Category Archives: Review

27 impressions from CEO’s and business leaders – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visit to Silicon Valley

I am good at saying one thing and doing another, but I did a lot of work on this blog post, so please bear with me. I promised not to cover the PM visit any more, but this one I need to write up. I must also warn you that this post will be long (4000+ words), so grab a cup of coffee. There may be a few typos as well, so I apologize. Finally this has taken over 2 hours to write, so please do share with your friends if you like it and ask people to share (if they like it as well).

Over the weekend I had a chance to be a part of the Prime Minister’s Silicon Valley outreach program, where I had a chance to meet with over a hundred technology luminaries and billionaires from the technology world.

I was keen to learn their impressions of the Prime Minister and since they were all champions of technology and business, I was also interested in learning about what they felt after meeting him. I would LOVE to put names against each and every one of these quotes, but I am not sure many of them would like the attribution. Where possible I have provided names.

Many of the quotes are verbatim and in a few instances I have paraphrased since I forgot the exact words they used. I am very aware of the controversy surrounding the past of the PM, and am very ambivalent about my own position on him “the individual” versus his position and power. Here are the 27 impressions across a cross-section of people. This is purely anecdotal evidence, and writing as opposed to the data driven posts that I like to write.

  1. He means business“. This was the dominant impression and the exact words from 3 CEO’s. The interesting part of what it signifies to “mean business” is not commercial, but that his attitude is “very dhandha like” at times and “sometimes strategic business development like” said 2 people. I think we can attribute the “Dhandha” part to his regional and cultural roots, but that does not explain it all. He wants to trade and expects to give you something in return for something you will have to do. There is a sense of short-term and some longer term benefit as well, is what I hear. When I asked how that was different from their impressions of previous leaders they met from the government, they explained that there was a large dose of “preaching” about how they should give back to their motherland and country, but no commitment to give something in return for their efforts. Which to me is not surprising, given these titans are used to “give and take” as peers.
  2. He gives you confidence“: The PM makes you want to believe. Even though we know that the reality may be otherwise, and change is hard to effect in a place as diverse as India. “You can make change” is the underlying theme, and he gives you the impression that “he has your back” if you run into issues. This was a very senior and respected CEO of a large company and I am not sure what “has your back” means, since I did not get a chance to ask him, but 2 other CEO’s mentioned that “retroactive taxes” and “surprising and unexpected” tax regimes were going away.
  3. He is an attentive listener“. Unlike most politicians who are good at “giving bashshan” and lecturing business people on how they should be socially responsible, create jobs and save the environment, he was asking questions, probing and requesting clarification. This was a CEO of an education company, and I only got 2 minutes with him (the CEO), but I do remember another Managing Director of a large company in India, who was there as well, mentioning the same. Listening does not come naturally to people in power, so I was pleasantly surprised on this one.
  4. “His grasp of issues faced by startups is very good”. This was unexpected and the person mentioning this is someone I know for a long time and trust a lot. Startups are a strange beast to most people. They ought to be – they are like children who start “taking when they are born”, have an opinion even before they have a well formed mind and always interrupt the “adults” and talk about disrupting the “adults, or larger companies” all the time. The clarification I got from this quote was about how he was willing to accept ideas that were alien to many politicians regarding startups including easy bankruptcy laws and automating many of the clearances they required. Not sure any of these will actually get incorporated into law, but he understands that those are top of mind for startups.
