Sunday, 22 November 2009

Fratello Metallo(Metal Friar)

Italy's heavy metal monk retires from the limelight

 Reuters November 13, 2009

  Italian Friar Cesare Bonizzi, also known as Fratello Metallo(Metal Friar), is quitting his heavy metal music career, saying the devil had made him too much of a celebrity for his own good.
Photograph by: Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters

MILAN - Italy's "Brother Metal," a 63-year-old monk who became famous for singing in a heavy metal band — habit and all — is hanging up his microphone, saying the devil made him too much of a celebrity for his own good.

The white-bearded Cesare Bonizzi, a Capuchin who recorded CDs for a punk label and was the lead singer for the band Fratello Metallo (Metal Brother), said the devil was up to his usual mischief.

"The devil has separated me from my managers, risked making me break up with my band colleagues and also risked making me break up with my fellow monks. He lifted me up to the point where I become a celebrity and now I want to kill him," the monk said in his farewell video.

The video shows one of the monk's band members shaving off Bonizzi's long mane of white hair as a sign of his turning a new leaf on life.

For years Bonizzi performed at concerts wearing his traditional Franciscan brown robe, sandals and white rope around his waist.

His second heavy metal CD was called "Mysteries," and was inspired by a group of southern Italian women who sang about the Virgin Mary.

Bonizzi, who fell in love with heavy metal when he attended a Metallica concert some 15 years ago, says fame had put him on the wrong path. But he still thinks heavy metal can be a means to spread the gospel message of pace and love.

"I think that metal is the strength of music itself. Metal is a brother," he said in the video.  ( Reuters video)


Monday, 16 November 2009

India is morphing into a global R&D hub, but can it ever take on Silicon Valley?

by Vivek Wadhwa

When Americans think of the Indian technology sector, they still perceive a nation of call center workers and low-level computer programmers administering databases and updating websites. But while the West was sleeping, Indian IT morphed into a giant R&D machine. Indian companies that started out doing call center and low-level IT work have climbed the value chain to become outsourced providers of critical R&D in sophisticated areas such as semiconductor design, aerospace, automotive, network equipment and medical devices.

This is happening as multi-nationals set up their own R&D operations in India and partner with local shops. Both the Palm Pre smart phone and the Amazon Kindle, two of the hottest consumer electronics devices on the market, have key components designed in India. Intel designed its six-core Xeon processor in India. IBM has over 100,000 employees in India. A large number of these are building Big Blue’s most sophisticated software products. Cisco is developing cutting edge networking technologies for futuristic “intelligent cities” in Bangalore. Adobe, Cadence, Oracle, Microsoft and most of the large software companies are developing mainstream products in India.

Equally important are the arrival of Indian multi-nationals who are tackling global markets, such as Tata with its dirt cheap Nano car that the company is now positioning for a European market entry and Reva, which recently announced it was planning to build an electric car factory in New York state to address the U.S. market for electric vehicles.

What has been missing to date in India, however, is early stage venture activity and the type of grass-roots entrepreneurism that is the hallmark of American capitalism and Silicon Valley. In that respect China is way ahead of India with many startups taking advantage of huge government incentives and reeling in talented native Chinese returnees to serve as CEOs and CTOs. Note that Kaifu Lee, formerly Google’s top guy in China, was able to launch a $100 million startup incubator focusing entirely on the mobile sector — and he was flooded with business plans within days of opening his doors in the Middle Kingdom.

On my recent trip to India I started to see new signs of life in tech entrepreneurship. Many of the startups that Sarah Lacy and I met were really smart and hungry. Some were even doing things better than their Silicon Valley counterparts. Not all of these startups are developing breakthrough technologies but many of them are solving problems that U.S. companies have thus far failed to solve and doing it with fewer resources.

One of the most interesting companies I met is in the mundane business of developing offset printer ink. Their ink is made from vegetable oil and is entirely bio-degradable. The offset printing industry consumes 1 million tons of petroleum products and emits 500,000 tons of volatile organic compounds every year. An IIT-Delhi incubated startup called EnNatura developed a printing ink which emits no volatile compounds and is washable. And the overall cost of their solution will be significantly less than all present compounds when produced at scale. I can see a company like this growing into a billion dollar global business.

