Friday, December 08, 2006

Open Source at 90 MPH -Business Week

I found this interesting article on the Businessweek site. 

Open Source at 90 MPH.

A new extension to the  "openness" idea.  Interestingly, when I was visiting universities during my job search, Dr. Roger Calontone at Michigan State made a very intriguing comment on the notion of what's really "open".  Given that the "openness" comes from the sharing of IP, he said, we could actually break down any tangible product into bits and pieces that constitute the core IP.  The openness logic that seems so obvious in software product development becomes very obvious even in traditional product settings when we reconceptualize the notion of "openness" at a more subliminal IP layer and not the product layer.

This is similar to Dr. Richard Dawkins' notion of the Selfish Gene.  It is not about the species or the organism, but it is about the "gene".  Simialrly, for openness, it is not the product, but the underlying idea or concept.

Brian Smith from Chase Bank

These days when I am at home, and our phone (the land line) rings, I am more than eager to answer the call. The reason being an opportunity to understand the BPO industry in India. You must be thinking, I am nuts. However, I urge you to try. It is an interesting experience.

For instance, today I answered the phone in the afternoon and a very Indian voice greeted me and introduced himself as Mr. Brian Smith from Chase Bank. He was trying to urge me to sign up for the credit protector service from Chase. What's funny is that I can hear so much noise in the background, so typical of an Indian call-center (I have visited one of these, and I can relate the background and settings). I could hear Indian languages being spoken, while our Mr. Smith went on with his speel. The best feature of the call is that the guy never even asked me if I am interested in the service. I let him go on for a while and then rejected the gracious offer which tried to strip me off 8 dollars a month (with a guarantee that they will protect me upto 25,000 USD if I were to die or lose my limbs :)).

I am not trying to make mockery of the thousands who get employment in the call-center industry. However, what I think funny is that Chase believes that its customers would listen if the rep had an anglicized name and a put-on accent. What's to hide? Let your customers know that it is Mr. Ritesh Gupta calling and that if Gupta calls, on the whole the costs for Chase go down, thereby allowing it to focus more on what it is good at devising financial offerings, rather than focusing on making phone calls to manage service.

I don't want a Gupta masquerading as Smith. Either I want a Smith or a Gupta. Period.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Institutions and free-markets - example

A good news clip to illustrate that economic considerations are often overruled by political and other social interests. 

BBC NEWS | Business | US drops plan to open up airlines

The overwhelming need of the US customers to have better choice, service and lower prices (aim of the free market), is apparently being run-over by the societal need for greater security.  Institutions at work ... illustrating the importance of grossly neglected view of economic sociology.

Humorous post on reservations and castes - The Rational Fool: Caste = ex

Although my views on reservations and the caste system are not aligned with the author's ideas, I found this post hilarious.
The Rational Fool: Caste = ex

Monday, December 04, 2006

Javali and Lord Rama

I came across an interesting reference in Amartya Sen's "The Argumentative Indian".  In a broad argument that stresses upon the indian pluralistic tradition, Dr. Sen discusses the heterodoxy in religious thought in ancient India.  He refers to an interesting conversation taken from the indian epic of Ramayana, between Lord Rama and Javali.  Javali is a sage who gets considerable attention in the epic as a worldly wise man with an atheistic view towards life.  I am citing from Dr. Sen's book -
[T]the adherents of Hindu politics -- especially those who are given to vandalizing places of worship of other religions -- may take Rama to be divine, but in much of the Ramayana, Rama is treated primarily as a hero -- a great 'epic hero' -- with many good qualities and some weaknesses, including a tendency to harbour suspicions about his wife Sita's faithfulness. A pundit who gets considerable space in the Ramayana, called Javali, not only does not treat Rama as God, he calls his actions 'foolish' ('especially for', as Javali puts it, 'an intelligent and wise man'). Before he is persuaded to withdraw his allegations, Javali gets time enough in the Ramayana to explain in detail that 'there is no after-world, nor any religious practice for attaining that', and that 'the injunctions about the worship of gods, sacrifice, gifts and penance have been laid down in the sastras by clever people just to rule over [other] people.
Javali, as you can see was an atheist.  He does not believe in an after-world and neither does he believe that one can attain it through religious practices.  More importantly, he is actually preaching this to Rama, who is supposed to be an incarnate of Lord Vishnu, the supreme being. To reconcile these two alternate views, of duality (major focus of the Gita) with an athesitic view can be quite a challenging one.
There is often a very constrained view of hinduism in the west - that it is a polytheistic religion.  However, hindusim is truly "pluralistic" and had allowed the blossoming of various schools of thoughts.  It was very refreshing for me to learn about an athesitic branch in hinduism.  I had known about the roots of buddhism being in Hinduism, but had never personally made the connection between the formal branch of Carvaka school with the ideas of buddhism.  Also note that buddhism is probably the only major world religion that is truly agnostic.

