Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Online Music in India


When I was going to school way back in 80's, one priceless possession for all of us at home, was a sony tape-recorder cum radio. It's a small 'boom-box' type device, which is a fond object of one and all at home. We siblings used to follow laborious process to get songs of our interest recorded, to listen to them in this boom-box, when we come back from school. We sit together, list out all the songs of our interest, go buy an empty tape cassette, go to the recording guy and sit with him to identify if he can record all of these songs and go back after a day or two to get the recorded tape. Once recorded, we used to listen to that till the tape gets wrangled and unusable.

In the Internet Age, the above process is unthinkable. iPods and other MP3 players have changed the world completely. The songs are all available over the Internet for free. There are sites like http://gaana.comhttp://saavn.com, http://musicindiaonline.com and http://raaga.com, which allow streaming of songs over the Net. I can create my own playlist and play all those songs repetitively as long as I have a network connection from my device. A broadband connection, with unlimited download capacity, is quite common these days, which makes my song-listening experience enjoyable all the time at home.

I still want to keep that sony tape-recorder as it would become an expensive vintage item soon :-)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Internet, WWW and your own Website


Internet, which is the global network of networks, has changed how information technology can be applied in day-to-day life. World Wide Web (WWW), which is all about the hyper-linking of content on the Internet, has brought never-seen-before change in how information is accessed online. Individuals, Business houses offering products or services and even government have their own websites which offer relevant, meaningful and useful information for the concerned.

You can create your own website too.
  1. Prepare the content you want to host on WWW
  2. Decide on the structure for presentation of your content
  3. Choose a website hosting partner - includes google, yahoo, net4 and a bunch of others in India (this would cost as low as one thousand rupees per year and in a few cases you could even get it for free)
  4. Choose a domain name where you want the content to be hosted (http://www.example.com) and buy that domain for a period of your interest (this would cost as low as Rs. 500 per year)
  5. If your site is dynamic (the content has to be prepared on the fly to show-case to the end-user), you would need to get the website developed by programmers (services companies available who can build such a site and charge as per the dynamic requirements)
  6. Once the content is ready, it can be hosted with the partner (there are appropriate tools available to access the hosting site on the internet from anywhere), chosen in step # 3; certain records need to be updated to point to this content using the domain name blocked in step # 4. That’s it - the site is up and ready !

The bottom-line is - It is very easy to create your own website and host it on the Internet. The supporting technology has become easily accessible and affordable. Isn't that a low-cost entry point to make your presence felt on the Internet ?

Monday, February 27, 2012

E-Commerce India - Online Classifieds


If I want to sell my old furniture (want to buy new ones), books (finished reading all of them), baby products (cycle, stroller, toys) or even jewellery (got bored of them), where would I go and sell? Is it the prerogative of only the tradesmen to buy or sell goods? How would ordinary citizens like me sell my old or unwanted items (in good condition though) for a reasonable price?

In olden days, probably a physical marketplace would have addressed my issue. A similar marketplace - now present online - helps me buy or sell any items with a few clicks. http://olx.in is one such site in India, which offers the post-a-classified-ad service for free. I can buy or sell items ranging from CDs to books to Cars.  It brings together buyers and sellers for all sorts of classifieds - buy/sell, jobs, matrimony, etc. The site only brings the buyers and sellers together, the payment and delivery needs to be sorted out by the buyers and sellers themselves.

I should try to buy/sell something on this site and check-out the service. Can I find a buyer for my short-stories ? :-)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Travel planning and arrangements


I think people have not explored the amazing travel destinations in India yet. If I want to travel to a new place, how would I make appropriate bookings in that location? How would I know what are the spots to visit in that location? Are the local travel agents not the best ones to guide and assist in deciding the trip plan - where to stay, what to see, how much time would be required at each stop, what should be the sequence of stops etc?

http://traveltriangle.com seems to address that requirement very aptly. One can even chat with the agents online and customize a trip. The best part is getting multiple quotes for a travel request. I can chose the one I like and book the trip online. There is enough information in formats like virtual tour, photos and videos corresponding to standard tour packages.

