Comparison Sites: Cameras: The Present and the Future

This is the first in a series of posts where we look at comparison sites across product categories and review their approach and recommend suggestions to make their user offerings stronger.

I discovered Snapsort just under two years ago and found it a refreshing change from the usual technically overdosed sites like Digital Photography Review. Apart from the fact that the pages are clean and simple to use, the best part about Snapsort is that it simplifies the user experience tremendously. It not only lets you compare two cameras against each other, but also assigns a score on a scale of 1 to 100 which makes decision-making as easy as it gets.

Without Snapsort, the purchases I’ve made over the years – the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 in Oct-2010 and the Nikon D5100 in Jul-2011 – couldn’t have given me the satisfaction of knowing I was hitting the sweet spot in terms of the best functionality afforded by my budget. And for that, I am eternally indebted to the guys at Sortable.

For starters, it assigns a score to each key feature of a camera (depending on that feature’s presence/strength/absence), and along with a certain weightage for every key feature, it creates a Score for each camera. Users can evaluate cameras by looking at their total Score or by drilling down to understand the score for each of the key features. Another good thing that Snapsort does is that while calculating the final Score, it provides you a Relative Score against the best camera in that category. So a camera with a Score of 100/100 isn’t a utopian model of the world’s most perfect-but-impossible-to-build camera, but a real camera that is better than every other camera in its category today.

However, for someone like me, what Snapsort offers is still not enough, as I would prefer to assign my own weightage to the key features, instead of depending on the weightage assigned by Snapsort.

You might wonder why that is – I am but a layman – and I should probably just leave the importance of technical details to the experts. And I would almost agree with you, except for the fact that, for example, I don’t think that a ‘feature’ like Popularity deserves any weightage, let alone a weightage of 4.6%, viz. 20 out of 437.5 points (437.5 points is calculated by adding all the weights assigned to the features here), as it depends largely on the manufacturer’s marketing and distribution strength. Similarly, I would give Screen Resolution a lower weightage than 25/437.5 (5.7%) and give a weightage of zero to Touch Screen instead of 12.5/437.5 (2.8%).

Also, if you were to proceed to compare these two cameras, the output leaves a lot to be desired.

Comparison of Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 and Nikon D5100 on Snapsort.com

As you would probably know, both these cameras belong to entire different categories (the PLD-TZ10 to Travel Zoom, the N-D5100 to entry-level dSLR), and on some features like lens, are not comparable. However, if you notice, you will find that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 is still allotted a Score towards the lens features, even though the Nikon D5100 cannot compete in that category.

If it were up to me, I would segregate the Score allocation between cameras to 3 sets of features -
- Common Features
(where both cameras can compete)
- Camera A Features only
(features where Camera B cannot compete due to ineligibility towards comparison category)
- Camera B Features only
(features where Camera A cannot compete due to ineligibility towards comparison category)

A true comparison would allow for showcasing of these 3 sets of Scores whenever camera comparisons are made. Under the scoring of Camera A Features only, the engine would then proceed to rate features of Camera A against other cameras in its category, and help create a Relative A score to supplement the Common Features Score of A. The same way, Camera B Features would be rated against others in its category to derive a Relative B score, that would supplement the Common Features Score of B. This relative comparison against respective peers of the cameras being compared might not be very useful for the end-user as he/she is primarily looking to compare camera A versus camera B. However, it cannot be emphasized enough that the comparison has to be fair, and by that we mean, for users looking to have an apple-to-apple comparison, only Common Features should be compared and rated against one another.

It is also necessary to state here that there is a difference between a score of 0 due to the absence of a feature, and a score of 0 due to the ineligibility of a feature category (Not Applicable) – and that difference should be clearly stated to help the user understand the reason behind the Score, and to nudge less-informed users towards comparing cameras that belong to the same category.

Needless to say, my purchase decisions were made after comparing cameras within their respective categories, however not before I normalized the features according to my preferences, which meant spending more than a few hours on Excel – first to capture information about different cameras, and then assigning the weightages that worked for me.

This, for me, is the future of decision science comparison engines -
The freedom to let users choose which features are important to them and then show customized comparison results according to each user’s priorities.

I have enough faith in Sortable (seeing what they have done with Snapsort, LensHero, CarSort and Geekaphone) to believe that this is something they are equipped to offer and would require minimal time for them to introduce.

The real question is – Would you like to use a feature like this if it existed?

Also, while we are on the topic of comparison sites for cameras, here’s another suggestion that is open for implementation -
The transition away from technical specs to the user expectation and experience

Let’s face it, most people who purchase a camera, are never going to delve into the nitty-gritty of what their cameras can do or spend 10,000 hours trying to master the learning curve. Most people want to buy a camera to take good snaps, and even though they might not be sure how good they can be as photographers, most of them would like to believe they can be as good as the camera lets them be.

Which is why I’m surprised that I haven’t come across a site that showcases images taken across different cameras as an integral part of the comparison process. Users should be able to browse through collections of images, segregated across different camera models, to let them understand how good (or bad) the camera is. Currently, the user experience I’m imagining is something along the lines of the Pinterest feed.

A user looking to buy a Nikon D5100 should be able to browse through his feed to view photos that have been taken using the Nikon D5100. Same goes for every camera. This will not only allow the user to experience first-hand the quality of images that can be taken, but also set (exceed, or temper) expectations that users might have from their new cameras.

While browsing, users could also choose to tweak their feed by -
- choosing which categories of photos they want to view (the usual landscapes, portraits, bokeh, action, low light, fish eye, tilt-shift, etc), and/or
- choosing which camera manufacturers they want to view, and/or
- deciding their spend budget (on cameras, lenses, etc)

Once a user has gone through photographs, and narrowed down his choice to which camera he wants to buy, the advertising links on the website should point him out to the cheapest purchase option available out there.

Needless to say, whether these photo uploads should be with or without any post-processing is a matter of debate. There are a lot of people out there who believe that basic post-processing is absolutely required, and although I might agree with them, it might not serve the purpose that is behind this solution, which is to showcase to prospective buyers what their new cameras are capable of, preferably right-out-of-the-box. However, even if we choose to allow only untouched straight-from-the-camera pictures, I’m not sure if there is a way to prevent users from uploading post-processed images – as far as I know, post-processing doesn’t change the Exif details on an image.

The reason why I think this idea is definitely worth a shot is because a site like this can easily take off with active community support, by not only creating a sense of competition between users of different cameras (my Nikon is better than your Canon) but also between users of the same camera (wow, I must really learn how to make my camera do that!)

However, till the time this vision becomes a reality (and trust me, some day it will), I guess most of us will have to stick to the likes of Snapsort, which is still, by far, the best (read only) camera comparison site that can cater to newbies and geeks both.

How Linkedin needs to get into the Reputation game (and why)

We all know how Linkedin works – people have their own profiles, which they update with their work experience, and over time, build a set of recommendations from other Linkedin users with whom they have worked.

Since all the information people save in their profile is uploaded directly by them, the one important way to ratify the accuracy of that information is to look at recommendations. And this is where things start getting subjective. Today there is a way to game this system – it’s not an easy way, but there is a way.

Depending on how we play the game, a user can decide to go out and ask for recommendations from a lot of people – depending on how big the user’s network is, and how effective the user’s influence skills are, there are users out there who will manage to get a lot of recommendations.

What does this say about the user? Does the presence of all the accolades mean that they ring true? Perhaps, but not always.

How do the rest of the Linkedin users, who might not be either as social media savvy or great at following up with tons of other users for getting recommendations, level the playing field?

The answer to that lies in an aspect that Klout is currently trying to uncover.

