation.

When a company attempts a transformation focused on its operations, a sound plan and a robust execution strategy are not necessarily enough. Another important factor in the success of this type of initiative—involving everything from simplifying processes and improving the efficiency of equipment to modifying an entire supply chain—is the designation of specific employees as “change agents” who lead the organization through the journey.

Change agents are leaders who cut across the organization and its business units without regard to the traditional hierarchy. Often these men and women are freed from day-to-day tasks in order to focus solely on leading and driving change. Directly or indirectly, they implement new processes, train employees on new procedures, and act as role models to demonstrate new and better ways to work. For example, change agents might spend more than 50 percent of their time visiting areas undergoing change, auditing progress, or advising managers on how to improve performance.

Organizations that overlook the importance of an appropriate change agent program risk paying a high cost. Consider, for example, an Asian pulp and paper company that created a change agent team to drive its lean-operations program. The group reported directly to top management and was staffed with new hires. However, senior executives failed to recognize and combat the tenacity of the operating group’s silo mentality and culture. Plant managers, who held the real organizational power, resisted what they saw as intrusion by a team of young outsiders, leaving management with no choice but to abandon the change program after several months. The change agents could not establish themselves as a credible force in an organization that valued experience and seniority over youth and innovation.

Our experience suggests that a carefully constructed change agent program is essential to any reorganization effort. Such a program requires three elements: a thoughtful design, the careful recruitment and development of personnel, and close integration between the change agent team and the organizational areas targeted for transformation.

Designing the program

Two of the most important tasks when creating a change agent team are defining the roles of its members and establishing a reporting structure.

As in any organization, each individual on the change agent team has a specific role. For example, executers are responsible for implementing solutions, experts use their extensive knowledge to solve difficult problems, coaches train line employees in the new processes, custodians ensure that knowledge is shared across organizational units, and controllers track what’s been done and what must still be accomplished. How much emphasis an organization places on each of these roles will depend on the nature of the change program and the existing culture of the organization; for instance, an organization with a weak culture of accountability will need more coaches and controllers in order to ensure consistency.

As for reporting structures, there are two possible models. One is to create a centralized change agent team that reports directly to the top team. The other, decentralized option is to keep change agents in their respective groups so that they report through a dotted line to a central change agent leader. In our experience each of these approaches has its advantages and drawbacks, and no one plan will work for everyone. A centralized change agent team encourages new ideas, the thorough development of new thinking, and a standard set of solutions across the organization. Alternatively, the decentralized model tends to foster greater skill building, the quicker dissemination of the program’s values, and better customization of solutions for each site or group. Short-term priorities, the long-term rollout plan, and the culture of the existing organization are all factors that must be considered when determining which change agent structure will be most effective. For example, at the Asian pulp and paper company mentioned previously, where plant managers saw the centralized model as an outside intrusion into their operations, a decentralized plan might have been more effective.

Recruiting and developing the best team

With a change agent organizational structure in place, the next step is to identify and recruit the best team possible. A crucial component is spelling out the benefits and opportunities members will receive as a result of moving outside their existing career paths.

Identify credible candidates

A useful litmus test when considering possible change agents is to anticipate the reaction from other staff members when an appointment to the new position is announced. Selecting high-performing people who are already well respected within the company sends a clear signal that management takes the program seriously. Moreover, a credible set of team members will be better able to drive change and implement recommendations.

Change agents need more than raw analytical power to solve complex business problems; interpersonal skills are also critical if they are to lead others through change. Important traits for a potential change agent include empathy, strong communication skills, perseverance in the face of challenge or ambiguity, and an ability to deal with conflict constructively.

Change agent teams must also make a strong effort to hire people with an appropriate mix of skills. A balance should be struck between young “academic types” who have strong analytical capabilities and seasoned managers who have proven track records within the organization. Working together, these two types of employees complement each other, broadening the team’s skill base and providing for the two-way transfer of knowledge and capabilities within the team.

Develop a compelling case for team members

Potential change agents need to understand the explicit benefits and career opportunities that will be open to them as a result of joining the change effort. The best employees often hesitate to take an assignment that may last only 18 months—which is usually the minimum amount of time required for a transformation—fearing that it will damage their careers in the long run.