Travel planning and making arrangements is simplified with IT now. One needs to have interest, money and time. I guess the first and last among those are difficult to find :-)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

News about India and World


After the publishing technology has evolved, news has become easily accessible to one and all. Initially, the newspapers carried around the news from across the globe and reached our doorsteps. We are witness to our previous generation waiting for the newspaper in the morning to know what is happening around the world - global, national and local. 

In modern days, newspapers is just one channel to access news. Information technology has made it feasible to make the news available in 'real-time'. There are umpteen sites on the Internet, who brings news to the people. 

My favourite website to check-out the news used to be http://rediff.com. In the beginning of the new millennium, this site used to provide news in a crisp landing page. I think they have moved away from their original intent to provide news and diversified into online shopping, social networking and sleazy content to attract traffic to their site. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com and http://ndtv.com who have online presence in news domain with channels on Internet as well as traditional television. These days, every media company offering news through television has their active presence on Internet and try to engage with the viewers in different ways. 

Though I check news on the Internet, I haven't stopped buying news paper yet - umpteen reasons !

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Internet Banking in India

I still remember those days in early 90's how I used to operate my bank account. I had to take pass-book for sure with every visit. After my bank transaction either the teller or the concerned staff member used to enter the particulars in the pass-book. Even for balance enquiry or cheque-book request, I had to visit the bank and stand in queue for my turn.

After two decades, the scenario is pretty much different, modern and efficient. I hardly visit my bank now. I mostly use ATM for withdrawal of money. I sometimes issue a cheque for the concerned person to en-cash. Otherwise, I transfer money from my account to another person's account with a few clicks. I check my balance amount online through Internet banking aka anywhere-anytime banking. Thanks to information technology, I hardly visit the bank these days ! There is no scheduled commercial bank in India which does not offer Internet based banking now.

Isn't it a super-saver of time and money for one and all? But what am I doing with those extra hours in my life now ? :-)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Animation wonder !


I love animation movies. I admire this division of IT for the sheer creativity it brings out of humans. Are we all not tired of the repetitive love story themes of bollywood / kollywood / tollywood? Kudos to Pixar animations which brought many animation characters to life using advanced computer graphics technology.  Though my all time favorite movie is 'Ice Age' (which is created by Blue Sky Studios belonging to 20th Century Fox), my heart goes to Pixar for introducing the animation feature films and producing best of the lot.

Pixar has produced twelve animation feature films:
  1. Toy Story in 1995
  1. A Bug's Life in 1998
  1. Toy Story 2 in 1999
  2. Monsters, Inc. in 2001
  3. Finding Nemo in 2003
  4. The Incredibles in 2004
  5. Cars in 2006
  6. Ratatouille in 2007
  1. WALL-E in 2008
  1. Up in 2009
  1. Toy Story 3 in 2010
  2. Cars 2 in 2011

Have you wondered how many hours of happiness all these films would have brought to kids across the globe?

It would be unfair not to mention late Steve Jobs, a major share holder in Pixar, who brought all the above marvels through Pixar studios.

Steve Jobs said: “You know, we don’t grow most of the food we eat. We wear clothes other people make. We speak a language that other people developed. We use mathematics that other people evolved… I mean, we’re constantly taking things. It’s a wonderful, ecstatic feeling to create something that puts it back in the pool of human experience and knowledge.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

E-Commerce India - More online re-charge options


Mobile, DTH and data-card recharge online sites are mushrooming. http://mobiqwik.com and http://rechargeseva.com are two more such sites operating in Indian domain. Telecom operators have commoditized pre-paid recharge business through authorized agents in kirana stores across nook and corner of India. This helps them with mobile SIM card and Internet data-card business. What happens to all these agents when the recharge business turns online?