Another interesting company was LiveMedia. This is an out-of-home advertising company that has 4,500 screens in 2,200 destinations with a total reach of 50 million people. Of course, you can find exactly these sorts of TV screens in thousands of places across the U.S. Unfortunately, it has been very hard to make real money selling advertising on these networks. LiveMedia appears to have cracked that by creating specialized content that is more engaging and interactive than a box droning CNN or the Disney Channel. LiveMedia content includes games, quizzes, horoscopes, a few short animations, and other content that is both cheap to produce and easy to play along with or understand. LiveMedia has also perfected context-relevant advertising spots keyed to the crowds at the screen location.

LiveMedia is in the process of building out a partnership with Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs India that would give the network even more interactive capabilities. Bell Labs has developed a content management and routing system, dubbed Mango, that makes it much easier and efficient to deliver high-bandwidth, high-quality video and interactive content over existing networks. In the developing world, everyone wants a TiVO-like capability to share, store and manage content. But existing GPRS or EDGE-based cell networks are not up to snuff. And the broadband infrastructure still lags behind that of the most developed telecom networks in places like Japan, Korea and Scandanavia. A product like Mango is tailor-made for VC investment to get it out of the lab and into a spin-off company.

This is partly why so many U.S. venture capital shops have opened up branches in India. In fact, the two lead investors in LiveMedia are both U.S. venture capitalists including the respected Valley firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. But India lags in home-grown venture capital activity. As I have previously discussed, VCs follow the innovation. So the lack of native VC in India is notable in that it implies a critical mass of activity remains lacking, as well.

For example, in the first nine months of 2008, total early stage VC investments in India totaled $678 million, according to the Global India Venture Capital Association. In the U.S. over that same period early stage investments tallied $5.2 billion according to the U.S. National Venture Capital Association – and that number is not entirely reflective of the real situation. The economic downturn hit the U.S. much harder than the Subcontinent and VC activity in the U.S. fell faster and harder. Regardless, a 10-fold difference between early stage venture activity clearly illustrates the capital is not there yet.

So when will there be enough innovative startups to support an explosion in venture capital? I’d argue, sooner than you realize. During my week in India I spoke to close to 100 startups. A few of them had products or prototypes that would easily compete in Silicon Valley. Some of the leading lights of the legacy Indian IT giants are also moving quickly into VC. Infosys founder Narayan Murthy recently sold millions of dollars of shares in the company in order to launch a venture capital fund targeting investments in India.

The dynamics of entrepreneurship are the same in India as in America. Company founders usually come from the ranks of experienced business executives and are middle-aged. They get tired of working for others and want to make an impact and build wealth before they get too old. Given that there are now hundreds of thousands of R&D workers in India who are gaining valuable experience and are getting old, it is simply a matter of time before they begin to hatch their entrepreneurial plans. After all, their colleagues who migrated to the U.S. now start nearly one in six of Silicon Valley’s tech firms.

I’ll bet that in 5 years, if you stacked up a TechCrunch 50 of Indian start ups versus a comparable number of U.S. startups, it would be a pretty even match. That’s pretty amazing considering the relatively short length of time that the Indian startup scene has existed. And it’s a good lesson for America that the barriers to starting a company are lower than ever before—and some ambitious engineer in India will eat your lunch if you don’t get your prototype built and perfected ASAP.

Editor’s note: Guest writer Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. Follow him on Twitter at @vwadhwa.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Canada and India: why should the worlds meet?

With Canadian primeminister stephen Harper soon visiting India, i was googling to find some more info on it.
Here is an article by Haroon Siddiqui in (
Tips for Harper's trip to India
Ottawa has been far too slow to recognize its dynamic economy and geopolitical clout

If I were Stephen Harper and going on my first visit to India – landing in Mumbai Sunday to meet business leaders, then New Delhi to confer with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others – I'd do the following:

Ignore the Canadian media's portrayal of India as orientalist exotica and the epicentre of some of the world's worst problems.

India is also an economic and geopolitical giant, in some respects more important than China. Besides democracy and English, it boasts a population that's much younger than China's.