To counter these fears, high-performing organizations tend to develop a formal career plan for change agents. Some make participation a requirement for promotion to senior management; others build a career-development track within the program. Such mechanisms can prove to be highly effective recruiting tools, motivating potential candidates by offering short-term benefits—including opportunities to build new capabilities and exposure to new areas of knowledge—as well as the longer-term payoff of career advancement. Companies with traditionally weak human-resources processes may find it worthwhile to invest in a distinct HR system for change agents, including specific recruiting, development, and compensation schemes.

Integrating with the front line

The third important requirement for a successful change agent program is active support from line management. Time and again, change leaders discover that an “80 percent right” solution embraced and implemented by line managers beats the “100 percent right” solution that fails to win their acceptance. This buy-in rate is a critical indicator of success for a change program. Change agents should typically spend more than half of their time working collaboratively on the “shop floor,” maintaining open, two-way communication and keeping abreast of the latest developments on the front line.

Line managers need to be actively engaged from the beginning of the change process, and they should participate in problem-solving sessions with change agents, senior managers, and other employees. Such sessions encourage openness and the sharing of ideas, allow difficult issues to be raised early on in the change process, and build personal connections between line staff and change agents. At one oil and gas company, for example, the change agent team created a group of “sparring partners” staffed with midlevel production managers. The team jointly tested proposed ideas, won approval for standardization of tools and processes, and acted as a conduit to the rest of the organization. In such sessions, communication barriers are removed and collaborative teamwork becomes the norm.

September 24, 2007

Orchestr8 AlchemyPoint - Mashup unleashed..

Woah! I'm just out of a new product website, and the experience is fantastic! I stumbled upon Mashmaker from Intel a few days back...but here is something I just bumped into - Orchestr8 AlchemyPoint - A full-fledged enterprise-level mashup platform. Here is what the founder Elliot Turner has to say about his new product -

"Orchestr8 is the only mashup/integration infrastructure company offering a complete application server, distributed messaging framework, and web services protocol stack integrated into its product line. Many man-years of engineering effort have been dedicated to building Orchestr8's protocol stack capabilities, ensuring the system's interoperability with high-end Enterprise SOA/application-integration offerings from companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP"

Highlights of the Orchestr8 AlchemyPoint platform include:

  • Unified System that Combines the Best of SOA and Mashups
    The AlchemyPoint platform provides a unique combination of mashup and SOA technology, with its integrated application server, data scraping/transformation capability, and web services stack.
  • Unmatched Structured Content Scraping/Transform Capability
    Orchestr8 has developed a variety of innovative structured content scraping and data transformation capabilities that offer significant improvements in both reliability and performance over traditional systems. These capabilities include the ability to extract and manipulate information from non-Web data sources such as text files, database fields, etc.
  • Transparently Mashes Up Existing Web Sites / Applications
    The AlchemyPoint platform enables the transparent integration of new functionality into existing web sites and Intranet portals. This transparent integration approach allows for organizations to more fully leverage the value of existing IT investments.
  • Free Desktop Version and Open Source Developer Community
    Orchestr8 offers a freely-available version of its AlchemyPoint Desktop Edition software to end-users and the open-source developer community, to foster innovation within the mashup user/developer community.
I've just signed-up for a technology preview of this interesting product. Just hoping to get an unlimited access (with the amount of time I have..) Do await my reviews in the days to come...

Pssst...Im just updating this posting here....I got my tech-preview access enabled! Let me try this out...

September 23, 2007

Same day...3 years ago...

It was 23rd September 2004. Heart filled with abundant aspirations and a determined mind, a software engineer from Chennai traveled to Bangalore to join the Big Blue.

Yes, thats me and its now three years since I joined Eye Bee Em. The journey thus far has been filled with innovation and self-realization.

Looking forward to a more exciting and fun-filled experience at work in the days to come!

Mashmaker from Intel

This is an awesome product from Intel - Mashmaker. I just went to the Mashmaker web page and signed up for this experimental service provided by Intel. Intel has promised to send the first batch of invites at the end of the Intel Developer Forum. I'm eagerly waiting!!