It is estimated that there are about 100 million Internet users (includes those who access Internet from cyber cafes) in India. The number of people who have credit / debit cards are only a subset of that. Within that group, people willing to buy online would be a minor share. It seems that the count of people who made online transactions till now are about 10 million. If the number of mobile pre-paid users is 800 million, it is still a long way to attract all these people to recharge pre-paid services online. No worries about the authorized kirana store agents round the street corner :-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Engineering, Medical and Management Colleges in India


If I want to pursue engineering, what are the options I have to study in India? How do I know about colleges in my city-of-liking or in a particular region in India? How would I know about the faculty in that college, infrastructure and tuition fees to fulfill my dream?

Way back in 1990s, when there was brain-drain, people used to have better idea about the college education in USA, UK and Australia than in India. Thanks to technology and few persistent entrepreneurs, the situation is going to change in India forever. Check out http://indiacollegesearch.com. You would be amazed at the  information that is being put-up about each of the engineering, medical and management institutes in India. You can get all the latest information about these colleges (1000+ engineering, 300+ medical and 1400+ management colleges), shortlist them based on your preferences and even send your profiles to them.

Heard that they received enough venture capital recently and hopefully this should help them pursue their ambition to support dreams of youth in India.

Though government has setup so many committees to figure out ways to improve school / college education (who doled out mere statistics), the real innovation in terms of taking higher-education to the critical mass is coming from private industry.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

E-Commerce India - Job Search simplified


If I am looking for a job, how do I reach out to all the companies who are seeking potential employees in their organization? In olden days (a decade has become 'old' now :-), I should have submitted my resume to Human Resource agencies, who have active connections with various corporates. They could have connected me to respective companies after first-cut screening. I had to wait for long to get a call from this HR agency, depending on it's credibility and reach.

Job portals, opened up to the job-seekers all across the nation, have made this process more efficient. Sites like http://naukri.com, http://monster.com and http://timesjobs.com have brought the process to the Internet and increased the chances for candidates to find a better job (who knows what's in store until a candidate joins the new company and undergoes that experience). Employer has to pay, to seek the resumes of potential employees. That makes it free for me - an employment seeker -  to post my resume on any of these sites.

Travel (http://irctc.co.in etc), matrimony (http://bharatmatrimony.com etc) and job sites (as mentioned above) were the initial popular web-based services in India. With so much of diversity and more than 20% of world's population, that is no surprise :-)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Stock Exchanges in India


National Stock Exchange (NSE) and Bombay stock Exchange (BSE) are the two key stock exchanges of India. Before NSE was introduced in 1994, the trading of shares used to happen in open outcry system. NSE brought the online, fully-automated, screen-based trading system into picture. With the power of computers (automated trading platform, clearing and settlement) and communications (VSAT terminals to link trading terminals with the platform), NSE has taken the # 1 spot in terms of number of trades in equity in India (globally # 3).

While BSE is the oldest stock exchange in Asia, it is yet to catch-up with NSE in terms of daily turnover and number of trades - a reflection of lack of application of information technology in time.

Friday, February 17, 2012

E-Commerce India - Community Portals


With the community-living gaining ground in India in the last decade (thanks to home-buyers hunger and home loan incentives), high-rise buildings and vast-expanse villas have sprouted across the country. Each of these communities provide ample facilities to residents. The association for a given community oversees the operations, encourages communication between residents and also manages accounts for the entire year. Traditionally, all this was accomplished with a manager in person working full-time and few residents donning the roles like president and treasurer. In spite of so many people looking into it, the operations and accounts are no mean tasks to manage.

Today, there all the above tasks to be handled by association are simplified with the help of websites like http://apartmentadda.com and http://commonfloor.com. The communication, management and accounting modules in these sites have evolved in the last five years to assist in every activity in a community - manage staff, handle payments, track maintenance and other receivables, allocate resources like club-house and above all foster communication between the residents through discussion forums.