These Brits must be crazy!!!

It suddenly occured to me.  The brits don't have my departure record and maybe I can never travel to the UK again.  Let me explain what I am talking about.
I was in the true "firangee" land - UK, in October to interview with the London Business School for an academic position. After a couple of days of stay I was leaving from the Heathrow airport and I managed to check-in at the British Airways kisok.  I was under the impression that I would have to go through immigration and that I would get a exit stamp on my passport for the departure date.  However, after the check-in, no official verified the validity of my american visa - until I came up to the gate.  Moreover, no one made a note of my departure date.  It seemed strange to me that a country like UK which is under terrorist threat should act in such a way.  Either, they have an automated system which picks up records from the arilines or simply they don't care when foreigners are leaving the country !!! It is anyone's guess which of these could be true !!
In contrast, my experience in Singapore, during a recent trip was very different.  Before I could get to the check-in counter I faced a 15 minutes interview about my stay in the US from an official (looked singaporean to me) after which I was allowed to gte my boarding pass.
I have no explanation for why the UK system is so lenient compared to its Singaporean counterpart.  What I am more worried about is that when I enter the UK next time around . they might only see a new entry record - but no exit record !!!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

[Marketing Society] The passing of a legend - Professor Frank M. Bass, 1926-2006

The great Frank M. Bass passed away as reported by this email. Marketing PhD students will immediately recognize Dr. Bass, but for others who may happen to read this post, Dr. Bass published the first seminal paper that provided a mathematical model as to how new products (consumer durables) will be adopted by a population of consumers. Bass's simple yet elegant model can be called the catalyst - that set forth an entire field rolling - the field of market modeling. Bass' model underlies almost all sales prediction models. Phrases like "early adopters" or "innovators" and "imitators" have gained prominence in today's world. They can be understood more intuitively through the Bass model.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Popkowski-Leszczyc, Peter <>
Date: Dec 2, 2006 7:51 PM
Subject: [Marketing Society] The passing of a legend - Professor Frank M. Bass, 1926-2006

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It is with great sadness that we report to you the news that Frank. M. Bass, the Eugene McDermott Chair at the University of Texas at Dallas has passed away on December 1, 2006. Frank has been one of the founders of our field and his list of accomplishments is long. He has received many major awards, including a nomination for the Nobel price. He will in particular be remembered for his papers, especially the Bass model, published in Management Science, which has about 600 citations and is the 5th most cited article in the journal's history. He will also be remembered for the supervision of close to 60 Ph.D. students, many of whom are established researchers in the field of marketing.

His wife Portia Bass has provided information concerning Frank's funeral arrangements on his website at: (an obituary will be posted soon). A request has been made to not send any flowers; instead it was Frank's wish that contributions are made to the Frank M. Bass Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas ).

He was our friend, colleague and mentor and he will be missed a lot,

Dominique Hanssens

Don Lehmann

Bob Leone

Len Parsons

Peter T.L. Popkowski Leszczyc

Dave Reibstein

And the other 50+ Bass students

Peter T.L. Popkowski Leszczyc, Ph.D.

Institutions and free-markets

I found an intriguing debate on the blogosphere.  The original post is Gautam's post here
and Ashutosh Joglekar's rebuttal here.

My thoughts -
       The pro-free market advocates (some) confound the necessary intervention of institutions created by political governance mechanisms with anti-free market forces.  What they don't realize is that institutions that oversee the so-called "free markets" are not self-evolving structures, but are entities, often created by political and economic interests, to safeguard the interests of society in general.  Free market forces cannot operate in the absence of such institutions and their presence cannot and should not be confounded with the absence of true "free-market forces".

Ashutosh's point in his rebuttal here is valid that " What distinguishes free markets is that they give incentives to every person in their purview to gain that purchasing power. That is really the nature of the free market soul."

But, what he really misses is that this true soul does not come about itself -  but is in fact erected by the institutional forces which are often not part of this true free-market but are structures erected by non-economic interests such as the government for instance to oversee the free-market.

Left to itself, free markets are not going to solve the world's social or political problems. It would not be prudent to think that an economic solution would somehow solve these interrelated problems, by merely blowing the free-market horn.