  5. His understanding of nuances in new technologies and their “grey area” is very solid.” This was an American CEO, who has been trying to push his technology company in India with some tough push back from local governments. He is fairly young, so that’s the reason for his choice of “solid”. I think what he means is that the PM’s basic understanding of the fundamentals and the levers of new, unproven technologies was on firm ground. Many new technologies start in largely the “grey” area, and some are downright “illegal” by existing legal definitions, so I suspect he was hoping to influence the PM to help ensure that the government does not block new technologies under the pretext of “existing” norms being flouted, which he felt were wrong in the first place. He gave me the impression that after a 12-15 minute conversation with the PM, he felt that he would be heard and people he was trying to influence would get the word to go easy on startups with innovative new models.
  6. “His appreciation for the power of technology is very commendable”, said Reid Hoffman, who had very little time with him, but left impressed and appreciative that a global leader, running the largest democracy was thinking about using the power of technology instead of trying to get it under government control. Reid was on stage with the PM for quite a bit of time, and had an audience afterwards as well. Reid had a chance to talk to many other world leaders about his books and meet with many young people as well, so I respect his perspective on the use of technology to empower the disenfranchised. He seemed to give me the impression that the PM understood how to use technology to “scale” not just to get started.
  7. “He is insightful.”This was from a woman who had 5 minutes with the PM to talk about the issues of women in technology. I was surprised she took her time to talk about the larger women’s cause, rather than her own company’s agenda, but she is nice that way. The “insightful” part I gathered later was something was a byproduct of the PM, surrounding himself with really good people who could quickly distill the issues and replay back, in their own words, what needed to be done to help women, at technology companies, in India.
  8. He is a pretty charming guy, both in person and in a larger setting”.I heard this from the person seated next to me during dinner on day 1. This individual was the technology head of a large company and had flown in just for the dinner at the request of his CEO, who was at the main table with the PM. Throughout the speech that Mr. Modi gave before dinner there were many topical references and subtle acknowledgments of trends. While we realized that those were written by the speech writer, the PM’s delivery style was personable and real, which seemed to indicate that he was delivering it impromptu, not rehearsed. One in particular that stood out, was (I am paraphrasing here) “Good to meet you all here, in person, after meeting on FB, Twitter, Instagram”. It was as if he was continuing the “conversation” from a previous time.
  9. He has a measured speaking style, not going into extremes of praise or chiding. This quote came from Venkatesh Shukla, who is the President of TIE, Silicon Valley. He was in multiple sessions with the PM and had an opportunity to meet with him the most during this event. I think Venk (as he’s called) had the chance to see the PM in many circumstances and during the entire day at times. Which gives me the sense that the PM is very even keel, calm and those “temper tantrums” and “bouts of anger” which he is apparently known for are reserved for “special occasions”, or not a part of his “game face”, especially when meeting top CEO’s.
  10. He is keen to engage in dialogue. His listens, but also interrupts when he thinks you did not clarify a statement. We all know of people who say a lot and others that “talk less, do more”, but he seems to be finding that balance and wants to get to the root of the issue quickly. This quote was from a startup CEO who had a few minutes, with the PM.
  11. He is relentless in his pursuit of economic and social impact in India. During day 1 at the digital dinner, the PM actually came out of his way to come and say hello to the CEO of this large Indian technology company, so I know that this person has met with the PM several times. The PM actually mentioned him by last name. Asked to clarify, he said that in many meetings with the PM, he gets a document about how that conversation could help one of the PM’s top agenda items – Digital India, Smart Cities Initiative, Swacch Bharat, etc.
  12. He has an agenda for every meeting but is also flexible to listen to alternate outcomesThis was from a woman who was a fund raiser for the PM. I dont know her too well, and met her briefly for a few minutes, but she was all praises for the PM’s “flexibility” and his focused approach to meeting. I think she giving him a lot more credit and I would say this is something that his team and office of the PMO does, but I do admit that the PM sets the tone for his team.
  13. He is respectful and not dismissive. I forget who mentioned this, but this was at the reception before the digital dinner. This person had just finished a meeting with the PM and his CEO and apparently the meeting was a little “tense” since they have been trying to resolve an issue for a long time. I was surprised to hear that the PM did hear alternative options and while I am not sure anything came out of this meeting, (I dont know actually), the fact that the CEO and team felt they were listened to gave this person the impression that the PM respected their opinion.