Klout, as you all know, is looking at defining, measuring and comparing a person’s influence across (read against) the others in the community. However, Klout has decided to look at activity, and recent activity at that, to go about that endeavour. Now, maybe their approach is best for them, from the point of view of building a sustainable business model wherein their partners pay them for access to influencers who are, rightly so, influential today.

However, since the majority of people in the world (including those on social networks), aren’t necessarily the most active users, it is bound to give a disadvantage to those influencers who are not very active on a regular basis. Let’s not get this wrong – we’re talking about those people who are influential, but just not all the time (read every minute of every day).

So how should Linkedin look at strengthening their social media strategy?

Well, they need to look at the other aspect of influence that Klout is not currently looking at. The long-term aspect. The aspect that defines people for who they really are, not just who they have been behaving like this week.

It works like this -

Every user on Linkedin gets a score (let’s call it a Reputation Score) that is dependent on the following factors -
- Education (type)
- Alma Mater (universities)
- Work Experience (number of years)
- Workplace (brand, number of years)
- Designation (number of years)
- Salary (number of years)
- Age
- Recommendation Score

Now since the world has millions of organizations, chances are, defining the appropriate weightage of score for Workplace and Designation will take years to fine-tune.

Education, Alma Mater, Work Experience, Designation across number of years, Salary and Age are still weighted factors that will take lesser time to get developed.

For the purpose of this post, however, let’s focus on the last aspect, viz. the Recommendation Score, which I believe will play a key role in strengthening the reliability of Linkedin for its community.

Say, we start with user A, who has received 2 recommendations, one each from user B and user C.

Since recommendations in today’s format are subjective, let’s look at leaving them (the text write-up portion) as subjective for those who want to read user A’s recommendations. However, since users have also started adding skillsets to their profiles, when user A is being given a recommendation, user B and user C should have access to the skillsets listed by user A. Apart from the subjective recommendation text write-up that they are giving user A, users B and C are also encouraged to rate user A on any number of user A’s skillsets (with a rating scale between say 1-to-5 or 1-to-10). This objective rating of skillsets goes towards user A’s Recommendation Score and we will just get to that in a minute.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – this system, like any other, can be gamed by people who would ask their raters to give them high ratings. However, if the Linkedin community is assured that the actual ratings given by users B and C will always be hidden from user A, chances are, those who want to preserve the sanctity of Linkedin (and most professionals will want that) will do an honest job of rating others.

Now to tackle how these skillset ratings translate into user A’s Recommendation Score.

Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that user B belongs to user A’s team, and user C is the super-boss of user A (two levels up). Here, we could look at seniority of reviewers and give a higher weightage to those that are higher up the corporate ladder. That could be one approach. However, that does not necessarily level the playing field quite enough, as it still leaves a chance for user A to game the system to quite an extent (via edicts and ass-kissing, respectively).

So, an additional aspect that we will want to incorporate here is assigning a Reputation score to users B and C themselves, that in turn, are derived from their profiles (that contain Education, Alma Mater, Work Experience, Workplace, Designation, Salary, Age and most importantly, Recommendation Score).

Hence, say -

User B has a Reputation Score of 5.7
(derived largely from user’s Recommendation Score apart from E, AM, WE, W, D, S and A)
User C has a Reputation Score of 7.8
(derived largely from user’s Recommendation Score apart from E, AM, WE, W, D, S and A)

If User B gives a Skillset Rating of 6.0 (assume only for 1 skillset) for User A, and
if User C gives a Skillset Rating of 8.0 (assume for the same skillset) for User A, then
User A’s rating for that Skillset would be
((6.0 * 5.7) + (8.0 * 7.8)) / (5.7 + 7.8)
which in this case would be
(34.2 + 62.4) / 13.5 = 7.16

This 7.16 against this particular skillset goes towards building user A’s Recommendation Score, which clubbed with the other aspects of user A’s profile, go towards building a Reputation Score. In the future, if user A gives a recommendation to user X, the Reputation Score of user A can play the weighted influence it needs to have on user X’s Recommendation Score.

As we proceed with this methodology across all Linkedin users, we will find that ratings given to Skillsets go towards calculating Recommendation Scores which go towards building Reputation Scores. Over time, the Linkedin community’s individual Reputation Scores start playing a big factor in the integrity (read authenticity) of ratings that users obtain from the community.

Now, coming back to the other aspects of a user’s profile. It will make sense to start looking at giving incremental weightage for a user’s Experience (number of years) and Age, and maybe even Salary.

By this, I mean that although averaging out a user’s ratings for skillsets might make sense (for now), it might not make sense to treat Experience, Age and Salary as averaged-out factors, and instead give more weightage to those with more Experience, Age and Salary.

This would allow users with more Experience to rise higher than others in terms of Reputation instead of viewing two individuals with identical skillset ratings, but say with 10 and 20 years of work experience, as the same. One can always argue that the higher Reputation Scores of those (assume peers) that have rated the one with higher experience will end up increasing the user’s Recommendation Score over the user with lower experience who has been rated by peers (as both sets of peers themselves have higher and lower experience, and hence, higher and lower Reputation Scores themselves). However, this is an assumption, and it might come out to be true – how much of a difference it does make, is only something we will know once this model has been implemented and live data starts getting incorporated.

Also, if we want to start defining weightage to Education and Alma Mater, there could be two approaches to the same -

One is the centrally-driven approach that Identified uses wherein it ranks Universities according to their brand value and assigns a certain score to them.

The other approach, which in my opinion could start off as a crowd-sourcing-of-reputation project based on this post’s approach, is to look at the Recommendation Scores of those Linkedin users that belong to different universities, and derive a score for the Alma Mater and maybe also for Education. This would reduce the chances of getting it wrong, which are high since most social networks are, like it or not, U.S.-centric. This would also help in measuring the true value of one’s Alma Mater and Education as it would measure influence and reputation of its users over time (and not necessarily based on the latest global rankings of Universities).

Since we are looking at defining a Reputation Score that allows for incremental gain (and not just averaged out scores), we would want to look at evaluating a user’s Reputation Score on a relative scale of 1 to 100 across the community, a la Klout, instead of leaving it as a value between 1 and 10.

That being said, to sum it up, I would say that -
Creating Recommendation Scores by averaging out Objective Ratings received for Skillsets by using weightage given to Raters’ own Reputation Scores
are a better approach than
Letting Linkedin users rack up Subjective Recommendations one after another without paying heed to the credibility of those Raters.

In the long run, the advantages of Linkedin getting into the Reputation game will include letting organizations find jobseekers directly in a much more reliable environment, which will help Linkedin earn more revenue not only through 1:1 role-to-candidate recruitment fees, but also through providing a higher quality of paid access. Not just that, Linkedin can start using targeted advertising based on a user’s Reputation score, which will have direct correlation to those users’ purchasing powers due to high salaries. This is just the tip of the iceberg of possibilities, one which we will unravel as time goes by, if Linkedin is to tread down this path.

How IMDb can go from reactively tracking movies to proactively changing the movie industry

IMDb has been around since 1990 and has been able to surpass our expectations of what a movie database should possess. Not only does IMDb allow for movies to be rated on a scale of 1 to 10 which help viewers decide which movies to watch – but it has now become the largest global directory of information about people who are involved in movies right from Actors to Directors to Cinematographers to Sound Technicians to Key Grips.

Now award ceremonies like the Oscars or film festivals like Cannes review movies every year and give out their verdict on which movies and people have been the best for that year. However, those verdicts are nothing but polls of people involved in the industry, which at the end of the day, might be biased due to personal preferences, industry dynamics or lobbying attempts – and hence, might not reflect the opinions of movie viewers the world over.

