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Things change July 25, 2011

Posted by amrut in Uncategorized.

You’ve heard that saying? “Change is the only constant.” Of course, the fundamental things of life, they stay the same. Any which way, the purpose of this blog has been continuously changing. Now I find myself writing more business-like writing and I figured it makes sense to move all of that to a new blog. Hence, my new blog: www.amrutash.com. Do pay a visit.

Having said that, that change is imminent, I am aware of the possibility that I’ll end up coming back here and writing more here. Perhaps.


Evolution, for everyone February 20, 2011

Posted by amrut in Life Online.
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In a hurry? Skip the story and head straight to the point — http://www.TictacMovieRentals.com

The Tictac Movie Rental store in R A Puram, Chennai opened in 1983. When color TV was 14″ and was worth a bomb. Of course, bombs those days were worth a bomb themselves. These days color TVs are free. And every paranoid idiot seems to be able to afford a bomb. So there. It boggles me to imagine. A video cassette in 1983!

1983! I wasn’t born. Sahil wasn’t born. Part of what attracted us to the Tictac project was 1983.

But not just 1983. The sheer complexity of the project attracted us. We knew rentals. But what do we know about developing software for a store that bought its first computer in 1991. That has gone through 3 generations of rental software before us.

1991! I hadn’t yet seen a computer. Neither had Sahil.

Tictac has seen change. From video cassettes to VCDs to LDs to DVDs to Blu-Rays. Changes in prices of titles. Changes in the supply industry. Changes in the film industry. Changes in the prices and quality of video cassette players to DVD players. One thing has never changed. Tictac loves movies. Another thing that attracted us was that through all this change, the core offering of Tictac has been the same – a great choice of movies, in good quality. Its tough. to maintain that through 27 years.

So, here we have a store thats 27 years old, has an enviable record of customer service and experience in computerized systems. And a host of legacy issues! AND if you have gone into the store, the people who run it (Prakash & co) are just very warm. And that’s what finally hooked us on. A collaboration just meant evolution for us. As people. As a company (Life Online). As programmers.

And after countless man-hours, we present to you the Tictac Movie Rental (online) Store.


If you like it, leave a comment, check out our facebook page, like it, share it, tell other people about us. Thanks!

Getting it right by not getting it wrong January 8, 2011

Posted by amrut in Starting-Up.
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Aks sent a link to a well articulated essay by Paul Graham (Y Combinator). Here’s the link – http://www.paulgraham.com/startupmistakes.html

It lists 18 common startup mistakes. My favorite is number 3 “Marginal Niche”.

Most of the groups that apply to Y Combinator suffer from a common problem: choosing a small, obscure niche in the hope of avoiding competition.

If you watch little kids playing sports, you notice that below a certain age they’re afraid of the ball. When the ball comes near them their instinct is to avoid it. I didn’t make a lot of catches as an eight year old outfielder, because whenever a fly ball came my way, I used to close my eyes and hold my glove up more for protection than in the hope of catching it.

Choosing a marginal project is the startup equivalent of my eight year old strategy for dealing with fly balls. If you make anything good, you’re going to have competitors, so you may as well face that.

Rest of my top5 – 18, 15, 12, 6.

One Large August 31, 2010

Posted by amrut in College.

Ayush Joshi was the sort of man who you’d want as a bro, as a wing-man, as the man driving the car when you are *need* to get somewhere really fast. He was a steady, dependable, and a good man. And most of all, he was a healthy man. Which is ironic, considering that Ayush Joshi fell to an illness. He didnt, as most of us expected, pass away due to old age as a retired CEO of a multinational company. He fell to a fucking mosquito.

Ayush Joshi didn’t deserve to die. He didn’t deserve to die this way. He deserved a good life.

So the take home, as I understand, is that shit happens. You and me, we are here, and alive, because we aren’t dead or unborn. Your troubles, and mine, your life and mine, these are ephemeral. So gulp some whiskey. It’ll be easier. It’ll be easier to understand why the healthiest man we knew had to fall to a fucking mosquito. Why a man so alive, so unworthy of death was his chosen one.

If you can, then wake up tomorrow morning and feel your head pound because of the whiskey. Try to remember why you liked Ayush so much, what about him made him so special. Drink a few of Ayush’s best qualities. Together, you and me, we will keep him alive. We will do things the Ayush-way, and we will say it. “Ayush would have done it this way.” Together, you and me, we will keep him alive.

Tapti boys, one of us has fallen. Keep the pain in your hearts from showing. Be brave. Heal fast. Ayush would have done it that way.

Update: Linkto news article: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/IIM-A-student-dies-of-rare-disease/articleshow/6470858.cms

Bladeless Fans July 17, 2010

Posted by amrut in Engineering.

I came across the ‘Dyson Bladeless Fan Air Multiplier’ the other day and thought its a good HowThingsWork question (and of course a great invention), which automatically makes it worth posting. Here’s a video that shows off the fan.

Here’s a video that explains how it works.

Raavan June 20, 2010

Posted by amrut in Commentary.

So I spent a good part of yesterday watching Raavan and then Raavanan, and I think that they are very nicely made movies. Narration wise, good. Visually, awesome, like literally, stunning. I’d say its the Crouching-Tiger-Hidden-Dragon equivalent of Indian cinema (since it was criticized for a weak plot too, but was visually stunning). Its like an advertisement for Kerala and the Konkan coast.

