WearFin – India in the path of innovation

fin-ring

There was a time when Indian technology industry was thriving with software services based companies and BPOs. The likes of Infosys, Wipro Technologies and TCS were major players in both these sectors earning a name amongst the world leaders as delivering the best of services in the software world. In this race to be the best, what got left out was innovation. While the facebooks and the googles and the twitters emerged as the giants in the technology world, India seemed to be content with providing those valuable services in the backdrop. The blame cannot be entirely attributed to the Indian industry alone. There is that faction of Indians who flew across the sevens seas to a land known as the silicon valley to set up shop and be recognized as the entrepreneurs of the west. Some statistics, aptly pointed out by Neesha Bapat in her article in Forbes state that, in 2012, more that 14% of the startups in the Silicon Valley were started by Indians, an astounding rise from around 7% in 1998. When Satya Nadella was appointed as the CEO of Microsoft, amongst the myriad of newspaper articles heaping praises and pointing out success stories, one article caught my eye. I was initially drawn to it through its title – Nadella as Microsoft CEO, a slap in the face of Indian System . Although I must admit that a lot of what is stated in the article can be counter argued through some of the successes that Indians have had in Indian soil, those examples are certainly far and few.

Then came the revolution. One which Shashi Tharoor, a renowned author and columnist, puts as “soft power” started to emerge. The penetration of cell phones, and the emergence of smartphones along with the “phablets” made information a commodity. Internet started to be seen as a regular household utility just like electricity and water. And with it came the thought for innovation.

Back in April 2012, Sijo Kurivila George and Kris Gopalakrishnan, the co-founder of Infosys, started a venture known as The Startup Village with a goal to keep the innovators back in India. The aim was to successfully launch 1000 companies in India by the year 2022. Add on the outbreak of crowd funding through the likes of Wishberry and Ignite Intent , the stage was set. And the play began…

In the recent CES 2014 hardware battlefield, there was one such startup from a small town in India, Kochi. This in particular aroused my curiosity, having personally spent a significant part of my life till date in this metropolitan town by the backwaters, surrounded by a wall of greenery. Fin as the founders called it, was a prototype that captured the wildest of my imaginations. The final version of this product looks even slicker, in the form of a ring worn around the thumb – a gadget that can be used to control anything that can connect via bluetooth by the flick of a finger. It was available to preorder for $99, a couple of days back in their website. The link has mysteriously disappeared now. The prospects are infinite. A little exaggerated, I know. But I always get excited when a new gadget comes into the world, as much as I meet it with a pinch of skepticism.

But what makes me even more excited is the fact that this now has opened doors to many more of those innovators in India to stay back and plant the seeds of their dream startup in those pockets of technology, those silicons valleys that are scattered across the peninsula – along the backwaters down south to the land of fortresses in the north. The future looks hazy today, but it definitely seems bright from where I look!

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Renting is bliss … sharing is divine!

It was almost a year ago that I picked up the book What’s mine is yours – a groundbreaking idea proposed by Rachel Botsman . The idea was called Collaborative Consumption – a thought that wonderfully built itself atop the social media and social networking. The booking was engaging and equally informative. Since then, I’ve always made it a point to visit the site, to pick up on the latest of the ventures that embraced this idea. And thats how I landed on Share some Sugar .

There were two things that caught my eye about this place, amidst the amazingly long list of startups. The first one is obvious – its name. But along with its name, the thought was equally impressive.There is a little bit of history there. Back in India, it was rather common to see people, who just moved into a new location, walking over to their neighbors to ask for a tablespoon of curd (yogurt)! Making yogurt at home was an absolute necessity, as it a staple side dish for every meal, including breakfast at some places. And as I navigated my way through this site, I realized that was exactly the reason for this venture as well! It was a place to rent (for a deposit or a daily rate) or share equipments at home with neighbors – a rather novel thought!

As always with these new websites, I proceeded to register. One of the nice things about the registration was that they auto created a username for you based on your first and last name. Now you do have the option to change it. However, I’ve often had trouble thinking of a user name, esp. when all the ones that I wanted were taken. So I thought that was an interesting feature to have on the registration page, as an option. Once you login, it lets you choose from a variety of items, which were neatly categorized, that you are willing to share.The list includes home furniture through tools and even apparel! I wonder how many actually rent out apparel. But it would be a good idea to have some statistical model built to trend what people commonly rent/share.

Once registered, you can go on to browse for goods that people in your neighborhood are willing to share or rent and perhaps pick one that you are in dire need of. You can also add friends through your Facebook and Twitter contacts – one of those common features in any new social networking site these days. The place is still new and a little localized at the moment as well (I was unable to find anything in my area). But I would love to see it grow into a larger community. Being a proponent of collaborative consumption, what more can make you happier than a site for more sharing through social networking!

Touch Screen walls

It’s not often that I’ve seen myself “WOWed” by a product or technology. I must admit, the last time it happened was while watching the launch of iPhone! But UBI Interactive has truly blown me away with what I just saw.

Completely unbiased by the fact that the founder and CEO of this startup was a classmate of mine back in college, the product and its potential is quite commendable. With a Microsoft Kinect and a “household” projector attached to a laptop running the ubi application, this can perhaps change the world in a lot of different ways!

Take a look at this video on what it can turn out to be …

übi interactive | Interactive Information Display enabled by übi [26.01.2012] from ubi interactive on Vimeo.

And it truly works, quite unlike its “conceptual” predecessors! Here is an actual demo!

This product has brought out the true essence of “Surface”!

A garage for startups – A tidy one at that

Continuing on with the startups, here is yet another venture, known as the Startup Garage which provides guidance in a more informal way. While they do not help you get a sponsorship like the 500 Startups, what they do offer is an open forum for a rendezvous with likeminded people who have ideas that can potentially turn into a Google or a Facebook someday.

Started by a group of Indians, the first of such meets happened in Mumbai on 18th and 19th of June 2011. If calling it a success is a bit too soon, I will say I am really impressed to read about the myriad of ideas that came out of it – from social sedia to corporate tools and even education and entrance tests. I liked the way the mentors wrote about ideas being a business and not just a product. It really gives you a different perspective. You can read more about the Garage at Mumbai at their website. As the sequels continue in two more cities – Bangalore, India (on 25th and 26th June 2011) and Pune, India (on 2nd and 3rd July), I’m sure there will be a bucket full of ideas and a truck load of entrepreneurs born, of which atleast some of them can aim for the sky and still fall on cloud number 9.

For a mere $60 for a weekend long event, you couldn’t have wished for an easier way to refuel your ambitions.

Starting a company!

Ever thought about starting a company on your own. There is no day in my life that goes by without thinking about it. Although I’ve had several ideas, most of which have been shelved or written down in one of those shabby old notepads that lay in the deepest corners of my room, I must admit, I haven’t yet done much justice to it.

And then on one of those fine sunny Sunday mornings, I chanced upon 500 Startups . Started off as a “micro venture capitalist” firm, it has grown into a startup “nurturing” firm, providing assistance with “Design, Data and Distribution” for starters who have a potential idea but who don’t entirely know where to take off from there. Mentors, with expertise in a multitude of areas including Infrastructure, Social, Travel, Engineering and eCommerce, have helped build several fledglings already including AppBistro , Payvment and SendGrid . And if you really want more, they have start up events all around the globe that can help network the local “starters”

I must say this has definitely triggered my interest to dust those old notepads and start thinking a bit more seriously about them.