Prognostications and other thoughts

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Thumb day 2

So this is what it looks like on Tuesday. Amazing how the human body fixes itself.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Smashed Thumb

Sunday, 7/24, just back from vacation, slammed a cordless screwdriver right in to my thumb. It smashed through the nail and was trying to go out the other side; there is a blood blister behind the "area of impact". Gawd this is gross. Throbs like a mofo.

King's Beach (Lake Tahoe) Sewage Spill

On vacation in Tahoe, staying near Kings Beach, saddened to hear of this sewage spill. We swam there the day before the spill.

Some idiot was drilling holes to put in a pier and cut in to a 14" sewage line. Raw human waste was pumped straight out on to the beach and in the beautiful water. Tahoe's water is so pure, it's the drinking water source just 1 mile from the spill.

Hopefully this doesn't contribute to the eutrophication (greening) of the lake too substantially.

Sadly, the Keep Tahoe Blue website doesn't mention the impact or what you can do to help.

Q2 Earnings

Yahoo 7/19
Ebay 7/20
Googl4 7/21

Yahoo was first to announce and stock price got hit immediately with a 10% drop.
Ebay has rebounded, Google dropped 2-5%. Amazing that Yahoo net income is so high.

Gross Revenues
Google: 1.384 billion
Yahoo: $1.253 billion
Ebay: $1.09 billion

Net Income
Yahoo: $755 million
Google: $343 million
Ebay: $291.6 million

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Visit to India

I visited India from June 26-July 1st. First off, the trip is brutal-31 hours from SFO to Bangalore. We did have the good fortune of flying business class (called "Raffles" on Singapore Airlines). Huge seats that reclined like beds, complete with DVD/TV and over 60 channels to keep the boredom away. Great plane food, too. We had a short stop in Korea--the Seoul Airport featured a Yahoo! Internet Cafe and these video phones. I wonder if they work?
In any case, the purpose was to check out our Bangalore office; they specialize in managining our "BPO" or business process outsourcing, worldwide site operations, and R&D for new projects.

Bangalore's airport was a bit underwhelming; this picture is where you meet your ride or catch a cab. Immediately, poor little "untouchables" were tapping on us, asking for $. In any case, we had a driver, arranged by the hotel. He whisked us away immediately into a stream of traffic. The traffic there is symbolic of the city-huge growth, lots of excitement, but a lot of acceptance as well. Meaning on a two lane road, 3-wheeled auto rickshaws, bicycles, buses, cars, horse-drawn carts, and motorcycles all "share" the road simulatenously. There is a fluid weaving in and out of lanes in a stop and go rhythm, punctuated by incessant honks. At stop lights, the 2.5 lanes get swollen like the mouth of a river with motorists filling every nook and cranny. On some roads, there is no divider, so faster cars on the outside simply drive into oncoming traffic then come back round. This picture shows how insanely close you get to oncoming traffic. Oh, and there is a cow in the shot as well. Cows are considered sacred in the Hindu religion-and they wander with impunity throughout the streets and sidwalks. Apparently they get milked in the morning then are free to roam and graze all day--they come back for din-din and sleep in the evening; I think this is "until the cows come home" comes from! Back to the traffic-despite the sheer terror of driving within inches of other cars and madness, there is a harmony and smoothness to it. It must be because these folks have learned to cope with their exploding population and to cooperate--to make life easier. It's pretty amazing considering how relatively easy we have it in the US--yet we have regular "road rage" incidents.

Bangalore is called the Garden City as well as Silicon Valley of India. In addition to the surprisingly moderate temps (not very humid, 75-85 degrees) it is remarkable how green it is--roads are lined with trees and there intermittent spots of very lush areas. The city is at odds with growth-streets are full of potholes and the sidewalks are horribly uneven with chunks of rocks uprooted--as if an earthquake just happened. Electricity is prone to brief sudden outages as well that last for a few seconds.
One sad trend is the use of plastic for bottled water. There is, apparently, no recycling program and these bottles simply get left. Here is a picture of them bobbing at the Gateway to India.

We stayed at the Hotel Oberoi-a very nice hotel. I ran every day on the treadmill and even swam in the pool. The restaurant there featured freshly cooked indian fare-breads and curried meat were made to order. It was the freshest, most amazing Indian food I've had. There is a difference between the US and India in that regard-the spices are much "brighter" tasting there-obviously but you really notice how the flavors pop.