Also, these awards are given out on an annual basis, with different award institutions having their own eligibility windows for movie release dates, which do not necessarily reflect the common calendar year.

It is in the view of these limitations that I think it is time that IMDb looks at bridging this gap by measuring quality of work done by individuals involved in movies.

The modus operandi to arrive at the solution is quite simple -
One attributes the ratings of the movies to the people involved in those movies.

This would mean that an actor’s rating is directly correlated to the ratings for the movies he has been involved in as an actor. The same would hold true for directors, for script writers and for almost every other role that movie-making demands of its crew.

However, this rating is not a simple average of movie ratings, but a simple weighted average taking into account the number of votes for each movie.

Obviously, it is simplistic to assume that each participant in a movie gets equal credit for the overall rating of a movie, especially since there is a world of difference in the contributions made by the Director or the Producer or the Supporting Actor or the Makeup Artist. However, in light of the lack of a better way to apportion credit (or blame), this seems like the best way to proceed.

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For the sake of discussion and visualization, let’s look at 3 actors whose work over the years has stood out amongst the more popular work in the industry – Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling and Tom Brady. Now you might not have heard of all of them but that’s a good thing – by the time we are done with this discussion, I’m sure you will want to find out more.

If we look at the movies released across the years, we find that Leonardo DiCaprio’s career started in 1991, Ryan Gosling’s in 1997 and Tom Hardy’s in 2001. Till date, Leo has had 25 movies compared to 22 for Tom Hardy and 16 for Ryan Gosling.

Gosling’s weighted movie ratings crossed the 7.0 mark in his 4th year in the industry, Leo took 3 years to cross the 7.0 mark whereas Tom’s movies have had a rating greater than 7.0 from the first year he joined the industry. It is notable that since the time their work has crossed the 7.0 rating mark, their cumulative weighted ratings have never dropped below 7.0.

Ryan Gosling who is the considered to be the future of the industry has a cumulative movie ratings score of 7.50 which is lower than Leonardo DiCaprio at 7.83 and Tom Hardy at 8.00. This is but a little strange, as I’m sure that although almost everyone has heard of DiCaprio, and a lot of people have heard of Gosling in the recent few months, not too many people would have heard of Tom Hardy, until now that is.

IMDb_Years,Actors-Titles,Rating

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Now instead of looking at movies across years, wherein it becomes slightly difficult to compare performances as different actors have debuted in different years, it makes sense to look at performances across number of titles.

Here we see that although Ryan Gosling has the lowest rating amongst the three at 7.50, it is still higher than what Leo or Tom had at the same number of titles being released, viz. 16. It is only at the 19th movie onwards, surprisingly for both Leo and Hardy, that their cumulative career movie ratings took a fillip and crossed the 7.50 mark. By this perspective, Ryan is well ahead of the two – however, only time will tell how his ratings fare over future releases.

IMDb_Actors-Titles,Rating

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Now when we look at Genres present for movies across IMDb, we find that there are 23 genres in all.

A quick distribution of movies in which these 3 actors have worked shows that Ryan Gosling has worked in movies that span across 11 genres, Leo across 12 genres and Tom Hardy across 15 genres.

Again, since movies do span multiple genres, we looked at the average count of genres spanned by movies done by these actors and found that Ryan Gosling has an average of 2.31 genres per movie, and Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio with 2.55 and 2.60 genres per movie respectively. This shows that Ryan Gosling’s movies individual movies span across fewer genres which could be a result of movie scripts that are more focused to certain genres.

It would be interesting to see if that could be a reason why his work’s ratings are the lowest amongst the trio at 7.50 and whether exploring movies across different genres could lead to an increase in overall performance ratings.

IMDb_Actors-GenresPresence,GenresAverage

Note: An important point to be noted is that we have excluded Documentary, Short, TV series and TV movie in this study – as a result, since Documentary and Short are genres amongst the 23, it would effectively render this analysis applicable to only 21 genres as its universe.

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Then again, if you’re in the mood to watch a certain actor’s work, then a graph like this could help as it would show you which genre of movies has that actor done really good work in.

For example, Tom Hardy has a rating of
8.78 for Adventure (Minotaur, Inception),
8.65 for Sci-Fi (Star Trek: Nemesis, Inception) and
8.20 for Sport (Warrior).

Leonardo DiCaprio has a rating of
8.76 for Sci-Fi (Critters 3, Inception),
8.30 for Mystery (Shutter Island, The Departed) and
8.24 for Action (Body of Lies, Inception, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Quick and the Dead).

Strangely enough, none of the genres have a rating of more than 8.00 for Ryan Gosling.
His highest rated genre is
7.90 for War (The Notebook).

IMDb_Actors,Genres-Rating(Bar)

Note: It is important to still review the movies individually before watching – a weighted average here does not imply that all movies clubbed under these genres are equally good – it just implies that since the bad movies also have much fewer votes than the good movies, the overall weighted average rating of the genre still remains high.

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Also, if you are interested in genres being your primary choice, then you might want to look at a graph like this which not only shows you how these actors’ movies have fared in these genres compared to one another, but also which actors have chosen which genres.

All 3 fare almost equally well in Drama whereas DiCaprio fares much better than the others in Mystery and Thriller movies. Tom Hardy rates better at Adventure movies than DiCaprio but fares worse than both DiCaprio and Gosling in the genres of Biography, Comedy and Crime. Gosling fares better than the others in Romance and War. It is an almost equal match between DiCaprio and Hardy when it comes to History and Sci-Fi whereas Hardy fares better than DiCaprio in Horror (but both are quite bad with ratings below 5.0).

Apart from Documentary and Short (which have been excluded as part of this analysis), none of the 3 actors have done movies in the genres of Animation, Film-Noir, Music, Musical or Western.

Gosling has also stayed away from the genres of Action, Adventure, History, Horror and Sci-Fi (covered by DiCaprio and Hardy both).

Similarly, DiCaprio has never done a Fantasy, Sport or War movie (covered by Gosling and Hardy both).

When it comes to Hardy, the only genre he has not covered is Family, a genre in which only Gosling out of the 3 has a movie (Frankenstein and Me).

IMDb_Genres,Actors-Rating(Column)

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I could go on and on – maybe look at differentiating credit due to a Director versus a Script Writer versus Actor versus Supporting Actor – how much weightage should each of them get for being associated with a movie. One simple way to do that for actors would be to look at their time on-screen (if it were made available) and apportion an appropriate weight of the movie rating based on that.

If so, then we could add these apportioned scores and measure the quantum of quality work that an individual has done. For example, Clint Eastwood would probably earn a lot of points as his long career has spanned not only acting but also directing some great movies. And it would also better reflect a long career as your score keeps increasing (by adding the apportioned credit due from each of your movies) instead of getting an averaged out rating irrespective of whether you’ve done 16 movies or 60.

Needless to say, I’m sure that a lot of you will want to check out Tom Hardy’s work now, apart from the fact that this post would have piqued your interest as to what is possible using IMDb’s repository of information.

From my point of view, it is now time to wait and watch to see when IMDb, if at all, goes ahead and provides fascinating insights into the quality of work done by the people in the industry.

And mark my words, the day IMDb does so, it will redefine the way the industry looks at itself – quality work will be appreciated for what it’s worth and natural selection will evolve to benefit the best talent that the industry has to offer – actors and movie stars will be more careful about what trash they sign up for as they will know that nothing spells doom like a hyped movie that fails at the box office (low rating, high vote count) – which will directly affect their possibility of getting good quality work in the future – which means sooner or later, all this will benefit us, the moviegoers who love nothing better than movies that take our collective breaths away.