  14. He is very crafty in his use of the news and media, which most tech CEO’s tend to not have. This was mentioned by a young lady who I met after dinner, at drinks with a lot of us trying to form impressions of day 1. There is some controversy about the video with Mark Z, but I am not sure what to make of it. First I laughed, then I felt a little weird and then was not sure if the PM really likes the press and media, or he is just savvy and most of us (Mark Z, including) are not. Most people, including this lady, gave him the benefit of doubt, saying that the PM knows that the press, media and through them the rest of the world was keen to watch and learn. The press, though, loves Mr. Modi and has a sense of national pride, when they cover him was the impression this lady gave us.
  15. He is an excellent orator, very powerful in his use of gestures and body language. BVR Mohan Reddy, the Chairman of NASSCOM was the one who observed this. He intently watched the PM using his hands and gestures to make a point and came away telling me that he learned a lot. Mr. Reddy had a part in the Startup Konnect program and he pulled it off pretty well, but you could tell that he was very impressed with Mr. Modi’s stage presence.
  16. He allows you to create a good sense of visual imagery in his speeches. This was the CEO of a Iceland “glacier” water company, who sat next to me. He was born in Bangalore, where I lived, and he spent most of his time in Chennai. He was the last person I expected to listen to the PM’s speech given how far away from technology he was, but he said that the PM’s speech gave him the ability to visualize how smart cities would be in 20 years. He also felt that the vision that the PM had set had very grounded intent.
  17. He has immense energy. I am not sure what he drinks or eats. Rajan Anandan, the MD of Google India, and I spent a lot of time together. Rajan was also with the PM and the Google CEO Sunder Pichai and others at Google on Sunday. Rajan was so impressed with the PM’s energy that he wanted to know what the PM ate. (P.S. I do too). “He was always turned on, asking questions about the Loon technology, wondering if they had cameras, what their span was, what the battery life was, etc.”Rajan said he never saw a yawn, a sense of fatigue or boredom from the PM throughout the sessions he was with the PM.
  18. He did not seem tired at all even though there was repetition of issues faced by several people in different meetings. Many people mentioned this to me. One very prominent VC from the bay area, who mentioned this to me said the same issue was “beaten” to death by many people – taxes and easy of buying Indian technology companies by US corporations. The PM, though, was patiently listening to the same issue, asking different questions and trying to “scope the surface area” of the problem, said this VC. This VC has been an operating executive and a very successful founder before, so he has working knowledge of the fact that most people were haring on the same issues.
  19. He has a sense of dressing is keen, he wants his clothes to create a good impression as well. Before you dismiss this as a stereotypical comment from a woman, this CEO is an extremely accomplished woman, who has started and founded a great company and sold it as well. Her impression was that the “dress” portrayed a sense of “attention to detail”, which the PM is known for. This is not new, since the PM is known for his sense of dressing up. The thing that I underestimated was the impression that it had on people. I am not one who cares about dressing or what I wear, but it creates a sense of confidence among many folks.
  20. He understands that people like him and I think that’s what helps him drive his agenda forward. KB Chandrashekar was the founder of Exodus and a now runs Jamcracker. He’s a very good friend as well. The thing that he mentioned to me was that the PM has been able to build an image (through the press, etc.) that has people thinking he is a focused and decisive person. This makes many business people “like” to do business with him. KB pointed to me again, that when you like people, you are going to make a few more concessions, Unlike previous leaders, he said, where there was “respect” and maybe some “admiration”, there is a deep “liking” for Modi, which the PM uses well to his advantage.