I think these portals should tie-up with the shops, hospitals, theatres and the like to provide value-added services.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

E-Comerce India - Prepaid Online Re-Charge


India has almost 900 million mobile connections. More than 90% of them are pre-paid connections ! With so many members relying on pre-paid services, where does one re-charge their mobiles typically? There are many avenues to recharge - individual telecom operator outlets, kirana stores who are authorized to recharge our mobile from their mobiles, scratch-cards, certain bank ATMs or even online bank accounts. There is some constraint or the other in all the above channels.

How about making use of http://paytm.com or http://freecharge.in to re-charge pre-paid services online. Need not move an inch from your comfy seat at home. These are sites with simple interface, which are built for the sole purpose of charging pre-paid connections. The beauty is that you can even re-charge your Direct-to-home (DTH) or data card connections also. That might bring a few more million users to these sites. Paytm.com has started supporting payments even for post-paid connections.

The best part in re-charging from these sites is that they provide coupons worth the amount that we re-charge. On the face of it, it looks like a great bargain. I wonder - what took it so long for this simple service to emerge online!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

E-Commerce India - Baby stuff online


Gone are the days when near and dear outside India can bring diapers for their loved ones back home. In the first decade of the millennium, diapers and other baby products were available in physical retail outlets in tier-1 cities in India extensively. With the advent of e-commerce, baby products is one domain which has flourished well in online buying, by the end of the decade.

I can buy any baby products online now - diapers, blankets, furniture, lighting, utensils, CDs, books, clothes and what not? With more than 20,000 products available from sites like http://firstcry.com and http://babyoye.com,  I do not need to 'search' for required baby items in my living city anymore. For all those parents with babies, toddlers and infants, no more half day outings to go shopping for the kids. Everything can be door delivered, no shipping charges and cash on delivery. Is that not convenience offered by technology?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

E-Commerce India - Buying personal care products online


Personal care products are hot favorite with women and especially young women across the globe. A site like http://urbantouch.com must be tempting to resist for these ladies. Guess that hair, skin and body care has become a matter of routine rather than a luxury.

As in any other e-commerce case, these items can be ordered from even tier-2 or tier-3 cities in India. One can browse by price or brand in this site and the number of brands available is amazing ! I guess the discounts offered by sites like these cannot be offered in the physical retail outlet. The reason is the economics of procurement, storage and display of the goods.

There is nothing like 'getting a feel' for these products by going to the physical shop. One just needs to be aware of the brand either directly or through a reference, to make a purchase online. I wonder how many people would see these items (if it is lipsticks or nail polish, even try) in the retail outlets and buy them online for a better price. Nothing wrong, as it's the hard earned money that is being spent. Who's at loss - brand owner, distributor or physical retailer? Not hard to guess :-)

Monday, February 13, 2012

E-Commerce India - Are marriages made in heaven?


Marriage is an important institution across the globe and the way it works in India is different and unique. Arranged marriages are a norm in this society and love marriages are an exception. We were all brought-up in the world where 'marriage broker' arranges for a marriage between two parties - bride and groom. He is a person who goes from place to place seeking information about available brides and grooms. He could find a match between suitable candidates in the capacity of the network he could build over a period of time.

In the internet age, matrimony websites have taken over the traditional 'business' of fixing a match between bride and groom. The candidates can post their profile on websites like http://bharatmatrimony.com, http://shaadi.com or http://jeevansaathi.com. Registered candidates can browse and search for their potential partners, interact with them through messages or even get access to their phone numbers to talk to them.

Now, does it matter if the bride is of Indian origin residing in USA and gets married to groom working in Australia. The reach is vast and the 'arrangement' online gives a better chance for the candidates to understand each other better. Does that mean we are moving away from the traditional 5-minute chat between girl and boy before marriage? Maybe, a change for better is always welcome.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