A primer on basic decision science using the Indian online marketplace for SDHC cards

The market for electronics products, especially in India, is still quite fragmented to say the least. Apart from the fact that every dollar price is inflated, it becomes all the more important, to not only compare published prices across brands but also look at which of the brands are available in India, and at what prices.

In this post, we are not going to talk about cameras where one has to primarily compare features across models (for which, let’s be honest, there is no dearth of information – my personal favourite being snapsort.com) and then look online to find the cheapest available dollar price for the model you want. If you’re a discerning urban Indian buyer, chances are, you would want to find a way to get a friend or family member abroad to purchase it for you and bring it over in a few months.

Instead, this article will focus on electronics accessories, which in our perspective, will need to be treated as commodities. There is no specific value for a given brand, as the functionality of a USB drive or an SDHC card, does not change across manufacturers. Also since these are commodities, their requirement is usually more frequent and sudden, and prices are cheaper, and thus, finding an option within India is the best bet.

Now as personalities go, I am a person who does not like to pay anything more than the fair market price for any purchase I make. It does mean that I spend more time in researching my products before I buy them, but over the years, the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve bought the best products I could buy at the best possible price, is well worth the effort I’ve had to put in.

So after I bought the Nikon D5100 last year for a 12.5% discount on Indian MRP, I’ve been facing an issue with it, which is that video recording is usually cut short at the 10-20 second mark. Online research makes me believe that it has to do with the speed of the SDHC card, which in my case, is Class 4.

I did a bit of research on the available SDHC cards in India and these are my observations -

The online retailers I am fairly confident about are Flipkart, Letsbuy, Yebhi, Snapdeal and the recently launched Junglee (which is Amazon’s presence in India).

The brands for SD, SDHC and SDXC cards that are available on these sites include Adata, Kingston, Moserbaer, SanDisk, SiliconPower, Sony, Strontium, Transcend, Verbatim and Wise.

Since we are looking at electronics accessories that are essentially commodities, there isn’t much information to capture, except Capacity (GB), Class (Speed in MB/s) and Price.

None of these online retailers have a proper way of segmenting, presenting or comparing the prices that they have on their own sites, let alone letting you compare their prices across other sites using plug-ins like Invisible Hand. Forget proper model numbers, we’re talking a lack of structure that would allow a customer to select a particular Brand, or Capacity, or Class. Also, since most retailers don’t realize the differences between SD, SDHC and SDXC cards, we will (as they do) refer to all these cards as SDHC cards for the purpose of this discussion.

I also realized late that Junglee, even after you had selected “Ships from Within India”, showcased the Dollar-Price-Converted-to-INR price Without Shipping, which was obviously not the correct price. It was only after you went to the individual product page that you realized that the Indian vendor prices are not only much higher, but that they are also often listed Without Shipping Charges.

Anyway, once the missing pieces on information were either plugged or ignored, we proceeded to find the lowest price for each Capacity and Speed of SDHC card that was available.

One should note that although most SDHC cards do come with a certain Maximum Retail Price (INR), the marketplace almost always discounts this by a huge factor. This is reminiscent of the difference between MRP and market pricing for blank media like CDs and DVDs in the early 2000s. The only places that charge the actual MRP for CDs, DVDs and SDHC cards for that matter, are organized electronics retail chains like Croma, which one should never really visit if one wants to buy the products mentioned above.

We found the cheapest prices (across brands, across retailers) as follows -

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Now, that doesn’t really help us figure out which is the best deal, since these prices are not normalized.

Side Note: By the best deal, I am only looking at Value For Money – not ‘budget’ or ‘capacity’ as a constraint. Those who feel that buying 2 cards of a certain capacity is better than buying 1 card of double that capacity, due to reasons of carelessness (at least they will still have one card if they lose the other) or convenience (keeping them at different locations) have their own valid reasons and would not necessarily agree with the sole importance I place on Value For Money.

So when we look at the Price per GB, you find that the best Value is available for the 8 GB Class 4 card for INR 49/GB.

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In my case, the technical specifications for the Nikon D5100 mention that one should use an SDHC card which has a minimum rating of Class 6. However, since I’m not keen on limiting our search to the minimum requirement, we should look at all available options and normalize prices across all Classes and not only for Class 6.

So, as we are also looking at the speed of the card, we normalize this further.

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A cleaner way to see Value For Money at this point would be to rank these Effective Prices (/GB/Speed) and see that the best Value For Money is available for the 32 GB Class 10 card followed by the 16 GB Class 10 card.

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However, we know that Rank doesn’t necessarily showcase the actual differences between values, for which a simple way would be to look at Incremental Price (/GB/Speed) for every other card over the one with the best Value For Money.

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We could look at the above information in different ways, look at what should be the ideal pricing strategy, whether Value For Money should move primarily along Class and across Capacity, or along Capacity but across Class. However, at this point, let’s not delve any further and take a step back to understand the Indian online marketplace.

When we map the best available prices to understand which retailers are competitive, strangely enough, we find a bit of a demarcation in the segments across retailers -

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We can see that -
- Flipkart has the best Value For Money in the Class 10 cards for 4 and 8 GB,
- Junglee has the best Value For Money in the Class 2 category, and
- Yebhi has the best Value For Money in the Class 10 cards for 64 GB.
- Snapdeal and Letsbuy operate between these ranges and there is no overlap here either.

This begets the question whether this is by chance or a result of available tie-ups with distributors/manufacturers.

Overall, the fact that such an unstructured market exists is clearly a disadvantage to the Indian online buyer.

However, now that we’ve understood how one should look at products like these, and know what are the approximate prices that these products should demand, readers will know when they are actually getting a good deal on purchases.

Also, the silver lining in this cloud is the opportunity for a player to enter this market and undercut these prices to become the Indian one-stop shop for SDHC cards.

The advantages of SDHC cards as a category are -
- little overhead costs as they hardly require any space for inventory management
- weight is only a few grams, so couriering costs can be controlled
- demand is only going up (for every camera sold, there is a requirement of 1 or more SDHC cards)

The downsides however are -
- depending on margins available, one might realize that capital investment requirements are large (10000 hits/day with even a 1% conversion with an average order size of 1000 would mean having daily stock replenishment worth INR 1 lakh)
- traffic (since there is no exclusive player in this field, creating sizable traffic volume from scratch will require investments of time and money)
- counterfeiting (I’m not sure but I have heard that this particular market does have issues with counterfeit cards)

However, that being said, I’m still a little intrigued as to why there aren’t more online players looking at consolidating this market by offering strong Value For Money products in this category, a market which clearly has high demand, low complexity, negligible overheads, minimal delivery costs and a wide range of pricing opportunities.

One Globe 2012: Uniting Knowledge Communities: My perspective on the space of education in India

I have provided a few snippets of information that came my way on Day 1 of One Globe 2012 here.

During the day, I also happened to jot down the thoughts running through my head which I have reproduced below.

Now, at the very least, some of these thoughts and questions will be unconventional – at the very most, impractical or simplistic. But I do think they are worth thinking about, which I what this blog has been set up for.

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Today, in our country, the ability to speak English is higher than the ability to read or write English. This is evident in the fact that foreigners can find their way around urban India using spoken English.

If we are looking at bringing education to India in a big way, can we look at options that can be taught using verbal skills of English and not the written word?

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Everyone is talking about India and its huge youth population that needs education.

But I have a slightly pessimistic (imho, realistic) view on this.

The first question that comes to my mind is – “Education towards enabling what?”

