Dell goes Retail?

Micheal Dell says, "Direct Marketing is a revolution, not a religion". For a company that had fostered a revolutionary business model in the computer industry, and a very successful one (for it atleast) to say this is a BIG thing.

What happened to the business model that they worshiped for almost 20 successful years? Personally, I don't think there was anything wrong with it given the fact that it gave customers customizability and configurability that was unmatched by competitors. They have been market leaders for the last many years, till recently when their woes started pouring in the form of battery recalls, laptops bursting into flames, SEC inquiries. At the same time HP has been doing great and has been continuously eating into Dell's market share.

Dell's latest act almost seems like an act of desperation, a need to garner more visibility and a means to take on competitors head on in their own space. Dell might come out with it's own retail outlets like what Apple has or just sit side by side on a BestBuy shelf along with the HP's, Sony's etc...whatever it is, I think it will be a good move for Dell. If it can contain costs and still sell for the same price on the shelves, it can beat the punch out of the competitors...sometimes, being pushed into a corner brings out the best in us...hope that it does that for DELL!

Private Equity Acquisitions

What's up with these private equity firms? They seem to be on an acquisition spree lately..Acquiring startups is one thing, but acquiring companies whose market cap is in the 9 "0's" is just something else. I would have been surprised seeing one such deal every year, but this year is a totally different story...Qantas ($8.7 billion), Hertz ($15 billion), Clear Channel Communications, Sabre Holdings, Chrysler, Reuters, AllTel etc have all been targets of the same. DOW almost came under the radar and I think it is still under it :).

So, why do these private equity firms acquire these monoliths? Well, money is ofcourse the reason, but wouldn't it have been wise to buy them when the market cap of these companies was lower than current? Dow and NASDAQ are riding all time highs almost..couldn't they have satisfied their thirst with other start-up/midsize companies? Is there a lot of money floating in the market? Probably true, looking at how dollar is faring against other currencies...There are a couple of other reasons as cited by Professor Jacob H. Schiff (Investment Banking at Harvard Business School) here. Some excerpts below..

* An influx of money on the equity side from pension funds and overseas investors is helping create an explosion of LBOs.
* Hedge funds have joined banks as major providers of debt, creating a market with more favorable terms for investors.
* Although there have been deals that have gone sour, the private equity boom can be seen as mostly beneficial for both investors and the companies involved.

The modus operandi for Private equity firms acquiring large public organizations is something like this..
Public companies are acquired and then financial engineering is applied to restructure the companies. They are then sold to other private equity firms or they go public again. The profits on such deals can be huge and there are also massive fees that the private equity firms collect from the companies they acquire.

So, prime targets are basically companies that have a lot of potential, but are bogged down by their own culture and systems or probably just the way they do things..Private Equity firms inject new management too in the hope of steering the newly acquired elephant onto the right road. The risk is high (especially with the impression that re-engineered companies often carry an unreasonable price tag), but the returns are well worth it...

Well, just hope that these big games are beneficial to all involved, especially since I am in the midst of one :)


Digital Identity- What's in a name

These are the days where we spend more time virtually than really...we make relationships online, read news online, play games with strangers online, almost work online too...imagine having to work without Google...can you? I cannot!! Can't live without all the help from there...message boards, user groups, tutorials and many more! Such is the importance of that world...Not just work, our personal life seems to be trending towards it too...social networking consuming tonnes of time, not to forget instant messengers (email is almost a passe now :))...We spend so much time that we almost establish a parallel personality there which may or may not be coherent with what you do outside (well, in the time left after all this!!)...What scares me though is this...Employers have started noticing the importance of all this and almost do a profile search on your name in Google before they hire you....isn't that an easy way to find out who you are? For sure yes...Well, they have a good chance of finding out who I am "online" :)..

Goods and bads with that approach though for people like me...I have a very common first name "Vijay"...didn't realise my last name was common too...one fine day, I decided to do some celebrity surfing and put in the name "Vijay Challa" on Google and what do I get back??...a totally different Vijay Challa from some company called OptionMatrix...this person is into Marketing and has conveniently splashed his name all across the internet...so now, is that me? Heck not! But, do I have to live with this...Well, yes..and will my potential employers confuse him to be me...quite possibly!! And what options do I have....Well, almost none except for establishing my own fiefdom...the struggle begins now!! I have to over power his identity with mine :)...

