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|INFOTECH INDIA | Tech Briefs:
India Will be Big Technology Innovator in Next Decade | India’s Version of Google Earth Causes Security Worries | INFOSYS: U.S. Acquisitions | TCS: Cutting Costs | HP: Making Notebooks | SANDISK: Growth in India | SATYAM: Process Unchanged | Brisk Business
India Will be Big Technology Innovator in Next Decade
India will be a big innovator in the coming decade, according to a respected technology analyst. Jason Pontin, editor and publisher of MIT’s Technology Review, says that India is going to dominate innovation in the near future.
The magazine has launched an edition in India. “I want to be the first to tell the world about the action in the labs here,” says Potin.
At EmTech2009, an emerging technologies conclave recently hosted in New Delhi by Technology Review and CyberMedia, the forecast is that India’s knowledge prowess will extend beyond information technology.
Areas where India is seen making major inroads include health care, education, biomaterials and nanotechnology. From being a service providing nation, India is finally heralding its arrival as a knowledge-creating nation.
Glimpses of how technology that is developed by Indians is already empowering and enabling millions were provided at the conclave. Pontin talked about how Technology Review’s annual list of technologists who could change the world is increasingly being dominated by Indians.
In 2004, there was Vikram Sheel Kumar, founder of Dimagi — a unique combination of engineering and medicine. Kumar is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and Harvard Medical School. His software products have encouraged compliance from diabetic patients and removed stigma from HIV/AIDS testing.
Then in 2007, Tapan Pareek’s work, which helped Kerala fishermen keep track of market prices on their cell phones, was highlighted. This year, it’s the turn of computer science professor Vivek Pai who has devised technology that will help store Web content to enable poor students in developing nations beat bad net connections.
Analysts say conventional Western high technology companies are too hidebound by constraints caused by catering to a mature, developed market which are not a comfortable fit for millions in developing society, where today’s engines of economic growth lie.
India’s Version of Google Earth Causes Security Worries
India is launching its own version of Google Earth for urban planning, officials said, amid worries that it could be misused after the Mumbai attacks probe showed militants had studied Google images of targets. India’s version of Google Earth, called Bhuvan, is a Web-based service developed by India’s National Remote Sensing Centre.
The service is aimed at helping scientists, town planners and administrators in areas of disaster management as well, officials said. It is expected to go one better than Google Earth, helping viewers gauge the soil type and ground water potential across the mainland with high resolution images and data from satellites.
“We are working with the government for a 2.5 meter (7 feet) resolution,” NRSC director V. Jayaraman told Reuters from Hyderabad. “We’ll be putting a lot of thematic information like land use, ground water potential and soil types, which are not available on Google Earth,” another NRSC scientist said on conditions of anonymity, as he is not authorized to speak.
But there are security concerns that Bhuvan could be misused because usage would be free. “Giving satellite images to everyone will obviously have some kind of a security impact,” said Ajai Sahni of New Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management. “There is a possibility of misuse of such technology,” Sahni said.
The lone surviving gunman of the Mumbai attacks, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, told interrogators that all 10 gunmen were shown Google images of the locations they attacked in the country’s financial capital during their training, officials said.
INFOSYS: U.S. Acquisitions
Indian software giant Infosys Technologies expects to find acquisition opportunities in the U.S. during the downturn, according to co-chairman Nandan Nilekani.
“Acquisitions will definitely be very accessible in this market from a price point of view,” Nilekani told the Wall Street Journal in an interview. “If it makes sense, we’ll do it.”
Companies that operate in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals sectors might make particularly attractive targets, he said, adding that Infosys has $2 billion in cash and no debt.
In the interview, Nilekani reiterated Infosys’s earlier guidance of about 12 percent revenue growth for the fiscal year ending March 31. That would be a sharp deceleration from growth of 35 percent, as measured by the U.S. accounting rules, in the year ended March 31, 2008.
Nilekani told the Journal that potential customers are holding back both because of the economic crisis and a rise in protectionist sentiment.
On the economic crisis, Nilekani said: “I’ve never seen this level of lack of clarity.” He said executives are “more focused on short-term tactical issues” than making bigger decisions about outsourcing.
In response, Nilekani said Infosys is working with customers on alternative payment arrangements, including some that would link fees to business results. Other customers are asking to pay on a per-transaction basis, rather than a lump sum for a system.
Nilekani said rising protectionist sentiment in the U.S. also is affecting customers’ decision-making about outsourcing.
“Political issues have become more pre-eminent in our conversations,” he added.
Partly for that reason, he told the Journal that he does not know whether more U.S. firms will lay off domestic workers and move more jobs to India, as computer giant IBM plans to do, Nilekani said.
TCS: Cutting Costs
Tata Consultancy Services has adopted measures like avoiding travel where possible, and moving people from abroad to India to cut costs, a senior official of the company said in Hyderabad.
“These are difficult times. One of the things we have increased is the number of video conferences between cities in India . . . So we are making use of earlier infrastructure to a greater extent than before,” TCS executive vice-president Kesav Nori said.