What are the jobs that we are going to educate people for?
What are the industries towards which education is geared?

It has to be focused towards our economy today and the expected economic areas of development from tomorrow.

I highly doubt that we need more engineers or doctors in this country anymore.
So if not the classic professions, then what education do we want to impart to them?

Education for the sake of education won’t work.

Will their ability to read and write in Hindi or English get them a job tomorrow?
I highly doubt it.

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The future generations of our world will need to know not only how to learn the new, but also how to unlearn the old. Learn how to be willing and open to change.
How do we go about teaching that?

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Looking at private investments coming in for education in India, the question in mind is more basic.

How does one marry -
- the large size of the Indian population, with
- the affordability of that population, with
- the profitability that the private sector would want?

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There was talk about how foreign universities want to pay globalized salaries to their faculty, wherever they are. But if you’re in a poor country, where the Exchange rate goes up to 50 but the Purchasing Power Parity only goes to about 15 or 20, then you don’t really want to move talent at the exchange rate.

The best bet would be to move talent at a rate somewhere between the PPP and the Exchange rate – so that the conversion offers them a better quality of life than back home, however it isn’t really the same amount in dollar terms.

I’m sure there would be professors who do not need or want the money – who would rather prefer the experience of living in a country with a couple of cars, a driver and domestic help that doesn’t need you to even lift a finger. Add to that the experience of soaking in a unique culture like India, and I’m sure there would be a few professors out there who would look at it as a good deal. You don’t need to pay $150000 per year to your professors, as they will be able to live like kings in India for $75000.

If you get that in place, what you have effectively done on your balance sheet is reduce the cost of your talent.

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Another way to reduce costs for foreign universities is to assign a cost of zero for all existing knowledge.

I’m not sure if that is being done – time and money that has gone into research and fresh knowledge does have a cost and I’m sure that gets covered over time by the fees that the institution brings in.

However, when you are looking at setting up education in India, for all the knowledge that you are imparting, just allocate a cost of zero.

That is the real cost of knowledge as it already exists.

Putting any number apart from zero is just accounting practice – don’t think the demographics of India will find it sustainable just yet to cover the cost.

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The Internet has redefined the way the world communicates.

People get to know each other well enough online to even fall in love – we are but trying to find a way to recreate the socialization experience of a classroom using digital channels of delivery.

Unlike many others, I believe it is possible – and in many ways, will turn out to be superior to the experience we find in a classroom.

I’m thinking Google+ Hangout meets Wikipedia meets Facebook – in virtual classrooms built for the purpose of education.

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Foreign entry into education into India

What is being looked at by foreign universities -
Foreign universities -> come to India -> tie-up with Indian universities -> teach Indian students in India

What can be looked at by foreign universities -
Foreign universities -> come to India -> tie-up with Indian universities -> bring/teach foreign students in India

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There was talk about how foreign universities are also very conscious about their brand and they would not want to dilute it in India. That aspect reminds me of something I know about my alma mater IIM Ahmedabad.

During the years when I was there, and I’m guessing this has been true since soon after the advent of the photocopying machine, academic material from our courses has been available with the local ‘raddi-wallas’ (scrap paper dealers) or roadside makeshift bookshops.

That is just the very nature of our environment.

Does anyone buy it? I’m sure people do.
Does it help them? I highly doubt that it does.

The reasons for that are two-fold:

1 – The brand of an institution isn’t built by its curriculum. Like all intellectual property that is released into the world, course material isn’t immune to unauthorized replication or copying. The brand of an institution (and here I refer to the brand of IIM Ahmedabad that has withstood its test of time) depends on the talent that it attracts – the people who come there to teach, and the students who come to soak in the knowledge to fulfill their potential destinies. So a brand, in a sense, is only as important as its ability to attract the right kind of people – and is very intangible to say the least – leaking curricula is the least of one’s problems when it comes to brand.

2 – The amount and depth of content is intimidating, to say the least.

Someone who needs to get IIMA course material from the local raddiwalla probably isn’t the right candidate to be learning from it in the first place. Else, chances are, he/she would either be finding a way to enrol at IIMA – or some other b-school.

Let’s face it – for 99% of the world, the upside of an MBA degree is in getting the certificate – don’t think anyone really enjoys the countless hours of midnight toil that one puts in. And if you’re not going to get a degree at the end of it, how long do you think you’ll be motivated to study through the IIMA course material that you got from your raddiwalla at dirt cheap prices?

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One of the themes running through my head through the day was about crowdsourcing of knowledge.

I have had a few conversations with people in the Education domain over the past few months and one thing seems common across all of them which follow these 3 steps -
- Hire talent
- Create intellectual property around knowledge by either reworking content or creating media
- Find customers who will pay for this content

My take on this approach is slightly different. My point of view is that, in today’s world, no one set of people, however talented, can become the best source of knowledge for any particular domain. Today, in a world where a Wikipedia exists, it is time that some of us in the education domain accept (and excitedly so) that maybe it is time to not focus on content as much as it is time to focus on the importance and methodology of delivery (and while we’re at it, look at reinventing pedagogy).

Crowdsource your knowledge from the world community – create an exciting and robust delivery system that helps real learning – create an ecosystem which facilitates this environment – ask users to subscribe and pay you for the learning that your delivery system offers – not for the content.

It is the service that you offer around educating people that will keep them coming back for more – the content of knowledge has already been created.

In simplistic terms, what I’m saying is this -

Newton’s 3 laws of motion have been part of classical mechanics for centuries. Reworking the content of those laws or presenting them in a new form isn’t a sustainable way of redefining the industry.

However, if we can find a way to use the Internet to facilitate the learning of this content -
- by simulating an experience as close as possible to the real world, or
- by redefining pedagogy to allow for quicker or longer-lasting learning
- or both
then we would have redefined the space of education.

Later on in the day, I was excited to come across Across World which seems to get exactly what I’m referring to above.

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Everyone is quoting that India has 54% of its population below the age of 25. 54% of 1.17 bn people comes to a shade over 632 million.

But before we get carried away with the potential of this population, we need to know a few more facts -

- How many are of the right age?
By right age, I mean, the right age to enter an education system that provides them the opportunities they need.

- How many of these people are too old?
We need to acknowledge that a substantial portion of this population would be between the ages of 16 to 25, a population that has not had any education till date. Are we going to provide standard education to people who have never had any? Are we equipped for that?

- In terms of education, is it possible to go backwards?
By that, I mean providing education to young adults that creates and allows economic sustenance. Once that is done, we can work backwards towards primary/secondary education.
I have a feeling it has probably never been attempted – but I don’t understand why it has to continue being so. Skillsets required in the real world for finding and keeping a job do not necessarily have to do with knowing the history of your country from 5 centuries ago or knowing that water is composed of H2O, two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. If all this isn’t necessarily required, do we really need to teach it? And teach it before anything else?

A good way to evaluate this potential population would be to map -
- industries towards which education needs to be geared, with
- education courses available for these industries, with
- durations of these education courses, with
- education qualifications required for these courses, with
- education qualifications available with the population, with
- age brackets of the population
to see what is the real potential for educating this population.

Once the above mapping is done, it will be a matter of identifying pockets of people that fit the requirements and offering them education that will help them live a better quality of life. I would personally love to be part of this mapping exercise for those who are interested in pursuing this methodology.

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Instead of setting up new education systems, are foreign educational institutions looking at overhauling the quality of the Indian education system?

By that I mean conducting a due diligence of the education system that is running in India – viz. checking it for redundancies, internal controls, accuracy, relevancy according to the latest updated knowledge and best practices being used around the world today.