  21. He is more of a leader of the youth than a “youth leader”. Most Indians will understand this well. We are used to seeing 50 year old leaders projected as “youth leaders”. This observation that he is a leader of the youth was done by a very young CEO who recently moved to the US from India. A “youth leader” is someone who is young and is a leader, whereas the leader of the youth is someone the youth aspire to be like. I am still not sure what part of the PM’s personality or behavior or traits do the youth want to emulate, but there’s enough fodder in his persona for the “youth” to look up to. The CEO I said, spoke about 3 things that the PM had going for him – a superb command over the use of technology, a deep sense of national pride and an ability to connect with people to get business done.
  22. He seems to have a good memory. He did not remember my name, but he remembered that we met him 4 months ago at another event. R. Chandrashekar, who is the President of NASSCOM has been in many events with the PM (and has a selfie to prove it as well), was the one who said this. When I talked to one of the officers at the PMO, he said the PM meets about 25 new people one-one daily. That’s a lot of people. To remember RC and mention to him that he was pleased that he came from India to be in the valley was a big deal. He remembered that he met RC a few months ago and took the time to talk about one incident from that previous meeting. I don’t think I remember some meetings or people I met from last week.
  23. He is a great ambassador for India. He gives me the desire to want to engage with India. This was a comment from a high profile American CEO who I have met once before. After his meeting with the PM (which was his 3rd meeting), he said he always felt optimistic and energized after meeting Mr. Modi. I asked him which other world leader made him feel that way. He said he met with US President Barak Obama and felt the same way. He could not think of another person who made him feel the same way. That’s saying a lot. Either I put him on the spot, and so he was trying to be nice (and he’s an extremely nice person) or he genuinely felt that way. I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
  24. He seems to say the right things, but I am not sure yet if he will follow through. This was a comment from an Indian VC (who lives in the bay area) and I have translated it from a Hindi quote (“Kaam Kum, Baateyain Zyada). I heard this from others as well, who are still waiting for the PM’s reforms to happen. They are the ones who possibly understand the realities on ground in India and having done business there, they believe there’s not much change except for people’s more optimistic perspectives over the last year. To be fair, over the last year, the drop in oil prices and no major terrorist activity has contributed to the optimism and economic uplift than any other thing, but this VC said he felt the PM was making many promises, but unable to deliver on many of them.
  25. He has surrounded himself with some very smart people, who I have been talking to and they get it. Many of the folks in the organizing committee were dealing with the PMO more than the PM himself, and they gave me the impression that his staff is very plugged in. They are willing to do away with some red tape, are able to modify and think on their feet and happy to make up things on the fly. This was different from my own experiences with the security and PMO teams though, which I can understand. The security teams were pretty anal about my choice of location to stand, my use of certain words or phrases and seemed to be rather heavy handed, but I understand they did not want to embarrass the PM at all.
  26. He is not afraid to tell us what we don’t want to hear it seems. He asked us to step up the efforts to get more technology in the hands of remote villages instead of only focusing on top metros. This was a comment from a person who was at the Facebook event, and spoke to me about how some of the privacy issues and the data security (NSA stuff apparently) were things the PM brought to the FB folks attention. I was told that this was one of many such instances, when the PM was asking folks to invest in “Bharat” and not only “India”. He said the payoff would be in the very long term and may be much less, but the opportunity to capture the minds and hearts of Indians, who are the most loyal starts in the villages.
  27. He seems to be constantly selling himself and India, which at times seems good and other times seems perturbing. I got this comment both in positive light and sometimes negative from many people as well. The folks who considered this to be positive, claimed he was a great salesman for India – progressive, articulate and energetic. They want the impression that most foreigners have – one of snake charmers or crimes against women and low cost IT tech resources – to one of a growing nation, which has a host of problems, but has diversity and youth as its biggest advantages and cause of most of its challenges. The sales pitch was, according to one CEO, tremendous number of youth, large and aspiring middle-class population with excellent disposable incomes, relatively well educated metros and untapped rural areas, with opportunities in Internet, Communications, social and digital media.

