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ST Team
Friday, February 1, 2008
Entrepreneurial pulse reverberates @ TiECon Chennai
Who says entrepreneurship is not thriving in India? From aspirers to beginners to veterans, TiECon Chennai 2008 was packed with about 600 entrepreneurs. Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M. Karunanidhi exhorted entrepreneurs to “innovate for the common man.” Captain G.R.Gopinathan, Executive Chairman, Deccan Aviation and K.B Chandrasekar, CEO and Chairman, Jamcracker, humbly shared their personal experiences on ‘the process of “making of an entrepreneur” and how their initiatives have helped in improving the life of common man.

The remark by Ganesh K, Founder and CEO, Tutor Vista that about 77 percent of the companies the venture capitalists fund are technology companies, there was a heated debate on why VCs were not looking beyond technology companies. Sudhir Sethi, Chairman and Managing Director, IDG Ventures India and Mahesh Murthy, Partner, SeedFundo seemed to agree that though VCs are ready to invest in non-technology companies, they are not seeing any forthcoming innovative ideas, Ganesh noted that most VCs in India imitate a model followed in the West, which does not work here and asserted that the VCs should adopt a model that work in the Indian market.

Many entrepreneurs utilized the opportunity to present their business plans to VCs. Some like Sreenivas Pappula, President of Ventech Solutions got nostalgic and remembered attending the first Silcon Valley TiECon in 1992.

Techno-managers converge @ IIM Bangalore
It was their annual meet. Unlike the usual ones, there was no music or dance. From presentation of case studies to Corporate IT Quiz to brainstorming session on innovation, over 200 programmers-turned-managers gathered on a Sunday afternoon to exchange notes with each other in their annual meet. aWorking IT professionals who firmly believe that a management degree is a must to climb the corporate ladder often do not want to quit work and go back to school. It is here that courses such as IIM Bangalore’s Post Graduate Software Engineering Management help. With classes conducted over the weekends, the PGSEM is apt for mid-career IT professionals. “The PGSEM course has helped us progress to roles of greater managerial responsibility,” noted almost everyone present at the meet. There were some wannabe entrepreneurs who saw this course as providing them the impetus for launching their own ventures.

The meet offered a platform for both the alumni and current students to interact with the academia and the industry. While invited industry leaders like Anand Sitaram, Vice President and Managing Director of Cisco India; Rajiv Mehtani, Managing Director of NXP India; and Vinod Deshmukh, CTO of MindTree Consulting spoke on the innovation alchemy in their respective companies, Ravishankar GV, Associate, Sequoia Capital India and Professor S Sadagopan, Director, IIIT Bangalore presented the investor and academia perspectives. The rapt attention with which the budding managers listened and the flood of questions they threw at the panel, were nothing but an indication of the aspiration they had to seize the opportunity that India presents today and steer world-class technology development from India.

From communication protocols to mobile platforms to wireless security, COMSWARE (Communication System software and Middleware) 2008 held in Bangalore attracted researchers from academia and industry, practitioners, business leaders, intellectual property experts and venture capitalists. The event saw participation from companies like Microsoft, Infosys, Wipro, IBM, AT&T, Motorola, Qualcomm, Intel, Sasken, GM, Bell Labs – Alcatel Lucent U.S., and OnMobile amongst others. Several speakers and delegates had flown in from different counties, especially the U.S., to deliberate on emerging topics and challenges in communications software.

With the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) falling — Rs. 1,000 in the year 2000 to Rs. 300 in 2006 — a session on “Life after Mobile Voice and SMS” offered insights into how Value Added Services (VAS) will take off in India in a big way. However, experts expressed their concerns over the ongoing tussle between the mobile operator, content generator, and aggregator for the share of revenue from VAS, the spat is becoming a hindrance for the growth of the VAS.

Moving on from debates on technology to the sustenance and growth of technology, there was an apt session on ‘Research in India: Opportunities and Challenges’. Panelists agreed that research in India has taken a downward spiral as not enough PhDs are being produced from Indian universities and colleges. The number of PhD scholars produced in India per year is 5000; whereas China, U.K., and Japan have a status quo of 7000 and the numbers for Germany and the U.S. are 12,000 and 25,000 respectively. The research cancer could be because not enough number of students are motivated to take up research in electronics, communications, and computer science. There is also a disparity in salary and perk structure between academia and industry. There is a critical need for more industry professionals and engineering college teachers to be inducted into PhD programs as students or supervisors. The general consensus that emerged at the end was that there should be a tripartite involvement to address the problematic issue between the industry, the academia and the R&D labs.

Proto.in, giving wings to passionate entrepreneurs

I believe what we need for this country is not evolution, but a revolution,” says Vijay Anand. With this spirit, he and fellow tech enthusiasts in Chennai have been organizing Proto.in to give entrepreneurs a platform to express their visions and showcase their imagination, with a working prototype, for the world to see.

The recent Chennai edition of Proto.in saw over 250 people participating in the two parallel tracks — technology and business — which were equally interesting. While one track saw founders of select companies sharing as to what inspired them, their dreams, goals and visions, and lessons learnt from building their companies, the other track focused on the nitty-gritty of fund raising, business plan writing, etc. Both tracks being valuable to startups, many of the attendees had a reason to complain: They couldn’t sit through both tracks simultaneously!