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In the land grab for students, quality is bound to suffer.

Limited teaching talent will mean scalability issues – which will mean that if scale is pushed upwards, it will probably mean a drop in the quality of education being imparted.

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Can foreign universities come in and
- use knowledge
- pilot education programs
- provide proof of concept
- garner support
- create buy-in
for expensive education?

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What do we think of new age schools?

I define new-age schools as the ones that focus a lot more on extra-curricular activities than normal schools. Now that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But there are schools which take it to a different level altogether.

For starters, I believe it is becoming the norm to measure proficiency using grades not marks. My disconnect with that is that, on some level, I believe that having a spectrum of 100 marks creates more competition than the spectrum of grades from A+ to F.

But that’s not the real concern here – the concern is about schools that are okay with not having grades to measure children (because comparisons can make children feel bad about themselves) or believe in passing along 100% of students from one grade to the next (because otherwise the children who have failed at certain subjects will feel bad about being kept back in the same grade).

IMHO, this borders on mollycoddling our children, and that can never be good for them – instead we should be raising them to survive in the future world, which will be far more competitive than the one we are in today.

My views on this subject might be old-school (as they are based upon personal experiences) – however, I am more than open to hear about differing points of view so that I can understand the other side of this argument.

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How does one create thirst for knowledge in people?

One can build skills towards processing knowledge that comes one’s way – but how does one create the thirst in the first place?

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Apart from the usual things of a conducive environment and experiential learning, what else leads to true learning?

In my opinion (and this I quote from personal experience), these three things are very important (and usually missing in the Indian education system) -
- Providing students with the context of “why” is this being taught – what will the learning help them do?
- Size of the content – “how big” is the content – what is the depth of the knowledge, what levels of details are we going to go down to
- Visibility on the journey of education with timelines – “how long” will this process take (months, years)

This country has, for the longest time, drilled on the importance of learning without trying to make it enjoyable or less overwhelming – it is time that we move away from the attitude of “Do it because I’m telling you to do it” and work together with students to make this process a real two-way learning experience for both sides involved.

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Correlation between Knowledge -> Security/Instability

In my previous post, there was a table that looked at how much % of GDP was spent by different countries on Defence vis-à-vis Education. It made the point that there was a seemingly direct correlation between Knowledge/Education and Security/Instability.

My take on the same is that some of these countries are unstable not just because of less spending on education – they are unstable because the lack of spending on education means that a majority of the people do not have the skillsets to be efficient and productive and compete in a globalizing landscape – since the countries are not able to provide a minimum standard of living for its people, beyond a point that leads to instability in these regions.

Which would mean the correlation actually looks something like this -

Education/Knowledge -> Health of Economy -> Security/Instability

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As the world becomes more complex, all of us know lesser and lesser about more and more things.

Apart from the standard education that we all undergo, there is a huge aspect of learning that we need in our lives that is never taught.

I’m talking about the skillsets required to maneuver our way through life, the skillsets required to tackle difficult situations, how to manage people, how to work the system, how to best respond to events that happen to us in life.

I’m talking about the school of life.

In an increasingly complicated world, isn’t it high time that we have people out there who are imparting this wisdom throughout the world?

They say a lifetime of mistakes isn’t enough to learn all the lessons we need to know – so why don’t we start proactively learning these lessons before we end up making mistakes that teach us the hard way?

As is obvious, a lot of these learnings will be culture-specific, but we could always start with the basic lessons that are true for all people, irrespective of ethnicity or race or geography, and take it from there?

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During the course of the day, there were visual charts showing how a significant portion of Indians had the affordability levels required for a certain standard of education.

However, it was found that these charts were based on average affordability levels.

Knowing that there is a huge disparity between the rich and the poor in India, average affordability is not the right way to measure potential – as the money available with the rich will not spread to the poor to qualify them in terms of affordability.

An accurate way would be to look at median affordability to understand what is the real size of the Indian population that can afford the aforementioned standard of education.

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What is striking is that we have the world’s best education universities wanting to sell education to a poor country.

A better bet for success would be to -
- Educate people about skills that can work towards creating value
- Build products or services that require the scale of manpower (thereby taking advantage of the large population)
- Derive value by creating a market for these products

Basically, create a hybrid of academic education that works hand-in-hand with people-intensive skillsets that can add value to the producers, and the world at large.

Within manufacturing -
- skillsets could be around engineering or design – these skills can be used by people in a workshop to build things

Within IT -
- skillsets could be around design that are used to create art that is sold around the world
- digitizing the world’s information – again, people-intensive and something that would create value

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Create ICE for the Indian rural population
Make them want to stay in rural India by providing them strong Intellectual, Cultural and Educational environments

I couldn’t agree with this more. Indian cities are usually ill-planned and have been straining to support enormous migratory populations for decades.

Indians, being more family-centric than most other cultures, still have a large majority of people who believe in the adage “Home is where the heart is.” Most rural Indians do not leave home for bigger cities because they want to go live in cramped spaces in the midst of strangers. They leave home because they do not have enough worthwhile opportunities at home.

It is this problem that we need to solve – by providing them strong Intellectual and Educational environments at home. Somehow I have a feeling that strong Cultural environments already exist.

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There are thousands of foreign students who take a break and travel the world for a year. They are driven by curiosity, a desire to contribute and in some cases, a need for a change of scenery.

It would be a wonderful thing if their native countries could work out arrangements with Indian universities or the Government of India to associate their travel plans with courses that they can do when they are in India.

These courses do not have to be around standard education – they could do a Social Service course, or a project with one of the NGOs that works in a specific sector.

Apart from the fact that such arrangements would add great value to everyone involved, it would also help facilitate transfer of ideas and policies across boundaries and create a true cross-pollination of cultures that pays off in the long run.

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As of today, the Government of India has telecom operators on the back foot with respect to licenses because of the 2G spectrum scam.

In this situation, instead of cancelling licenses which it has just done, can the GOI look using this advantage by making telecom operators commit resources to build infrastructure dedicated to building delivery platforms for education.

I say this because the future of delivery, not only for education, will depend largely on the ability to deliver content using Wi-Fi technology, which cannot be a localized offering – it will have to be bridged across locations – which is where the telecom networks come in.

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One Globe 2012: Uniting Knowledge Communities: A few snippets from Day 1

At the outset, allow me to state that the content below, is in no way comprehensive towards the entire day’s proceedings as I did not sit through every session from beginning to end.

The agenda for this day’s sessions can be found here.

I have captured snippets of information that came my way, and reproduced them to the best of my memory here. Kindly excuse brevity, if any.

Opinions here are of Speakers (attributed wherever possible), unless italicized (which are mine).

In case you find any errors, feel free to leave a comment with the correction and it shall be updated.

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10:05–10:25 — Session Topic: “The Role of Education in Economic Development”

There seems to be some correlation between Economic Growth and Educational Development.
Both could go up, or one could go up while the other goes down, or both could go down.
Up-Up, Up-Down, Down-Up, Down-Down
I am not exactly sure where India lies, but my guess is, both are up – with the Economic Growth a fair bit stronger than Educational Development.