E-Commerce India - Branded Lifestyle Products online


If you are interested in 'branded' lifestyle products - call it formal wear, casual wear, ethnic wear, winter wear etc - where would you go and buy them? Obviously, to a shop you know in the place you live. If some of the products you see in advertisements in Television and Newspapers are not available locally, you think about going to nearby Cities. People in tier-2 cities in Andhra Pradesh, India go to either Hyderabad or Chennai for big-time shopping.
What if all those lifestyle products are made available to you at the click of a button? Check out http://myntra.com. Myntra used to offer personalization of lifestyle products like sports jerseys when it started in 2007. It is now into pure e-commerce play selling lifestyle / fashion products online.
Isn't it amazing that you can now buy more than 200 brands of fashion products from online companies like these !
But how would I know if a particular size in a brand fits me well? How can I be assured about the quality of the fabric? I guess the brand image of the companies, whose products are being sold online, plays a key role here. If I am a Wrangler jeans regular, and I know my size, I wouldn't have to visit the physical shop every time unless I am a newly wed and my sizes are randomly changing.

Friday, February 10, 2012

India and Computers


I was thinking about digital revolution and wondering about the root of Internet Age. Obviously, it is all because of the research in semi-conductors and development of computers and communication. But then the language computers understand internally is just in two numbers - '1' and '0'. It feels good to think that Indians invented one of these two numbers i.e '0' - matter of pride ! No wonder we are # 2 in facebook users (about 46 million user), # 5 in terms of Internet users (100 million) and so on as of Feb 2012 - digital affinity :-)

Books, affordability & accessibility


I was checking out http://indiaplaza.com once to see why it has not become as popular as http://flipkart.com thought it was running for longer time. I did not find the user interface to be very professional. I think in all the e-commerce or any other web-based services, the user-experience (UX) is the key. The fundamental principle from UX perspective is that the user should be able to conduct the operations with minimum clicks and with intuitive navigation mechanism. From that perspective there is no other site better than facebook.

Coming back to indiaplaza, I found a book 'Making it on my own' offered at 50% off and ordered the book by paying through credit-card online. The cost of the book was Rs. 63 and interestingly the shipping was free ! I wish many other important and useful books also get as affordable and convenient-to-order as this one. The day, when all the books would be available in an interactive digital format, is not far off !

Thursday, February 9, 2012

E-Commerce India - For the book lovers...

If I want to buy books online, I tend to go to http://flipkart.com. That is the de facto site for me to browse books and buy them - if I find ones of my liking. No more going to the book-shops. Saves me irritation from driving in traffic and also time. I can enjoy the luxury of browsing books according to my whim and fancy, without having to move across sections in the physical book store. Hopping from one book to another relevant one through recommendations is a boon to book lovers.
There is no doubt that brick-and-mortar book stores had negative impact after the online ones have become popular.
Publishers have nothing to lose as their sales have increased rather.Customers like me are having fun with browsing all the books online - definitely the beneficiary in the whole game ! Isn't that not the crux of any business - making customer happy?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fruits and Vegetables online


Basic needs of a human being, as we know, are food, clothing and shelter. Getting these basic needs satisfied was not just the goal but the process to acquire these (provided one has money) used to make one go through sweet pain in olden days. For the guests who come home, talking about the vegetable and fruit prices in different places was an ice-breaker. 

Not just women, even men used to indulge in this discussion over lunch and dinner, as it was a matter of not just food but economy in the surroundings. Either of them would go to the city market, go around for two or three rounds, make friends with repeat visits to same vendors, bargain and lug around all the veggie bags before going home. Travel to these market places was cumbersome in some places, but two or three members of the family used to go together, which used to be fun.

Turn 2012 and the vegetables and fruits can be bought online - sitting at home. The folks of delhi, chennai and mumbai have tasted the comfort of ordering these items through clicks. http://veggiebazaar.com, http://freshndaily.com and http://freshsubzi.com have taken the vegetable vendor business online. Old-days vendor had to invite his customers physically and hence could not scale his business; the modern vegetable vendors - selling vegetables online - can advertise online and invite their clients to enjoy the luxury from home. 1% of traffic on the roads become less if no one travels to the market now - less pollution !
Pranab Mukherjee has referred to UK aid as 'Peanuts'. How about selling peanuts online ? :-)

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