That brings me to the David Smith's, Chang's and the Srinivas's ... what options do they have...Well, how about a name change ?


Hackalacious! Heck, what's that ... well, that's just a word I coined a minute back...add hack to delicious and that is what you get :)...used the same name pattern that we used for our Hackday project..we called it Profilicious, a combination of Profiles and Delicious...all credit to Chuck, my manager's manager for coming up with that name...

It is a challenge to come up with something on a hack day and it is a bigger challenge if you have to do it with your manager's manager and even bigger if you are new to the group and the biggest when you hardly know anything about what you are doing, but any challenge is worth taking if it is interesting :)..This one was and had the added opportunity that I could know my superior better, so I just jumped into it..Our plan was to build a tagging engine for Travel users on RoR..Ruby on Rails. I always had intentions of working on Ruby on Rails, but never had the opportunity to...now was my time..the challenge was to learn all this in 4 hours without any knowledge of Smalltalk or any other scripting language and then apply the same towards building our application ..

Well, I will say one thing...me was not a big success building the application..Chuck almost did it single-handedly..I helped in setting some direction, arranging data and some QA and kept Chuck on his tasks and tried learning RoR all the while...a total Role Reversal....he was amazing and almost accomplished what we had set out to do...and all that single-handedly...no mean task for any developer, greatly done by a newbie (he himself was just 10 days into this) and for a person at his level, his skills were just amazing! Anyways, back to RoR...it's an amazing piece of work...am learning more by the day and am surprised at it's compact, explosive power...creates tables on the fly, inserts into n tables with just 1 line of code..can write a full-fledged application in just 21 lines...Man, it is just wonderful...very difficult to describe...only drawback, you have to adhere to some strict naming conventions to make all this happens but well it is an interesting way to program and really asks for a perfectionist to perform!!

Ruby has been red-hot right right since it's inception (somewhere in Japan I believe) and it just seems to be getting better by the day...Rails is even making it nearer to the developer community with it's in-built MVC architecture and ORM (ActiveMapper, I think that is what it is called) and if it is integrated into the JDK, no beating it! Me, am totally impressed with it and will build an app just for the he(a)ck of it ...if you have been thinking about using it but haven't gathered enough energy and enthusiasm to pick it up like I did earlier, just shake yourself..YOU ARE MISSING OUT ON SOMETHING !!!!!


From the land of snake charmers ...

Even after India lands people on the moon, even after India sells it's missiles (BrahMos), even after India has the second fastest growing economy, even after Indian rupee races against the dollar like a mad dog, it still is known for it's elephants, snake charmers, Taj Mahal and it's cattled roads! Well, now we are known for accented call centers and for stealing the buck from an American pocket under the name of offshoring, but what happened to what we bring to the table ??

Last week was a pleasant surprise to me and probably an eye-opener to a few who saw us in a different light...We had our Hack Day on Thursday and our presentations on Friday..It was time for the wizards without their hats to showcase their personality, their talent with full freedom..well, just for one day though...brains were put to great use, mid-night oil burnt, pizzas devoured, eyes swelled and brains froze but what came out was just worth it and a lot more...dreams were built and shattered in a day...some very interesting ideas came out...we had ideas on pipes, tagging, very interesting mash-ups, recommendation engines, scatter charts, blogography, some hacks on our green screen (infact, our Green screen partners finished 11 hacks overnight...)..they won the Houdini award!! Whoever said it was difficult and time consuming to code on TPF might have got a smack on their face! If you know your way, you can drive through a flurry of bullets :D..these guys have been around for atleast 20 years and can make a parallel Sabre if they wanted to :)..to me, the best application was the Flex space app that promised to bring some order to the Flex space chaos going around town!! 21 teams participated and every idea was totally different from the other and the best part ..... >

MORE THAN 50% OF THE TEAMS WERE INDIAN/HAD INDIANS...so much for coming from the world of snake charmers!!