The impediments to education and economic development were stated to be as follows -
- Need government to put in place blueprints that can be built upon by private sector
- Need to build physical infrastructure
- Need to build digital infrastructure
- Need large numbers of trained human capital

Stronger impact of education seen on
- Undergrad education rather than Higher education
- Women rather than Men

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10:30–11:05 — Opening Keynote: Hon’ble Minister Kapil Sibal

Kapil Sibal, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Government of India

There are plans to set up a Meta University, a Facebook of Institutions if you will.
Universities join into a classroom where students from across the country can congregate to earn a degree.
It allows for two major advantages -
- Reduce travel time and cost
- Provide the ability to create courses for yourself

Plans in the offing
Time Horizon: 6 months: National Knowledge Network to connect 31000 colleges and 600 universities
Time Horizon: 24 to 30 months: Broadband connectivity using fiber/wireless for all villages

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11:05–11:30 — Fireside chat on “A Global Perspective to Higher Education in India”

India should look at adopting U.S. model when it comes to PPP (Public-Private Partnerships), viz. allowing trusts to be created and run by professors.

Foreign universities are expected to deposit earnest money to the tune of 11-12 million USD with Government of India.

India holds competitive advantage for U.S. – the U.S. has had knowledge economy partnerships with countries like India since Y2K.

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11:05–11:30 — Fireside chat on “A Global Perspective to Higher Education in India”

Ron Somers, President, U.S.-India Business Council

Top global education institutions -
- Have nurtured their brands for centuries
- Would want to control curriculum / faculty
- Would like to pay globalized salaries to their faculty

There is a shortage of US business leaders who understand India
They would like nothing better than for B-schools in India to create a course (X-MBA) for them

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11:30–11:55 — Session Topic : “India’s Demographic Challenge in Skills Development”

Loans for animal husbandry
75% of loan amount is interest-free
Model has sustainability – over 90% repayment

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11:55–12:20 — Session Topic : “Creating Skills for a 21st Century Knowledge Society”

Dr. Shailendra Raj Mehta (Duke University, IIM Ahmedabad)
During the 50th anniversary celebrations at IIMA in December 2011, the majority of alumni mentioned that the most important course they studied was WAC (Written Analysis & Communication).
Many of them also mentioned that the most helpful course was OB (Organizational Behaviour).
That is because, as you go higher up the Corporate ladder, 90% of problems you face are about Conflict Resolution and Stakeholder Management.

Indians do succeed in the Corporate world but success is about giving and accepting leadership.
Indians are good at accepting leadership roles, but not so great at giving leadership (aka relinquishing control).
Hence it can be said that a lot of Indians succeed well as individual performers, but not necessarily that well as part of high-impact capable teams.

Janitors assigned to faculty at IIM Ahmedabad have a 10 hour shift, out of which at the most 2 hours goes towards actual janitorial work.
They asked a janitor to play with a computer for the remaining 8 hours.
After a few days, the janitor’s first attempt at making a diagram in Microsoft Powerpoint turned out to be the most artistic rendering of a diagram Dr. SRM had ever seen.
This dawned the realization that even someone who cannot read or write can create content on a computer as it is about identifying symbols (keyboard letters in this case) and recreating them.

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11:55–12:20 — Session Topic : “Creating Skills for a 21st Century Knowledge Society”

Vocational institutes in India do not have resource generation capabilities.
Their monies end up going to state treasuries.

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11:55–12:20 — Session Topic : “Creating Skills for a 21st Century Knowledge Society”

There are 3 skillsets that matter for success in the global workplace -
- Solve problems and think critically
- Work with global teams
- Communicate
(Indian) Managers are supposed to be weak on points 2 and 3 – however, these are skillsets that can be taught.

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11:55–12:20 — Session Topic : “Creating Skills for a 21st Century Knowledge Society”

India had Taxila university in 5th century B.C. which was a confluence of learnings from 4 different cultures – Greek, Persian, Chinese and Indian.

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12:20–12:35 — Spotlight Session on “Learning to learn”

Anshul Arora, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Edvance Pre-Schools

What leads to learning?
- Comfortable environment
- The ability to provocate learning
- Activity-based experential learning

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14:00–14:25 — Session Topic: “Enabling Human Capital to Compete Globally”

At Harvard Business School, they build physical shells for cross-university dialogue between students.

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14:00–14:25 — Session Topic: “Enabling Human Capital to Compete Globally”

Spending on Defence and Education across the World

USA - D 19.0% - E 17.0%
UK  - D  5.5% - E 13.0%
Ger - D  3.5% - E 12.0%
SA  - D  4.4% - E 19.0%
UAE - D 47.0% - E 27.0%
Chn - D 17.0% - E  8.0%
Ind - D 12.0% - E  7.0%
Pak - D 17.0% - E  5.5%

USA, UK, Ger, SA – more stable
Chn, Ind, Pak – insecurities of stability
Chn, Ind, Pak – also need to realize that these countries have to serve a much larger population base

There seems to be a correlation between Knowledge -> Security / Instability.

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14:00–14:25 — Session Topic: “Enabling Human Capital to Compete Globally”

4 things required to enable human capital to compete globally -
- Curricula
- Standards
- Certification (?)
- Testing

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14:00–14:25 — Session Topic: “Enabling Human Capital to Compete Globally”

International Organization for Migration, Geneva
It is the body through which countries sign Human Resource Mobility Partnerships with each other.
Countries negotiate with each other to arrange for migration of people to places where there is unavailability of labour.

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14:00–14:25 — Session Topic: “Enabling Human Capital to Compete Globally”

Foreign national on Employment visa to India must have a minimum salary of USD 25000 per annum.

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14:25 – 14:40 — Spotlight Session on “Splicing the Discourse: Understanding the Wedges”

Saurabh Johri, Program Advisor, Observer Research Foundation

There seems to be a preference for Private Unaided Education in Indian youth today, except in the states of Tamil Nadu and Bihar.
In Tamil Nadu, which has a large reservation system, there is a high preference towards Government-Aided Education.
It is believed that the preference is largely due to affirmative action and is present largely in the female population.

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14:40-15:05 — Session Topic : “Future Cities: Physical infrastructure and design for creation of knowledge cities / hubs”

Building knowledge communities -
- Infrastructure to integrate with city
- Overlap with senior citizens for housing & support
- Active communities

There needs to be a link between
Academia -> Knowledge community -> People in the city

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14:40-15:05 — Session Topic : “Future Cities: Physical infrastructure and design for creation of knowledge cities / hubs”

Need to create (pull of) ICE for people in their cities
- Intellectual
- Cultural
- Educational

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14:40-15:05 — Session Topic : “Future Cities: Physical infrastructure and design for creation of knowledge cities / hubs”

Use existing infrastructure across time zones to recharge negative zones within a city

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16:30–16:55 — Session Topic: “University Partnership and global mobility”

Germany and India have tie-ups between their universities for joint research and aid.
However, the pressing questions that need to be answered are -
- Will the knowledge to manage funds ever come to Indian universities?
- Where is the collaboration to transfer that knowledge to Indian universities?
- Where are the University Management Training centres?
- Where are the Science University Training centres?

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16:30–16:55 — Session Topic: “University Partnership and global mobility”

National Knowledge Commission Report shows -
- Need to revise curriculum for India
- Globalize education

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16:55–17:20 — Session Topic : “Technology innovation in education”

Microsoft India
- Created a multi-mouse to enable multiple students who share a computer in class to make better use of their time and resources
- Wikibhasha can be used to translate content from English Wikipedia articles to Indian languages

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17:20–17:30 — Spotlight Session on “The K12 school landscape and ICT market in India”

Parthenon
Boutique consulting firm since 19 years
400 projects across 60 countries

Survey of Top 100 cities in India showed -
- Population willing to afford >20000 INR as annual fees
- 16 million students
- 1500 schools

Opportunities for revenue are not linear, but exponential.
Can be seen by the movement of the normal curve across a fixed vertical line of affordability.

