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Monday, March 28


हार कर उठने की क्षमता अब नहीं मुझ में रही,
वो ह्रदय की मधुर ममता अब नहीं मुझमे रही.
अब तो मैं संसार के वारों से होकर छिन्न-भिन्न,
बन गया हूँ रूद्र हिंसक आर्तनादी नरपशु.
अब मेरी सब इन्द्रियां रक्षा में मेरी व्यस्त हैं.

मधुर गुंजन मधुप का गांडीव की टंकार है
दामिनी का दमकना अब युद्ध की ललकार है,
दीख पड़ते हैं मुझे चहुँ ओर अपने शत्रु दल,
सांस की आवाज़ मानो शून्य में चित्कार है.
मान था अभिमन्यु सा, अब द्रोण सुत सी वेदना!

Thursday, March 17

The Saga of Static IP

Recently we decided to get a static IP for our office broadband connection. We are a long time Airtel customer and usually not very annoyed with their service. They are quick to respond to complaints and things mostly work as they should.

We placed a request for a static IP and were told that it would require a 1 hour downtime to set up. 1 hour is no big deal and so we asked them to go ahead. Our connection went out at around 5pm on Thursday evening. Someone was coming to set up the router for static IP.

The person arrived at 9pm and started configuring the router confidently. We were hoping it to be a fairly quick and smooth process but suddenly the disaster struck! The 4-5 steps which he had been taught didn't get the link up. After that it was one hour of him calling various people, trying out some really weird configurations and generally hitting refresh. After struggling with it for 1 hour, he told us that our router did not "support" the static IP. He promised to come back next day morning with another router. However he would not be able to come before 11-12pm. So much for a 1 hour downtime!

Next day morning, we were running the office on our mobile 3G connections and a Reliance Net Connect stick and waiting for him to turn up. When I called him up at 11, he said that he had a meeting in the morning and won't be able to come. He was sending someone else. This other person came around lunch time, managed to get the Internet running but the router he brought was not a wireless router. We had a wireless router earlier and half of our machines run on wireless. We didn't have enough cables to connect all the machines. He again promised to come back with a wireless router soon. I had a hunch that I am making a mistake believing him but had no option. Our office had wires all around now with half of the machines off the network.

When we called him next day, pet came the reply that the wireless router is out of stock. They had no idea when it would be back in stock and when could they give us one. Remember that we have actually paid extra to Airtel to get a wireless router. We lodged another complaint with the customer service. They promised to resolve it by the evening but it was clear from their tone that they really don't consider this a serious problem. As a result of the complaint we again got couple of calls from local guys and they repeated the excuse that the wireless router is not in stock. Now I would have readily believed them if there was even an iota of sincerity in their voice. But it seemed like I was needlessly harassing them for wireless when I should have been thankful that at least my Internet was working!

After realizing that we were not going to get anything useful by breaking our heads with them, we decided to give the wireless router which supposedly didn't "support" static IP, a chance. With some googling and common sense, we had our static IP and wireless running in half an hour! So much pain and frustration for something which should not have been a problem in the first place if only Airtel would have taken time to train their field staff well.

Consider the situation. Airtel probably uses a handful of router models - 5 or may be 10. The 2-3 most basic things to do with a router are setting it up for dynamic address, for static address and setting up the wireless. How difficult is it to equip all their field staff with printed instruction sheets for these basic 3 tasks for these 5-10 models? When taking the request for the static IP, they had asked us the model number of router, so they already had that information. The only thing that the guy needed to do in our case was to delete the old config on the router and create a new one from scratch instead of trying to modify the old one. How difficult is it to mention this one fact in the instruction sheet for our model number? It would have saved them multiple phone calls to support center, multiple field trips and an annoyed customer.

But instead of investing in things like this, they recently invested 100s of crores in changing the logo and brand identity. Somehow they fail to understand that a shiny logo and funky tune cannot make up for such bad service experiences. I can only shake my head in disbelief and frustration!

Saturday, March 12

From Low Priced Editions to Fair Priced Editions

A major group of Indian publishers is up in arms against a proposed amendment to the copyright act of India. Put simply, the said amendment allows for the export of any edition of a title into India even if specific Indian editions are already available. 

There are some genuine points both for and against the issue. However the debate has long since devolved into fear mongering and finger pointing. One of the interesting claim of the publishers is that the said amendment will also legalize the export of Low Prized Editions of text books and technical books back to USA and UK. As a result, publishers in those market are likely to stop giving licenses for LPEs.

I personally think that it is very far fetched. There is enough protection against such imports in USA/UK markets. Some short sighted foreign publishers might pull out but then that should not be the guiding factor of our policies anyway. However the reaction from publishers set me thinking in another direction.

Given its status as the outsourcing hub, a very young population and growing number of people comfortable with reading in English, India is a big market for Technical Books and Text Books. Why is it then that Indian publishers are happy to be the printers of LPEs rather then develop their own titles in this market? It is estimated that 70% of Indian book market is of Text Books. This includes everything from Primary to Higher Education. Most of the text book publishers of India seem to be focused on school segment. The titles that do come out in the Higher Education Segment are not up to the mark - bad quality of writing & bad production value. And I am yet to come across a solid technical book (IT and CS are the areas I can vouch for) by Indian authors, published by an Indian publisher. Most of the known names O'Reilly/Shroff, Pearson, Prentice Hall basically bring out LPEs of titles originally written and produced outside.

With the growing number of good techies in India, there should be no dearth of possible authors in India for technical subjects. Recently one of the startup founders wrote a book on SaaS. There is also an increasing number of open source contributors in India. However, due to the fast changing nature of technology, the technical publishing is also a very quick moving market. To survive it today requires adoption of technology, quick adaptability to market and out of the box thinking. The competition is intense, especially from the increasingly high quality free content available online. Indian authors will typically need more hand-holding as compared to their foreign counterparts. But the size of the opportunity seems to be large enough to be worth the risk.

We can either let someone else do all the hard work and be happy publishing LPEs or we can go out and carve out a piece for ourselves. Then we can throw away this tag of LPE and have our own Fair Priced Editions. Given the amount of changes happening in the publishing industry currently, I believe that there is a window of opportunity here. I just hope that there are people in Indian publishing industry who see the possible threat to LPEs as an opportunity!