So there you have it. 27 impressions from many CEO’s and business leaders on the Prime Minister and his visit. Now I will give you my take on the impressions from Americans who were at the event alone.

There were many parts that resonated more with Americans than Indians about Mr. Modi.

First, most had heard of the issues at Gujarat, and were not clear on the details, but felt that everyone has flaws and the PM does as well.Most Americans in the bay area form their impressions of Indians either at work or those they have to work with in India (offshore). They see our families stress education and see the impact it has on our kids – both positive and otherwise. They realize the stereotypical nature of our impressions – yet they feel Indians “fit in” more than any other group. Or they try hard to at least. They believe that the PM was representative of most Indians they have met, more than other leaders they see. Sometimes charming, oftentimes confusing, occasionally boorish, but largely nice.

One American woman who was at a table next to us said it best – “We love a leader who has made mistakes, since that reminds us that they are like us”.

Second, they realize we are more like them – We eulogize heroes and are willing to give successful people the benefit of doubt, sometimes to our own detriment. That’s something uniquely common to Americans and Indians.

The most important comment I heard from a gentleman sitting a couple of tables away from me about this was “I always thought of India as socialist. This guy (the PM) is a sure sign that you are not. This PM signifies an end to socialist India to a capitalist democracy. That makes you guys more like us”.

Finally, most are not necessarily changing their opinion on how hard it is to do business in India or with Indians. They believe it is hard to do business in China, but it is harder in India. Many gave me the impression that you have to be very patient and “find your way” in India. The fundamental reasons are their impression that even if the leader and PM wants to move to a more “capitalist” form, the rest – Indians and the bureaucrats are not – Yet.

One person who was waiting in line at the lunch table said to me about the not so great “following of the rules” by many Indians in the line – “If this is how the most educated and richest people end up in social situations,  I suspect most of them to be similar in business”.

Predicting news: The top 25 headlines after the launch of the Apple watch #AppleWatchPossibleHeadlines

Predicting the news is rather hard.  There are many things you dont even know about or can anticipate, but not with all news related to Apple. Given the over 12,000 blog posts devoted to Apple over the last year from The Verge, Mac Rumors, 9to5 Mac, EnGadget, Business Insider and many others, it is easy to put together a list of potential headlines that you can anticipate with  some level of confidence.

For every angle of the news of the Apple watch there are 2 possible outcomes, the good outcome, the bad outcome. It is more likely that the average outcome is what happens, but with Apple fans it is not at all hard to be confident that every average outcome is re purposed as a feature and not a bug. Case in point: The iPhone 4 dropped calls and users were blamed for “holding it wrong“.

So lets do a thought experiment and put the various possible headlines.

  1. Apple confirms over 1 million watches sold as pre-orders exceed expectations (MacRumors)
  2. Here are the only 5 Apple stores still left where you can get appointments for your Apple Watch (Business Insider)
  3. Apple analyst says his checks indicate that demand for the Apple Watch is off the charts (VentureBeat)
  4. Hands on with 15 different Apple watches and straps (Video) – The Verge
  5. Which Apple watch should you buy (we have tried them all) – Mashable
  6. Apple watch tear down reveals 78% margins and $102 is the BOM cost – iFixit
  7. Apple watch reservations are being auctioned on eBay for $25 to $50 – Tech Crunch
  8. The genius move by Apple to force reservations and create artificial demand – Jon Gurber
  9. Apple has sold more watches in 1 week than Android Wear for the entire year – enGadget
  10. Apple has significant supply chain problems, which is creating artificial demand for reservations – ReCode
  11. Here is the list of top 100 celebrities who have bought the Apple Watch (with photos) – Business Insider
  12. What happens when I strapped my Apple watch on my cat and left it for a day – Apple insider
  13. Apple watch straps cause rashes on your wrist – Mac forums are full of people complaining about it – Mashable
  14. The 50 unintended uses of Apple watch that I never expected – Apple fanboy
  15. How we jailbroke the Apple watch to work with Android KitKat – Android Central
  16. The expected lift from Apple watch to Q3 revenues for the company- Benedict Evans
  17. Apple watch disrupts the iPad and Telecom carriers voice plans – Asymco
  18. Apple watch gets poor reviews from early users causing oversupply – Business Journals
  19. Apple watch oversold and the reviews pouring in are overwhelmingly positive – San Jose Mercury News
  20. New blog showing celebrities sporting their Apple Watch goes viral – Huffington post
  21. Watch demand in China over strips supply as Apple reroutes orders from Europe – ZdNet
  22. Notifications are overdone say users as many turn off apps on the watch – ComputerWorld
  23. How many people bought the $10K Apple watch on Wall Street – We have the answer – Business Insider
  24. 10 things you never knew you could do with your Apple watch – MacRumors
  25. Apple stock hits an all time high as watch users drive sales – CNBC