Some of the VCs did mention that many in India depend on ‘entrepreneurial resources’ from the web, and most of them are so heavily biased as per the Valley tradition and don’t work here. It’s crucial to hear from those who have built companies here in India and understand what their experience has been.

The second day of Proto.in was more exciting, as it gave a forum for the young entrepreneurs to present their ideas in front of technologists, VCs and industry experts. Fifteen startup companies from across India and one from South Africa presented their business ideas. The event attracted about 24 Venture Capitalist firms. “Proto.in is not only the place where new startups get funded. Moreover it’s the place where people meet and exchange ideas and experiences,” says Anand. The excellent response to Proto made the organizers decide to go national. “The Proto.in will be organized in other parts of the country as well. As a first step of this, the next edition of Proto will be held in New Delhi in the third week of July,” said Anand.

VLSI design conference attracts global leaders
Hyderabad played host to the 21st VLSI design conference and 7th International Conference on Embedded Systems. Several global leaders like Dirk Meyer, President and COO, AMD; Walden C. Rhines, CEO of Mentor Graphics; Ivo Bolsens, Vice President and CTO, Xilinx and senior executives from Synopsys, Qualcomm and ST Microelectronics had flown in to this event.

The VLSI conference started way back in 1985 under the visionary guidance of Dr.Vishwani Agrawal, Auburn University, and Prof. H.N. Mahabala, IIT Madras. Over the year’s the conference has grown into a leading international conference on VLSI design. The technical paper presentations and tutorials too have seen an increase in activity. This event received 336 papers out of which 107 papers were accepted.

For the first time, a Student Conference was organized. Over 800 students actively took part in a series of technology and product presentations during the 5 days. The conference also featured a "Student Design Contest" covering two categories "operational" and "conceptual designs" for graduates and undergraduates, which was designed to promote excellence in the design of electronics systems in universities and educational establishments by providing a venue for students to showcase their designs.

The event also had several exhibitor stalls wherein attendees could visit and lay hands on the cool technologies each company was developing. While many companies used the opportunity as a brand building exercise, some like IBM’s Semiconductor Division and Qualcomm were seen luring prospective candidates. Games and lucky draws made sure to engage the participants and created an ambience that provided an exciting experience to the attendees. AMD and Xilinx were awarded for having set up the best stalls. At the end of the conference, some attendees walked away with iPoDs and DVD players they had won in different contests.

Ideas get a bang @ HeadStart & Compute 2008, Bangalore
When the key people involved in a complete product development ecosystem – researchers, design engineers, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists – came together in a rare gathering at the Headstart & Compute 2008 held in Bangalore, they provided key insights to each other during the three days of brainstorming sessions. Along with tutorials, panel discussions, and networking opportunities, 70 innovative ideas that spun off into ventures were showcased by a group of technocrats-turned-entrepreneurs in the event.

You may not find them in the limelight or making headlines, but when these young technocrats-turned-entrepreneurs presented their unique ideas they hooked the attention of the audience and the venture capitalists. “The quest for entrepreneurship and the eagerness to make a difference is creating a new vibrancy in the IT ecosystem in India,” explained Devesh Garg, Managing Director of Bessemer Venture Partners who was a panelist in the session on Consumer Services (web and mobile).

Among the entrepreneurs were 90d internet company co-founder Khushnood Naqvi, who elaborated on his new venture called 90 DI Travel, travel search engine for travelers in India which aggregates information from all the airlines in India and the Indian Railways. Murali Murthy, vice president, Profico explained in detail how he was developing specialized Web-based GIS, GIS Mapping, spatial data integration, and geo-database at Proficio. Sneak Cast, co-founder Utkarsh elaborated on the company’s core video search engine technology and how users can leverage the technology to view various videos of their choice.

Headstart started with the keynote address delivered by C. Mohan, Chief Scientist, IBM, India. In Compute 2008, which was held as a parallel track, veteran technologists presented research papers and tutorials on subjects like pervasive computing, text and image processing, and web and web based services among others. Many companies had stalls displaying their products.The Bangalore chapter of Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), a membership organization for computing professionals, organized the three-day event in collaboration with KickStart, an association of entrepreneurs and technology enthusiasts in Bangalore.

Your road to becoming an alpha geek
Mark your calendars, aspiring developers. Bangalore's first informal get together dedicated to developing apps using new technologies is set to get underway on February 9, 2008 in Bangalore. Free to all who show up, you won't even need to be Bill Gates to participate.

If you belong to the developer community (programmer, architect, analyst, tester or manager) this event is for you. According to joint creators Kesava Reddy and Sidu Ponnappa, the idea for the DevCamp was inspired by other ad-hoc gatherings, such as BarCamp and seemed like a perfect non-commercial forum for anyone who wanted to whip up some quick applications on new technology platforms. "This is not a CodeCamp. DevCamp is for people to share and learn in an open environment. Technically speaking, an agenda-less 'unconferencene'," says Ponnappa.

From programming with Android to learning about monads or Ruby on Rails, DevCamp is where you can meet geeks who are at the forefront of these technologies. ThoughtWorks' chief scientist and agile development's chief evangelist, Martin Fowler will be there too. You can look up to learn some cool stuff from him or even catch up with him for lunch. For details, log on to www.devcamp.in

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