Its $1 trillion economy equals Canada's, and is growing at 6.7 per cent this year, compared with the stagnant economies of the West.

India is spending as much as Canada, more than $1 billion, on development projects in Afghanistan.

India's army is the fourth largest in the world. Its navy rules the Indian Ocean. Its capacity to build satellites, missiles, fighter jets, etc. exceeds ours.

India is a serious global player.

Understand also that Ottawa has been painfully slow to recognize this reality.

The U.S. has been wooing India for years. Bill Clinton's 1999 visit was one of the best foreign policy charm offensives I've ever seen. George W. Bush followed with a realpolitik gift of a civilian nuclear deal, setting aside American anger over India turning nuclear and balking at the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Russia and France have since negotiated their own accords, wanting to tap the $100 billion bonanza of Indian nuclear energy needs.

Ottawa could have taken a principled stance and refused to sell uranium (as has Australia). Or it could have stopped acting peeved and opened some doors for our (largely Ontario-based) nuclear sector.

It did neither and has been plodding along, despite Harper's initial enthusiasm. Unless he has something dramatic to say, a photo-op on the nuclear file will only draw yawns in Delhi.

Know that while bilateral trade jumped to $4.6 billion in 2008, rising by a fifth over 2007, India's trade with the U.S. and China rose proportionately more (each now in the $45 billion range).

Believe it or not, India is investing more in Canada than we are there ($1.02 billion vs. $800 million). Indian conglomerates have taken over Canadian firms in the forestry, steel and pharmaceutical sectors, and are using Canada as a gateway to the U.S.

Remember that there are 100,000 Indian students in the U.S., 80,000 in Australia, 30,000 in the U.K. but only 4,000 in Canada.

This even though our universities are top-notch, cost less and provide a welcoming environment (unlike Australia, where Indian students have faced racist incidents). Plus Ottawa is offering foreign students the opportunity to eventually apply for immigrant status (eminently sensible, given that they're likely to integrate more easily).

"My assumption is that Canada does not sell itself aggressively in India," says S.M. Gavai, India's high commissioner in Ottawa.

Not just that. The provinces compete with each other in India. And they and the feds don't coordinate their actions.

"Canada has lagged hopelessly behind in the higher education field," writes David Malone, our former high commissioner to India (2006-08), one of our most successful envoys there. His article, Building Stronger Ties Between India and Canada: Better Late Than Never, posted on the Asia Pacific Foundation website, is very much worth reading.

Resist partisanship and promote the visits to India of Dalton McGuinty (Dec. 6-11, his second) and Jean Charest (in February).

Some Ontario universities – York, McMaster, Toronto, Waterloo and Windsor, in particular – have been working hard to forge links in India. They could use a prime ministerial push.

So could the 25 clean energy companies going with McGuinty.

Don't lecture the Indians on the environment. They, like the Chinese, balk at binding limits on carbon emissions.

India will not be deprived of economic uplift, especially by those who have been polluting for a century or more.

To the counter-argument that global warming cannot be reduced without India's and China's help, India says: If that's the case, subsidize our conversion to green technologies. What's our response?

It is what many Indian scientists themselves are saying: India cannot reach its economic goals amid environmental degradation: deforestation, sinking water tables, rising salinity, drying rivers and lakes.

Joint projects are the way to go.

Don't let Prime Minister Singh's modesty, mild manner and soft voice lull you into forgetting that he is one of the world's foremost economists, who also happens to hold power. Ditto his economic adviser, Montek Singh Ahluwalia (who was in Toronto in April, for an energy conference).

Don't even try to play in their economic league. Cultivate them instead on what interests them – India's role in the G20, which Canada is hosting next June in Huntsville, and for which Ahluwalia is India's designated envoy.

Prevail on Prime Minister Singh to also visit Montreal to receive his honourary doctorate from McGill.

Treat him as the historic figure he is. He was the architect of India's economic turnaround in the 1990s as finance minister. With his innate decency and honesty, he has as prime minister single-handedly broken the decades-long grip of corrupt and parochial regional leaders, and restored a national vision, thereby positioning India for yet another giant leap forward.

Haroon Siddiqui is the Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursday and Sunday.