Day Zero of Tech Mela yesterday was Invite Only and for Enterprise and CIO audience. My expectation for the event was low and I was looking forward to hours of neck deep PPT Gyan. Though there were enough PPTs presented, overall the day was good. I enjoyed the profound speech by Mr.Sam Pitroda.

Mr Ravi Venkatesan (Chairman Microsoft India):

As usual Ravi’s Talk was brief (10 minutes) but was precise and thought-provoking – I admire this person for this everytime, he manages to make a boring Biz talk so interesting and that too without exciting with new product announcements, etc. He talked about how Microsoft came to solving a problem for an Association of Tirupur Garment (export) Houses. The problem was that the goods in production travel 15 Kms over 90 days at various stages (Colouring was done by a vendor, etc.), and these are small houses who don’t have the awareness and the money for in-house IT Solutions. So Microsoft came out with a Hosted solution which the small houses can connect with the now cheap Broadband connections and they pay for it as they Go – No CAPEX. It also solves Piracy!. The solution reduced the production time by 20 days (25% saving). The Top 20 Million (Earning) Households in India only 40% have PCs, but Indian households overall spend over Rs.7000 Crores for competitive exams, so Education is a big driver. Addressing this market, Microsoft India is planning to introduce a Family PC which will have in-build latest updated content for Education & Competitive Exams – some exclusive deals.

Mr Steven Guggenheimer (General Manager, App. Platform and Developer Marketing, Microsoft):

He talked about the vision of Ray Ozzie of Software + Service and not of Software / Service. He highlighted the point that worldwide enterprises spend 70% of the money on running existing systems and only 30% gets spent on new initiatives.

Microsoft breaks Service into three.

He showed a video of a business application that uses Building Block Services like Live Local for BP where they can see the location of all employees worldwide (including in remote oil rigs) visually on a map interface which was built by a partner IDV Solutions. Steven was joined by MS Dev Evangelist to demo: WPF (Seattle Post Intelligence, NY Times), Silverlight (for upcoming Jhoom Bharabar Jhoom movie), Microsoft Live Labs Relay Service (Queue). I was interested in the  Dynamic CRM Live demo by Mark Linton and the service is expected to ship by Dec ’07. Currently, it supports only Windows Live ID (Passport) but by release, they will support Active Directory Federated Service so that corporate-wide single sign-on will work.

Mr.Sam Pitroda (Chairman – National Knowledge Commission):

  • The NKC he heads is about Knowledge as opposed to Education, which other government departments are focussing. Knowledge is key because India today is a powerhouse in Knowledge economy. They have industry stalwarts like Mr.Nandan Nilekani and others who meet every other month.
  • Idea is to function as a think-tank (I remembered Singapore Government equivalent once, wish ours could deliver impact like theirs)
  • They are working on some 10-30 ideas overall but at any time not more than few. They have submitted like 9 or 10 to Prime Minister (as a final few page recommendation) but the entire report is available on their website.
  • Key is how do you have information and knowledge accessible to our masses. We have 54,000 libraries – how do you improve them using technology, make a public-private partnership for a sustainable model and build a community around libraries.
  • Sam was very critical of current e-governance initiatives, where each state doing the same thing, reinventing the wheel but in their own way and wasting money. He wants to see a unified federal standard and system which are web-based, and states fill in data. They look and function the same but in different languages. So birth/death certificate, land records look the same across the country. Basically, we need to have standards for the major processes across country
  • Demography in India has 550 Million People who are less than 25 years. What future are we leaving for them, the type of jobs? We need to invest and plant the seeds now so that we can harvest them over next 20-30 years. It is like what happened in Telecom where we planted during Rajiv Gandhi times’ that we are harvesting now.
  • The best of brains in the world work for the riches – who really have no problems. To solve it you have to think from the heart and not from the mind. So the question is how do we create more best brains.
  • Broadband is not about fast video downloads etc, it is about how we can have the best professor in IIT, Mumbai speak to a remote college in India
  • Answering questions:
    • On telecom, Sam: “I care little about Telecom now, it is on its own and can take care of it”
    • On mobile, Sam: “I consider all the cellphones initiatives today as Gimmicks. They don’t have any real world real value applications, applications should have a utility”
    • On a Single Data Repository for India, Sam: “Don’t expect a Single Data Repository for a country like India. We have a vast amount of knowledge in India that is diverse and doesn’t fit into one repository. This could include age-old wisdom like Ayurveda, etc. So don’t expect any quick fixes”
  •  Finally, Sam closed by saying a thought-provoking issue – Why do we still follow the old processes British left us 60 years back, why is that something done someway by some British officer is being followed till date and which got perfected over the years by our babus. For example: Why are we still filling 5 copies of an admission form in schools. So unless we use IT as a chance to think through and come up with new processes, there is no point in doing e-governance, waste of money. We need to use e-governance as an opportunity for change.

The only boring session was the Connected Experience – Windows Mobile/Embedded session. The speaker had tons of TV ads and that’s about it.

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