Yahoo's Bangalore office was buzzing with activity. Being removed from sillycon valley, they seem to have a more cut and dry perspective of the web and especially the competition between Yahoo and Google. In fact, there is a sort of "arms war" going on in Bangalore--who can hire the top talent from this awesome resource of engineers. Yahoo needs to establish itself as a leader in technology and innovation--and a big part of that needs to come from the World's tech headquarters. Interestingly, the yahoo office there is set up to do just that. There is an R&D arm that is developing very cool new products for use in the US.
There is an incredible sense of urgency and focus to the Bangalore office; being there has actually inspired me more. This is a great company with enormous potential.

Outsourcing. This word used to be a dirty word. Now it's just common business practice. I have to think that both US and Indian companies benefit--it's a symbiotic relationship. And some of these companies become world powerhouses. One of them, Infosys has a market cap of 20.7 billion$ and is traded on the NYSE. This company recently engineered the flight software for the largest commercial jet plane made by Airbus. When infosys was created in 1999, they built out a whole new campus and called it "Electric City", similar to how Lockheed "created" Sunnyvale. The campus is huge--and is visited by heads of state and commerce. There are trees planted there with the names of such noteries. We saw trees for Balmer, Gates, and Bill Clinton. Infosys employs 13,000 people at this campus alone! We also visited with other vendors; one meeting we had from 7-9PM. We toured the "factory" which had 2000 people busily taking or making calls and doing live technical support for companies such as Citibank and Security is very important for outsourcing--as user data is being exposed. There were always armed security agents and complex levels of security needed to access different areas. They also personalize each area to the account being managed to create a specialized campaign where outsourced employees feel truly like an extension of the company -- and to avoid compromising data integrity. Endemic to outsourcing though is what's called "employee attrition". Data entry is the gateway to bigger more skilled jobs so the attrition rate is 50-60%. Companies we talked to had various tactics for retention--from aggressive salary incentives to weekly prizes. They would all claim "30% retention". Imagine a staff of 2000-and having to hire 600 new people every month just to break even-let alone grow.

Investing in India. Yep, catch a ride on the wave of the future! India has 1 billion people who are competing to get ahead. Here is snippet from Outlook Magazine:
India today faces an energy crisis--last year it imported over 105 million tons of crude oil at a cost of over $30 billion, and it had power shortages of over the population increases, India will add the population of the US in the next 15 years. India's energy consumption per capita is 1/2 that of China and 1/20th that of the US. ..India's energy needs will double by 2020 and we'll require crude oil imports almost 300% present levels--and that at a cost equal to the present total foreign exchange reserves of the country.
India has oil reserves at present production levels only for 19 years, gas for 28 years, and coal for 230 years. (For comparison, the world has 41 years of oil and 67 years for gas)

In other words, identify who are the major distributors for oil/gas/coal in India.
Additionally, as India grows, I also think that the basics are very important. As basic as BOTTLED WATER. There will also be waves of consumerism as this country flies in to the modern world-already cell phones are ubiquitous there, even in a Shantytown, you can see them using them.
One company that seems to have a monopoly of sorts there is United Breweries, makers of Kingfisher Beer. They are about to launch a new airline. Curiously, another airline has just got off the ground, called Jet Airways. What do these companies know that US airlines don't?

Mumbai. Bangalore was a fantastic experience. Despite the traffic and the squalor of the untouchables, the city has enormous energy and purpose. Too bad we went to Mumbai. Maybe we were just too tired or simply didn't have the same 5-star accomodations, but it wasn't as great an experience. Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) is near the Arabic Ocean and is very humid and hotter than Bangalore. The roads are nicer and there are larger autos on them but still the insane crowding. Our hotel, the Sun and Sand, a self-proclaimed as "5-star" was undergoing major renovation. Regardless, the rooms were like a motel 6 and sheets were wet with humidity. ConnieAlice asked to be transfered to another room after discovering a huge cockroach. The built-in shoppes featured some seamy looking characters, including a young man who was wearing heavy eyeshade and lipstick. Outside, the deck was being completely gutted but it overlooked the ocean which was ripping in the wind. Unfortunately, the beach was littered with trash. We did do some sightseeing, though I admit I don't know much about the History of the Gateway to India.

Shantytowns. The saddest part of the trip though was coming back through miles and miles of shantytowns.
These are mere shacks that families survive in. Made of tin, wood, and plastic sheeting, truly depressing. Little kids running naked and relieving themselves right in the street. There was some feeling of hope though-at 5PM it appears that is a common time to "take a bath" as many people were soaping up in the street. Though about as crude as camping, at least they are getting clean for dinner and the next day ahead. Hopefully there is room for them as India grows into the 20th century.

For more photos, check here. And see David Beach's excellent blog and photos.