“We are avoiding travel, using telephone and telephonic conversations, Web casting . . . All these have increased internally. There is a greater move from people onsite to offshore,” he said.
There is also great emphasis on making people more productive, Nori said.
Replying to a query, he said the commitments on campus recruitments made by the company will be honored.
“All the campus recruitments have been made, (and) they will be honored. They (the appointments) will be staggered because they the people) have to join our training facilities. TCS . . . is not there to do people out of jobs, but it wants everybody to become more productive,” he said.
Nori was speaking on the sidelines of a function where the Computer-Based Functional Literacy was launched at the office of the city’s prominent Urdu daily Siasat.
HP: Making Notebooks
The world’s leading desktop PC and notebook vendor by market share Hewlett-Packard, has started manufacturing business notebooks in India.
HP feels a local unit will help it to service its sales channel and clients faster and also provide flexibility to its supply chain in India. The business notebook manufacturing line has been set up in HP’s Pantnagar facility. This is the first lime that HP has started notebook manufacturing in India.
HP has an array of business notebooks in India which are currently sold at a price upwards of Rs. 24,990. “We have recently started production of business notebooks in India. The decision is based on the huge market potential and the need to be closer to our sales channel,” HP India’s country manager Anurag Arora told the Economic Times.
While HP did not divulge the investment in its notebook line and the capacity, the company has made an initial investment of about Rs 100 crore in the Pantnagar facility. The unit became operational in 2006 and has an installed annual capacity of 5.7 million units. HP is producing around 1 million computers from this facility.
“The business notebook category is a big segment for HP in India. It has widespread usage in the education field, IT, government, small and medium businesses and the manufacturing sector. These sectors are adopting mobility rapidly and notebooks are positioned as a productivity enhancement tool,” said Arora.
HP has indicated that the business notebooks segment in India is much less impacted than in other markets.
SANDISK: Growth in India
Sandisk Corporation, the inventor of flash storage cards and also its largest supplier in the world, has identified India as one of its prime markets for growth. While the U.S.-based company has a big presence in the mobile phone and memory card markets, it now plans to create a market for USB backup drives and solid-state drives in the country. While USB backup drives will be available in the Indian retail market, SSD will initially be an OEM product for computer manufacturers. However, SanDisk will evaluate later the possibility of launching SSD in the Indian retail market.
The company aims to promote SSD as an alternative to magnetic hard drives currently used in computers.
SanDisk country manager for India and SAARC Manisha Sood said that SSD laptops will soon be launched by one of the computer vendors in India. “Research firm Gartner has projected that one in five computing devices will have SSDs by 2011-12,” she said.
SSD are said to make laptops more efficient and lighter.
On the other hand, USB backup drives will allow consumers to backup their entire PC data conveniently. This product will be available between 8GB to 64 GB capacity and is priced between $39.99 and $199.99 in the US. “There is a growing demand in India for high-capacity USB drives with safety enhancements to ensure security of data and content sharing. USBs are seeing an unprecedented demand in India from this year,” said Sood.
SATYAM: Process Unchanged
The government-appointed board of Satyam Computer Services has ruled out any change in the bidding process, even as the B.K. Modi-promoted Spice group threatened to pull out of the race to buy the scam-hit firm, citing lack of transparency.
The Spice group wanted the board to disclose the identity of qualified suitors, preferred an e-auction and was against a second round of shortlisting of bidders, said Preethi Malhotra, director of Spice Innovation Technologies, a special purpose vehicle floated by the Spice group to buy Satyam.
Group chairman B.K. Modi told ET he was still awaiting a reply from Justice S.P. Bharucha, former chief justice of India, who is overseeing the bidding process. But the Satyam board will not yield to Modi’s demand, said a person familiar with the development. Another suitor for the beleaguered IT firm, Tech Mahindra, kicked off its due diligence March 27. The company, an arm of the Mahindra group, is right now focused only on the telecom vertical. The acquisition will help Tech Mahindra diversify into other lucrative business segments such as retail, manufacturing, pharma and healthcare.
A.S. Murty, chief executive officer of Satyam, and his team gave detailed presentations on the firm’s business and its revenue streams. Tech Mahindra was also given a list of fixed assets of the company and its order book position from top clients.
Software product companies catering to domestic telecom and healthcare firms continue to see robust demand for their solutions, even as their counterparts focused on the top export markets of U.S. and Europe are coping with the tightened budgets of their large customers.
According to a recent Nasscom study, there are 600-700 software product companies in India with combined revenues of nearly $1.4 billion last year. The study says that revenues could potentially touch $9.5-12 billion by 2015. At a time when their bigger software services rivals are estimated to grow by around 16 percent this year, smaller companies, such as Subex and Srishti, will grow their business by at least 22 percent in 2009.
For instance, Srishti Software, which offers web publishing solutions, signed about $10 million worth of contracts last year. “Indian software products are very cost competitive at a time when budgets are shrinking,” said Ajay Shankar Sharma, chief executive of Srishti.
Other product firms, like Brio Telecom, continue to receive more business enquiries in India. “We are receiving business enquiries every week,” said Harish Kolar, managing director of the company.