Here are what they claim in a nutshell -
  • Browse, Don't Program:
    • Intel® Mash Maker suggests mashups as you browse the web.
  • View the internet, not just a web page:
    • Intel® Mash Maker combines many pages into one view.
  • Enter the semantic web via the back door:
    • Intel® Mash Maker draws on the wisdom of the community to understand the structure and semantics of information on the web.

Here is an overview of this product from Intel's web page:

"Intel® Mash Maker is an extension to your existing web browser that allows you to easily augment the page that you are currently browsing with information from other websites. As you browse the web, the Mash Maker toolbar suggests Mashups that it can apply to the current page in order to make it more useful for you. For example: plot all items on a map, or display the leg room for all flights.

Intel® Mash Maker learns from the wisdom of the community. Any user can teach Mash Maker new mashups, using a simple copy and paste interface, and once one user has taught Mash Maker a mashup, this mashup will be automatically suggested to other users. Intel® Mash Maker also relies on the community to teach it about the structure and semantics of web pages, using a built in structure editor."

From what I see, it looks like a promising product that has high chances of taking various other forms in the days to come. The underlying technology seems to be XML based and I'm keen to do some more reading on how this works! Hope to post an article on this in the near future...

Should you be interested in trying out this new product from Intel Research, visit this link

September 22, 2007

Flashback - Microsoft's Maiden Website

Every company started somewhere. Here is Microsoft's maiden website...Nostalgic!

More info here

September 21, 2007

The Art of Creative Thinking - Good Read

How to be Innovative and Develop Great Ideas

I'm just basking under the sun of creativity after a swim through this book titled "The Art of Creative Thinking" by John Adair. It was a short swim of less than 144 pages, but a refreshing and a good one. Its like Creative Thinking in a Nut-Shell!

I lost myself in deep thinking intervals during this read, and it was more of a realization experience to me. Most of what is talked about in this book is something one might've practiced in one way or another, but not consciously.

Here is the content of the book, and that might interest you...

Chapter 1 - On Human Creativity
Chapter 2 - Use the Stepping Stones of Analogy
Chapter 3 - Make the Strange Familiar and the Familiar Strange
Chapter 4 - Widen Your Span of Relevance
Chapter 5 - Practise Serendipity
Chapter 6 - Chance Favours Only the Prepared Mind
Chapter 7 - Curiosity
Chapter 8 - Keep Your Eyes Open
Chapter 9 - Listen for Ideas
Chapter 10 - Reading to Generate Ideas
Chapter 11 - Keep a Notebook
Chapter 12 - Test Your Assumptions
Chapter 13 - Make Better Use of Your Depth Mind
Chapter 14 - Do Not Wait for Inspiration
Chapter 15 - Sharpen Your Analytical Skills
Chapter 16 - Suspend Judgement
Chapter 17 - Learn to Tolerate Ambiguity
Chapter 18 - Drift, Wait and Obey
Chapter 19 - Sleep on the Problem
Chapter 20 - Working It Out
Chapter 21 - Think Creatively about Your Life
Appendix A - Checklist: Have You Analysed the Problem?
Appendix B - Checklist: Are You Using Your Depth Mind?
Appendix C - Answers to Quiz and Exercise on Pages 10–12 and 63

Drive down to the nearest bookstore or library to get a copy of this. You can also order a copy on Amazon here.

Get Creative!

One of the most toughest things to do...

Speaking about yourself, your capabilities and accomplishments are one of the most toughest things to do in your professional career.

I'm currently preparing a package for a certification as an IT Architect with my company...and believe me, writing about my experiences and accomplishments has been a challenge.

Sometimes truth sounds like an act of bragging to me. But I guess this is what such forums demand one to do!

Any opinions and experiences? Reach me at Karthik [At] KarthikVijayakumar.Com

Do startups need Product Managers? - Interview with Marty Cagan of SVPG

Marty Cagan is Managing Partner at Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG), and has earlier worked with great companies like HP, Netscape, AOL and eBay. Marty started SVPG to help companies build great products (and also to institutionalize the Product Management function).

He has been involved with several Silicon Valley companies like TiVo,, PROTRADE etc.