For each and every one of these headlines the opposite can also be true. Which means we don’t quite know if it will do well or not, but if you are a editor at one of these publications, I’d totally steal these headlines and start writing copy to beat the others.

#AppleWatchPossibleHeadline

#MicrosoftBand review; What I like, what I’d like from it in the next revision

I have been sporting the Microsoft Band for a bit now. I am an avid #fitbit user and I love #MyFitnessPal. I am apparently the target audience for the band – I run 13 miles daily and I am mostly careful about what I eat.

For more context, I had given up wearing watches for 12 years now – initially because I would forever be looking at the time to stop meetings and other discussions abruptly, but also because it became inconvenient. The watches I wanted only told time and I preferred to have my cell phone to do that.

The band was recommended to me by several folks and I initially resisted, but caved in after I was told it would be a good way to see if it solves my “data entry” problem with fitness.

There are 3 primary things I wanted from a fitness device initially and 3 things I really would love to have:

1. Track all my activity accurately – not just walking or running – sleep tracking should be “automatic” instead of me having to tap a button or remember to do it.

2. Integrate with my other apps – MyFitnessPal at the least, but also MapMyRun if possible.

3. Provide me relevant recommendations – look at my eating preferences and tell me if I am eating less protein, more sugar and suggest what I should be eating based on my patterns.

I have used the FitBit Flex, Nike Fuelband and also tried the Jawbone Up before. I am still not 100% comfortable with the wrist form factor for many reasons, primarily because it feels like a load on my hands and gets “stuck” when I take off and wear on my jacket / sweatshirt / hoodie.

Anyway, I am mixed on the Microsoft band. What I like:

1. I love the crisp and multi-mode display. The display size provides me quick access to 2 things at the same time – time and one more thing – either my steps, distance, heart rate or calories burned. Compared to my fitbit zip, where I have to tap to get more than one thing.

2. I really like some of the notifications: Especially the short text messages I get on the band without having to reach for my phone. Emails are more difficult because most are more than 1 or 2 sentences, but I like the news alerts, and some of cortana’s notifications.

3. I am happy with the accuracy of the steps tracking. All 3 of my fitness bands are within 2-3% of the steps at any point of time, so I think they are all good in doing the basics.

4. I love the heart rate monitor. It gives me a great way to ensure my levels of activity are measured.

What I am not too thrilled about:

1. Battery life: The device needs charging almost every day. This is one more charger I have to carry and remember to charge. It does charge rapidly – 2 hours is usually enough, but I have to time the charge. If I am sitting in one place for 2 hours (I never do that at all), I could perhaps charge it, but that’s rare, so I have to charge it in the night, which leads me to the next point.

2. I cant sleep with it – so the point of sleep tracking is lost. It is bulky on the wrist and that’s the only time I think I can charge it.

3. The display gets roughed up quickly and the dings and dents are very visible. With “normal” usage my band was dented and dinged up within a week. The clasp is wearing out as well. The build quality on the display needs work. Even after a year of usage, my fitbit flex looks “like new”. Although the flex has a much smaller display and only shows “one thing at a time”.

