I recently read the “It Happened in
India”
book. It is the story of Kishore
Biyani, the man who created Pantaloons, Big Bazaar,
Bangalore/Hyderabad Central, EZone, and much much more – effectively,
the one person who made retailing a roaring success in India and who
had envisioned it much before anyone else dared to even think about
it.

I had first known about the book when glancing over Ashish’s book
review
,
and so when I happened to see it in a book store, I had to buy it.
I was most surprised to see the price of just Rs.99. Later, I realized
that this was true to the philosophies behind all the businesses that
Kishore Biyani has built till now – “value for money”.

It Happened in India - book cover

I have to admit that I found the first half of the book to be boring.
I mean listening to ten different people eulogizing Kishore Biyani can
get really tedious.

The second half gets really interesting – about how KB (that’s Kishore
Biyani for the rest of us) takes pride in doing things in an
India-centric manner and creating strategies that are derived from the
Indian mindset, the poignant motto “Rewrite Rules. Retain
Values.”
, about how
they use the concept of “memetics” to design what kind of products to
stock in their stores, the various retail
formats
they created after
analyzing the traditional bazaars, about the various people involved
and the viewpoints they brought in, and so on. I found it fascinating
that people actually think to such deep levels, and all this to try to
understand what the customer wants, many times even before the
customer themselves know it.

One of the most amusing sentences was his Time Pass Theory:

I interpret life very differently and I have this belief that we all
come to this world to kill time. Therefore, we pick up some activity
that we like doing and call it our profession. I call this the Time
Pass theory.

One of my favorite passages in the book was from the last chapter of
the book:

The last century marked the transition from the industrial economy
to the ‘knowledge economy.’ However, within a few decades of the
knowledge economy, we are again witnessing a major shift.

Knowledge as we know it is being commoditised. What was once central
to organisations – systems, processes and much of the left-brain,
digitised analytical work associated with knowledge – is being
outsourced. The most successful organisations in this new era are
the ones that harness ideas, creativity and innovation to generate
top-line growth.

The central objective for earlier businesses was to bring in
stability and consolidation. They were built to enforce order.
However, in the new era where nothing remains constant, the dominant
theme for businesses need to be speed and imagination. Going
forward, companies will be lucky if they can write a five year plan
for their business.

For organisations to survive and succeed in the Creative Economy,
innovation has to take centre stage. Soon, the nature of innovation
will also change and organisations will have to keep up with that.
Macro-innovation, like a new technology, a new product or a new
business model will continue to be important. But what will become
far more important and decisive is micro-innovation – the ideas and
imagination driving day-to-day innovations based on how well a
company pre-empts its customers’ changing needs and consumption
patterns.

The new macro-differentiator can be design. Design is helping
companies to sell differentiated experiences and solutions that
connect with the consumer’s emotions. It’s no longer about selling
products and services alone. Nor is it just about completing
transactions. Every time a customer walks in, it is an opportunity
to build a relationship and invite the customer to become a part of
the transformational scenario. Design management is helping us
position the customer at the centre of every decision we take and
also operate with true entrepreneurial spirit.

It is proven fact that diversity leads to creativity. From popular
culture to sport, diversity has helped teams perform better. In
corporations too, diversity has to be brought in. That is why we
have begun to develop cross-functional teams. Having swarms of male
management graduates, engineers and accountants isn’t good enough.
We need more anthropologists, ethnographers, social scientists and
most importantly, more women to be part of every team within the
organisation.

It cannot be a zero-sum game anymore. We need to create win-win-win
scenarios – where we can win, our business partners can win and the
customer can win.

Another interesting passage that I liked was where he describes
himself as the creator and destroyer (and re-creator) of all that he
builds – he doesn’t believe in preserving because that’s when the
company starts stagnating. So, every few years, KB changes their
entire organization structure to adapt to the current and future
environments, and that’s why they now have a new name “Future
Group”
:

“Future� – the word which signifies optimism, growth, achievement,
strength, beauty, rewards and perfection. Future encourages us to
explore areas yet unexplored, write rules yet unwritten; create new
opportunities and new successes. To strive for a glorious future
brings to us our strength, our ability to learn, unlearn and
re-learn, our ability to evolve.

We, in Future Group, will not wait for the Future to unfold itself
but create future scenarios in the consumer space and facilitate
consumption because consumption is development. Thereby, we will
effect socio-economic development for our customers, employees,
shareholders, associates and partners.