Here is a quick interview I conducted with Marty, in order to understand what’s the importance of PM function in startups, or to put it the other way - what should startups do to build the right product in the right manner?

Do startups need Product Management function?
Yes, they need a strong product manager, unless one of the founders has the skills necessary. I’ve been working with quite a few startups over the past few years, usually in an advisory capacity, but sometimes more directly involved.

Startups are essentially all about new product creation, so they’re a terrific place for product managers to do their thing, and it’s why I love working with startups so much. Yet I believe that the prevalent model for how startups go about coming up with their first product is terribly inefficient, and why so many otherwise good ideas never get funded or make it to market.

Here’s how it typically works - someone with an idea gets some seed funding, and the first thing he does is hire some engineers to start building something. The founder will have some definite ideas on what he wants, and he’ll typically act as product manager and often product designer, and the engineering team will then go from there.

The company is typically operating in “stealth mode” so there’s little customer interaction. It takes much longer for the engineering team to build something that originally thought because the requirements and the design are being figured out on the fly.

After 6 months or so, the engineers have things in sort of an alpha or beta state, and that’s when they first show the product around. Things rarely go well in this first viewing, and the team starts scrambling. The run-rate is high because there’s now an engineering team building this thing as fast as they can, so the money is running out, and the product isn’t there. Maybe the company gets more funding and a chance to get the product right, but often they don’t.

Many startups try to get more time by outsourcing the engineering to a low-cost off-shore firm, but it’s essentially the same process with the same problems.

Here’s a very different approach to new product creation, one that costs dramatically less and is much more likely to yield the results you want. The founder hires a product manager, a product designer, and a prototyper. Sometimes the designer can also serve as prototyper, and sometimes the founder can serve as the product manager, but one way or another, you have these three functions lined up - product management, product design, and prototyping - and the team starts a process of very rapid product design and iteration.

I describe this process in detail elsewhere but there are two keys:

  1. the idea is to create a high-fidelity prototype that mimics the eventual user experience – it is just fine if the back-end processing and data is all fake; and
  2. You need to validate this product design with real target users.In this model, it is normal to create literally dozens of versions of the prototype - it will evolve daily, sometimes with minor refinements and sometimes with very significant changes. But the point is that with each iteration you are getting closer to identifying a winning product.This process typically takes between 3 weeks and 2 months, but at the end of the process, you have:
  • identified a product that you have validated with the target market;
  • a very rich prototype that serves as a living spec for the engineering team to build from; and
  • you now understand at a much greater degree what you’re getting into and what you’ll need to do to succeed.

Now when you bring on an engineering team, they’ll start off with a tremendous advantage - a clear understanding of the product they need to build and a stable spec - and you will find that the team can produce a quality implementation much faster than they would otherwise.

I continue to be amazed at how many startups just jump right into implementation, but I think we’re such an engineering-driven culture that we just naturally start there.

But any startup has to realize that everything starts with the right product - so the first order of business is to figure out what that is before burning through $500K or more in seed funding.

I believe this model applies beyond startups to much larger companies as well. The difference is that bigger companies are generally able to underwrite the several iterations it takes to get to a useful product, but startups often can’t. But there’s no good reason for the inefficiencies that larger companies regularly endure either

You have been deeply involved with Silicon Valley based startups- what do you think differentiates a successful startup from the others?
The successful startup is addressing a real need with a solution that works well or at least significantly better than how that need is met today.

What are the key skills startups should look in while hiring a great product manager?
Take a look at the writeup “Behind Every Great Product” ( for a detailed description.

September 18, 2007

Power your laptop wireless!

In the day of wireless devices, why has no one come up with a novel solution for recharging electronic devices like the laptops, iPods and mobile phones? Something I've always loved to see and use - to be able to recharge my laptop without having to connect it to the power point.

Here were some of the possible ways of getting this done...digging some of my basic physics knowledge here...
  • Generate power for your laptop from key strokes - We spend some energy for very key stroke! (Remember Newton's law?? - Every action has an equal and opposite reaction!)
  • Generate power from the heat expelled by your laptop's battery and the other hardware
  • Use the screen's brightness to regenerate power
  • Use sound from an MP3 song to generate power
  • Use ambient light to generate power
Give it a thought! If the bulb glows, buzz me!