Population willing to afford >40000 INR as annual fees.
Income levels (?) growing at 15% p.a. – slightly more than double every 5 years.
Pricing in schools is growing at 6%-7% p.a.
This shows that there is no demand/supply shortage since otherwise there would have been inflation.

Premium schools are smaller.
All things being the same, parents choose (classes with fewer children) smaller schools to allow for more personalized education.
Large schools in the context of this study are schools with approximately 400 students.
Looking at this, we can say that behaviour of parents is rational.

The study shows that success strongly depends on how quickly you scale up.
If you miss your targets in the first 1-2-3 years, then the study shows that schools are unable to recover.

Profit margins for the successful schools are at levels of 40% of surplus.

Success in running schools lies in understanding dynamics for every school you open.
In a given location, the differentiators between schools are price and curriculum.
Starting schools is, hence, a hyper-local business.

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17:30–17:40 — Spotlight Session on “Is Connectivity an Imperative for a Knowledge Society in the 21st century?”

It was found that low cost mobile handsets were unable to connect to data networks due to grey market chips.
This provided the learning that networks have to be made as simple as possible to allow connectivity for the maximum user base.

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17:40–18:15 — Session Topic : “Innovation & Inclusive Growth”

Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister, Public Information Infrastructure & Innovations

Government of India has declared 2010-2020 as the decade of Innovation.
They have institutionalized the National Innovation Council to drive the policies and execution required for this endeavor.
The NIC drills down in two forms – regional across states and into industry across disciplines (e.g. bamboo, diamond, pharma, textile, etc.).
It is said that the poor work on the problems of the rich, but there is no one solving the problems of the poor.
A fund has been set up with a corpus of INR 5 bn to help inclusive growth using innovation for the bottom of the pyramid.

USD 5 bn has been invested in creating National Knowledge Nodes on a network with a 40 GB/s network backbone.
As of today, 1000 out of the 1500 nodes are live.
This network will connect colleges from across the country and allow for creation of local content and applications.
The key will be figuring out how to use this network.

USD 6-7 bn is being invested in connecting 25000 panchayats (5 villages, or 5000 people per panchayat).
This will cover 125 mn people to the national network within the next 24 months.

A lot of this is being done to enable the infrastructure to serve the Right to Information Act.

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17:40–18:15 — Session Topic : “Innovation & Inclusive Growth”

ISIR looks at innovations across the country.
Recently, when 20 of their best innovations were evaluated, it was ascertained that 10 of these are strong enough to become businesses worth USD 1 bn each.

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17:40–18:15 — Session Topic : “Innovation & Inclusive Growth”

India will need to sustain 8%-10% economic growth for the next 20 years to help reduce disparity between -
- Rich and Poor
- Urban and Rural
- Educated and Uneducated

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17:40–18:15 — Session Topic : “Innovation & Inclusive Growth”

The success of innovation depends largely on two important levers -
- Affordability
- Scalability
We have seen the growth that happens when these two levers are managed, as has been the case with the telecom industry.

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How Google Chrome can be further improved

Over the past 15 years, I’ve used almost every browser that has come along – starting with Internet Explorer, then Netscape Navigator, then Opera, then Mozilla Firefox and then finally Google Chrome. IE was always too bulky and slow, and it amazes me that it is still the leading browser in use around the world.

If you have been through a similar progression, chances are, you’ve finally stopped at Google Chrome as your default browser. I know I have.

For anyone who uses the Internet (these days, who doesn’t?), a browser becomes one of the most critical pieces that need to work well to do justice to your experience. If you ask me, it ranks right at the top, in fact even above your connection speed – ask anyone who has struggled with slow internet connections and clunky browsers that take ages to fire up and load all the right plugins to take you where you need to go.

I consume a lot of information on the Internet. And by a lot, I mean, a lot. In the past 13 months alone, I have tagged over 1800 bookmarks using Diigo – a tool I use to keep track of anything interesting or helpful that I come across. Considering that this is over and above wading through all the information that comes my way through my Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and other feeds – you begin to get a sense as to how much information I consume.

For people like us, who consume pretty much all our news and media only through online channels, the browser’s ability to take on the load of open links becomes the most critical parameter.

So, if you’re anything like me, you would have, at any given point, 20-30 open windows in your browser, usually across different computers. Depending on what you’ve got loading in those URLs (videos, podcasts, analytics dashboards, etc) and what else you’re doing on the PC (spreadsheets, installing software, watching movies) – it can so happen that your browser and your PC both decide to simultaneously give up on you.

And that is the single most frustrating thing that could happen.

Especially if you have an OCD about reading everything that comes your way.

You can’t give up on those unread URLs because usually you don’t even remember how you got to them. They usually came up through links from uninteresting pages, which have long been closed, and hence are almost impossible to recreate.

The only thing that’s going through your mind is the knowledge that you don’t want to give up on those URLs without a fight.

I have spent minutes that turn into hours on trying to give my PC life support, just so that it is able to stay alive long enough to make the browser functional, which would allow me to just copy-paste the URLs into a Notepad text file, which can be later drawn upon for my OCD of reading.

Now Chrome does have an option of Restore when it crashes, but that doesn’t come up every time Chrome is closed with some windows open. If you were to click on the Red X at the top right corner yourself, Chrome would presume that you are okay with losing those open URLs. Even if you agree to shut it down (when prompted at a ‘software not responding’ stage – not that you were given a choice really), I believe it still does not recover those open URLs.

However, if you were to kill the process using Task Manager (from the Processes tab), it does ask you whether you want to Restore pages the next time you start Chrome.

At this point, you might realize that a lot of those open URLs (which are about to get restored) are linked through your social network logins. However, if you were to make the mistake of opening a new tab to log in to, say your Facebook, so that the restored windows can be loaded properly when you click on Restore, you are in for a nasty surprise. Google Chrome interprets your opening of a new tab as the fact that you’re not interested in restoring your earlier URLs and just makes the Restore button disappear.

Also, say your browser has crashed, and before you decide to open it again, you click on a software that asks you to register or update settings – if the software opens up your browser, again the Restore button that was supposed to be there the next time you opened the browser will not be there and your URLs will be lost forever.

Now, quickly let’s arrive at a solution for this predicament. I believe there are 2 ways in which Google Chrome can be made into a much better browser.

  • 1 – It would be fantastic if there could be a feature/plugin linked to a button (or a shortcut key) that one could use as soon as Chrome was going into heart arrest. What it would do is immediately back up the URLs for all currently opened windows (append into a pre-determined text file) so that you know your URLs are safe for the time being. Better still, instead of depending on the user to use this feature, Chrome should automatically do this as soon as it starts freezing.
  • 2 – Some of you will say that the problem I’m referring to isn’t really a problem. Chrome allows you to view the History – but if you’ve ever tried recovering 15 lost URLs using the History list, you will understand the problem that lies therein. The History list, for example, shows ALL URLs, not only the ones that were open when your browser crashed. And chances are high, that the URLs you are trying to retrieve have been opened at various stages in the past few days. And I know, that irrespective of how OCD one is about recovering lost URLs, chances are you would rather accept your losses than wade through hundreds of URLs, open the ones that seem familiar, only to realize soon enough that you don’t even know how many lost URLs you’re looking for.
  • Hence, it is imperative that the History page also has a flag against each page identifying whether the page was closed by the user -

  • Manual – can be associated to a click on the Close (X) button or a keyboard Ctrl F4 shortcut
  • Auto – page closed down when the browser program froze or abruptly ended
  • It would look something like this -

    As you can see, there are clickable links at the top that would help the user filter out the relevant History list of URLs, and from there on out, things would get much better for people like me.

    Chrome History (enhanced)