It all happened (and is happening) in India :)

It was a crazy 4 day trip. Crazy because it was 8 related families going
together, that’s a total of 23 people. 23. It should be easy to
imagine the cacophony that followed…

The highlights of the trip was something like this: sultry mumbai
atmosphere, hare krishna mandir, watching dabbawallas, mouth watering
vada pav, fantastic four part 2, running on the beach and wide mumbai
roads at 4.30 am, mumbai darshan, planetarium, aquarium, museum,
marine drive, catching two buses and a local train and a boat to reach
essel world, water rides in the rain in water kingdom, rain dance to
bollywood songs, finding ice skating easy, jostling for life in local
trains, lonavala, famous lonavala chikki, disappointed by khandala,
air deccan flights, two days of sleep after coming back home.

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Flex 3 beta 1 is out, and along with it something that I’ve been part of – the AdvancedDataGrid component.

An example built using the AdvancedDataGrid is embedded below (it is a SWF file, requires Flash Player 9 for viewing):

Notice the tree view within a grid – that alone is a feature not found easily. On top of that, notice that there is a ‘total’ row in each of the categories of planets (click on the arrow to unfold a branch) – there are two aspects to this, first the summary (i.e. the total) is automatically calculated using a Collections API we have built, and secondly, you can specify a custom SummaryRenderer to display it any way you want, and in our case we are using column spanning so that it spans over the entire row. Now try doing that with your UI framework!

To understand what more you can do with AdvancedDataGrid, do read our writeup with lots of example code. Unfortunately, the live samples are not inline in the writeup (as we had originally written), you have to download them separately. You can also watch a video demonstration of AdvancedDataGrid. I hope this gives an inkling about the wide range of features and functionality in the AdvancedDataGrid.

Working on AdvancedDataGrid has been fun for me, mostly because of Sreenivas and Sameer, my teammates, who taught me most of what I have learnt about Flex.

And as someone commented on Ted’s post featuring AdvancedDataGrid:

OK, the workflow and the code enhancements were nice, but not enough to get me excited. But now I totally want to get my hands on that AdvancedDataGrid!

I read the iCon
book

recently and have been wondering what makes people (like me) so
fascinated about Steve Jobs?

  • He didn’t create any great technology or product, it was people who
    worked with him who did all that, for example, Steve Wozniak and
    John Lasseter.
  • He was a leader, a manager, that was his role. He’s an inspiring
    leader, is that why he’s admired?
  • Or is it because he’s ruthless in executing his visions and ideas?
  • Or is it because he gives such enrapturing keynote speeches that
    they are now called “Stevenotes”?

I guess it just goes to show that he’s a man of many contradictions.

The best example that I’ve come across of how he can inspire people is
his commencement
speech

at Stanford University in 2005 (the official video is available for
download using
iTunes
).
This speech was so powerful that I know of one friend who quit his job
after hearing that speech and decided to go chase his dreams. That was
a huge risk but guess what, he’s doing much better than before now.

The book has some interesting accounts of how Steve came to India in
search of “truth”, wore a lungi, went travelling in cities and
deserts, and even meeting a baba in the Himalayas (which itself is
quite a story). Another story was how he hung out with his New Age
buddies at an apple farm in Oregon, which is eventually how the
company was named Apple. Then there are the accounts of how Steve
demanded absolute loyalty from his friends to accounts of his taste in
the kind of ads that Apple made
and so on. It was a good read.

The bottom line is that he led Apple and Pixar and collectively
changed three major industries for the better – the computer industry,
the animated movies industry and the music industry. And he has
battled cancer and survived. All this in a single lifetime. And he’s
only fifty. That’s why I admire him so much.

Shreyas, Gaurav and the gang have
relaunched RadioVeRVe
and it now rocks even more than before!

Look out for the new RadioVeRVe!

Things they haven’t changed:

  • They play music by independent bands from India. That’s right, these
    are all Indian bands.

Things I liked:

  • The new look feels good and is intuitive. How’d he do that? Hats off
    to Ganesh Rao.
  • Amazing list of channels – from Rock, Metal, Easy to Classical
    (carnatic!) and Konkani
  • We can now play the radio from within the browser.
  • Each song is accompanied with info about the band on the right side,
    the importance of this cannot be understated. We get to know more
    about the band like who’s on the vocals, the drums, the bass, as
    well as the history of the band.

Things that I would like to see or improve:

  • Some of the RadioVeRVe audio ads are not very comfortable to listen
    to… sorry guys, but the harsh voices in the metal-style ads are a
    little jarring in the midst of listening to songs.
  • A ‘Buy this song’ option so that I can purchase and download the
    song and play it on my iPod eventually – for example, I want to
    listen to “Shadow of the Sun” by Leminsk8 again, but can’t :( .

So, go ahead and listen to the best of Indi Indie
music
.