September 16, 2007

Chennai Runners' Third ECR Run

It was 2:45AM and the alarm went off on my mobile! Being a guy who normally puts the alarm on a snooze, it was a contrast today - I was bright and active at 2:50AM! Having mentally prepared for the 30Kms run, it was just the reaction expected of me. Left home at 3:30AM and drove down to Dimensions gym, where we Chennai Runners planned to meet up and car pool to the ECR Toll Booth (which was our planned start point for the run).

It was 4:05AM and we started our drive to the ECR Toll booth. Ram joined me in the early morning drive and we reached the destination just in time at 4:30AM. Having done our pre-run conditioning, we got prepared for the BIG Run! Vidyuth briefed the volunteers of their modus operandi. We began our run at 5:00AM sharp, after Ram and Hari briefed the runners of safety instructions.

It was pitch dark on the ECR road with no street lights at all! I started off in full swing and managed to stay up to my expectations for about 15Kms. Rupert, Hari and Shumit whizzed past in the very beginning and were the leading runners. Ram and Ashvini were the others to go past me later followed by Anuj and Abhijit. I did not wear my iPod and it was a nice experience in the morning....enjoying the sound of silence and insects and the sight of darkness all around us.

There was a point at about 10-12Kms when I was kind of running out of mental fuel. KK came to my rescue with his company and some motivating words. We chugged on for a kilometer and a half, and then KK went on his own. It was then when I bumped into Rajesh. That was the beginning of a wonderful experience - Pushing the limits! Me and him kind of pushed each other's limits in a very unique way. Initially we walked for about 800meters. Then he started to jog...I continued to walk. Then he started to walk....and I started to jog to get past him. So this activity continued all the way to Mamalla, and we made it to our destination! We actually went past our destination by a kilometer and then realized we missed out. But to our pleasant surprise, we had our dear friends Mr. Ravikrishnan and Mrs. Savithri Ravikrishnan, who volunteered help through the entire run and gave us a ride back to Mamalla Resorts. Thanks to you Mr. & Mrs. Ravikrishnan!

Puffing and panting...and a sigh of relief and achievement were some of the expressions that was found in most of our faces when we gathered at Hotel Mamalla Resorts (about 3 kms before Mahabalipuram). It was Bliss!

Some lessons learnt/observations:
  1. Running on the roads where there is a curve/bend in the road is slightly challenging. The banking on the road puts uneven pressure on the knees
  2. Running is a Mind Game, and not just a Game of Physical Fitness!
  3. Camaraderie can take a team a very long way. Run as a team and reap the benefits!
  4. If you feel tired after a 10-15K during a 30K run, try doing Power Walking or just keep chugging on without lifting the feel much off the ground. It helps!
  5. Take an energy drink like 100 Plus or Gatorade with you in a bottle/fuel belt. It can push you thrice the distance as much as what plan water can
  6. Arm and shoulder movement helps propel your body ahead and helps you shove through the wind blowing in the opposite direction
  7. Be Positive! Never think you will get injured...the very thought might injure you!
Find today's run on MotionBased here and here.

You can also find some good running routes in Chennai on the right hand side of my blog, under "My Running Trails".

Happy Running!

September 15, 2007

Running Routes in Chennai

I've seen many people asking me - "Do you decent running trails in Chennai??" or "You do road running in Chennai? Have any good trails?"

Hence I thought of posting all my Chennai running trails under a section "My Running Trails" in my blog. Please check this out. You can pick any one of them based on the distance you are looking at. Most of them will be loops, as I find loop running very interesting and also helps beginners run along.

Happy Running!

September 13, 2007

Chennai Runners on India Today!!

This is our (Chennai Runners') second media coverage, and I must admit - It was a fabulous experience doing those shoots with the India Today team! Below is a scanned copy of the India Today article that appeared in the "Simply Chennai" section..

Join us to know what keeps us running!!

Happy Running!

September 12, 2007

Mangalorean.COM - A Good one!

In an attempt to read about Mangalooru, I bumped into this website called
Good to see a lot of unity amongst us Mangaloreans around the world...

A good site!