4. The email notifications are pointless because you cannot respond at all. Even if I could use one of 4-5 standard responses I’d be thrilled, but that’s not possible. I do like that you can respond to incoming calls with a message saying “I’ll call you later”.

5. I dont like that I have to “switch it on” even to see time. The device display is normally off “to save battery life”, so you have to “switch it on” to see time. That small, yet normal gesture means I might as well pick up the phone. It should be gesture based so it can detect a swift movement of the arm from its “down” position to a “view” position and turn on display to show time. Else it should have a backlit “eink” display for time, which should be on everytime.

6. It does no recommendations at all. I think if there were integrations with MyFitnessPal, which already knows what I am eating, the band can recommend (1-2 sentences) what I should eat at snack time based on what I ate at lunch and dinner and my preferences, so I can be “reminded” to avoid something with sugar, since my sugar intake for the day has been high.

7. I have to wear it “inward looking” instead of wearing it like a “normal watch” since the display is rectangular. Which means my normal gesture of wearing a watch had to be a pattern I changed.

Overall I am mixed as I mentioned. It feels like there’s more promise than its current avatar.

Would I recommend it – only if you have not used any device for fitness tracking at all before. Even then only if you still need text and email notifications in addition to tracking fitness. There are cheaper pure cloud-enabled fitness trackers.

If you have however used the fitbit flex or fitbit zip before, I would skip this.

In fact that brings me to the Android Wear watches and the upcoming Apple Watch. I suspect they will be the same – bulky, needing constant charge and “awkward” on your wrist. Although having seen the watch, with its ability to “action” notifications, I suspect it will be good, but that remains to be seen.

I have seen folks use the Android watches and hear they were not thrilled with it either. I am currently of the belief that human beings are so primitive that they still think that “digital watches are a pretty neat idea“.

The #MI3 – #Xiaomi android phone is not for those with a corporate account (Exchange)

I bought the Mi3 after a lot of deliberation 2 weeks ago. I currently have a Windows phone and always keep a spare since I go back and forth from Bangalore and Seattle.

My previous Android phone was the Google Nexus. I have had a iPhone 4S as well.

My overall basic impression: This is not the phone for me. I am ready to sell it to anyone that wants it.

I had a chance to see the phone in action 3 weeks ago when 2 other folks at the accelerator bought it. It is EXTREMELY light. It has a gorgeous display and I had heard so many good things about it that I was tempted to buy it.

It is a very well made device. Fast and sharp, if you in the market for an Android phone and have bought into the Google ecosystem (use Gmail, Google Maps, etc.)

The 3 most important things to me are consistent access to email (I have an Exchange and a POP3 account), long battery life (my other phones dont last an entire day) and reliable phone (good signal, loud enough with a headset). I use very few apps except to post to FB and Twitter and some minimal reading (Feedly).

Unfortunately these are the only things that this phone absolutely does poorly. In fact it is so bad that I am tempted to go back to my Galaxy Nexus (which is very slow).

First: email. As I mentioned, I have Exchange and our corporate policy requires encryption of the phone to access email. That does not work with MIUI. After 5 restarts and 4 hard resets, I still dont have my Exchange email. Which also means my calendar is not available. It is a known bug according to Xiaomi and there is no ETA on the fix.

The work around is I downloaded another email client, which seems to work, but my contacts and calendar on Exchange still dont sync. That absolutely is a deal breaker for me.

Second: Long battery life. It is much better than my Nokia 820, but the phone heats up quite a bit when you use it for over 2 hours (especially when you use maps). It is definitely much hotter than my 820 or the Galaxy Nexus. The battery has not lasted an entire day of normal usage. Disappointing.

Finally: I need a good phone. I tend to be on calls for over 2 hours daily. This is very weird. When I call my voicemail, the screen freezes. The phone still works, but the screen just wont turn on. It is absolutely impossible to do anything after that other than restart the phone. I had 7 voice mails to go through and they are still stuck without the ability to delete them.

If you need a good phone and dont work for a large company with Microsoft Exchange, etc. this would work, but there are cheaper phone that do the job as well.

Book review: The curious digital marketer

Last week Kapil from AFAQS campus gave me a copy of his book “The curious digital marketer” at Shangri La in Delhi at an event.

Curious Digital Marketer
Curious Digital Marketer

I had a chance to read it on my flight back from Delhi to Bangalore for about 1-2 hours. Breezy in style and fairly simple, the book tries to provide curated answers to multiple questions about digital marketing. From what is CPM? to Why should you select CPC as a method to buy ads vs. CPA? etc.

The book itself has about 100+ frequently asked questions in 4 sections of facebook, digital, mobile and search advertising.

I liked Jack Welch’s approach to converting frequently asked questions into a book, “Winning”, so I am a fan of the Q&A book style.

While this one has its good parts, I was not sure it would help educate a newbie into digital marketing. It feels like its more aimed at marketing (traditional) arms of large companies which have fear of “all things digital”. For the marketer who still likes radio, print and Television, this is a great starting point.

For first-time entrepreneurs (which is the reason Kapil gave me the book to review) it seems a little advanced, but if you are responsible for marketing as part of being a cofounder, and you have been doing some reading up and still have questions, this book is worth a read.

The part that would make it great for the first-time entrepreneur is some overview of the basic terms before the Q&A. Rather than just the Q&A (which is curated from over 15+ contributors), if there was a synopsis to each chapter, I felt it would be a good guide to digital marketing 101.

While nothing in the book is a new concept, the value of not having to google multiple terms and read multiple pages is certainly worth the INR 250 it sells for online.

I left the book on my flight, the way back, so I am unfortunately not able to give it to you like I do after reviewing books.

Early access: Quick review of BoxTV.COM

A good friend Abhishek from Tlabs gave me a preview access 2 weeks ago to BoxTv.com. Its dubbed as “Hulu for India”.

I am not a big TV or movie watcher (We dont have a TV at home, have not had it for many years now), so take this review with a grain (or more) of salt. I have only watched 1-2 partial movies. They dont have any TV shows yet.

The top things I liked:

1. Content selection (especially Hindi and English) is excellent. There are hundreds of movies that I have not seen at all (again that’s not saying much). The old hindi movie selection is particularly good.

2. Streaming is instantaneous and quick. The overall experience was pretty good and there were no glitches. I did have a problem the first time I logged in, post which there have been no bumps.

3. Connecting with facebook allows me to see other movies my friends watch, which was interesting, but not very useful. I realize I dont watch enough movies and TV to even know which of my friends have similar likes and interests.

4. Very easy to skip to certain parts of the movie quickly. Yes, I only watch the songs and skip most of the movie (grin)

5. Below each movie page there are important clips (between 2 and 3 min each) which are like the highlights reel. Loved that feature the most.

BoxTV.com
BoxTV.com

Things I did not like:

1. No support for mobile phone. Most of my work is now on my phone. Its a fairly large screen device, so I am not using my notebook for much. Since BoxTV is based on flash, support for mobile phones is non existent.

2. No sports and limited content for kids. If there was ever a reason to watch TV I’d buy it for NFL, tennis and cricket. Everything else is a waste of time at our home. Kids love many of the cartoon shows, and there were very few of them on BoxTV.

3. The filters dont work too well. If all I wanted to see was the list of latest movies, it shows me a bunch of clips (scenes) instead. What I thought it would show me is a list of the top recent movies.

4. Not enough integration with movie reviews. I’d love to find out from IMDB or rottentomatoes, which movies I should watch based on the popular list.

5. Not easy to search by actor / actress, etc. I tend to watch primarily by who’s in the movie, so this was still “in the works”.

Have you used Boxtv? What did you think?