In the Tamil version, ‘Ram’ (Dev, Phritviraj) does a really bad job. Imho. And I liked Abhishek Bachchan’s portrayal of ‘Raavan’ better than Vikram’s. I thought he brought a bit of eccentricity to it and that was nice. I loved the bak-bak-bak-bak scenes.

The thing I liked, I guess, in retrospect, apart from the visual-extra-cheese-pizza-ness (read ‘wow’), is that the narration had depth. I’ve been thinking about some parts of the movie today and that doesn’t happen to me often. I might actually see this movie again to figure out the deeper parts that I surely would’ve missed.

Also read: http://baradwajrangan.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/review-raavan/

Also read: The Ramayana, especially a Kerala version, which criticizes Ram for Agnipariksha.

Splitting Stake May 21, 2010

Posted by amrut in Starting-Up.
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I was asked today by someone on how to split stake between partners and I thought perhaps there are other people who have the same question. So I am posting the answer here.

How to split stake?

Afaik, there is no standard method. This is what we followed.

1. Have the stake discussion BEFORE work starts. Let it be transparent and open. Its better to have arguments BEFORE working than after.

2. Decide parameters to award stake on. The most obvious parameters is money contributed (financial risk). Then there is personal risk — suppose one of the partners quits a high paying job and joins the start-up full time, then the savings he could have earned is lost. This is lost opportunity and should be accounted for. The parameters depend on what you decide.

3. Weight the parameters. The weight of each parameter relative to the other will depend on which business you are in. In some businesses, execution is key. In others, initial capital is the key. In yet others, planning is the key. In some, technology input (or some ‘knowhow’) is important. And so on. Discuss and agree upon the weights between yourselves. This is important because as the business grows, these weights might change, so its a good idea to think through at the beginning itself.

4. Fill the matrix of contribution. How much of each parameter is each partner contributing.

5. Calculate Stake from the matrix.

6. This is a negotiation. The matrix will give a numerical output. But please remember that this is a negotiation between the partners. If a partner is not happy, he may not put in the effort expected. He may even back out.

7. Once fixed, forget about it. Businesses can’t be predicted completely. You might have decided the stake split based on some expectations, but it might not turn out that way. A partner who was expected to contribute less might have contributed much more than the others. This happens. Don’t let this get into the way of everyday operations. Don’t discuss stake splitting during the starting-up phase — it will only divert attention from the most imporant task at hand — which is to generate revenue.

8. Review after a certain period. If you feel that the stakes were imbalanced, review after a certain period. If someone has put in a lot of effort, award extra stake. Award a bonus. Or so on.

9. Be fair to everyone involved.

10. I’ve attached a screenshot the template we used. Please e-mail me if you want the xls.

(If you like this post, please link to my start-up http://iloveread.in, thanks.)

Splitting Stake

Template for Splitting Stake

LSD (movie) March 29, 2010

Posted by amrut in Commentary.

Love Sex Aur Dhoka.

LSD is from the DevD stable of movies. I think that is the best way of putting it. It is cult material. Much like DevD. It is full of references to events that we grew up with (Honour killings, Mysore Mallige, “MMS pe MMS”, Tehelka). Much like DevD. Some of the characters smell of Chandigarh. I meant Roadies. Either. Both. Its increasingly the same thing. (“Tu naa, rain de!”) Again, much like DevD.

LSD has a good narrative. (I think, that has become the first thing I notice these days. It was the only thing I could think after watching “Jaane Tu ya Jaane na”, which also had an A-class narrative.)

LSD is fairly hard hitting. Its quite the obvious slap in the face to a generation increasingly high on LSD. OK. Thats not my opinion, but Dibakar Banerjee is definitely holding up a mirror in LSD. (@Omprakash Mehra — Please take a lesson from Banerjee on how to hold a mirror.)

My opinion is that every generation has been high on LSD. They are just heady things. They always were.

Also. Is L, S and D the most obvious order for this story?

And finally, for the hardcore grammatical nitpicks, is the casing “Love Sex aur Dhoka” or is it “Love Sex Aur Dhoka”?

Nothing happened February 22, 2010

Posted by amrut in Commentary.
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We Waited for Godot on Saturday, 20Feb at Bangalore. Nothing much happened, twice over (in both acts), and hence the performance was faithful to the text. Except the bit where the strangest thing happened — link to news report here.

Waiting for Godot is full of quotable quotes, many of them betraying a post WW-2 existential dilemma. My favorite is this one —

Why are we here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come.”

As expected, Godot didn’t come, not for this performance.

Didn’t you feel happy to see the old man in the last scene of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na waiting for Godot in the airport arrival lounge?

Falling Up January 31, 2010

Posted by amrut in I Love Readin'.

I tripped on my shoelace and I fell up. (Shel Silverstein)

Its been almost 4 months since I quit HUL and more than 1 month since ilovereadin went live. And I FINALLY(!) have the time to share some interesting stuff —

1. People have been super super helpful! Its like, they are also starting up (a bit) through me. Thank you guys so much.

2. E-cells are the coolest concept on Earth. Especially C-TIDES. In LSG’s words, “We give startups space and then leave them alone and don’t disturb them at all.” Much grateful. Very much grateful.

3. One of my competitors thinks that “I stole her idea and ran away with it”. Nevermind that she and her friends started in 2009 and Netflix started in 1997. Ah well. I am sure she meant it well — she probably hadn’t heard of Netflix. However, we admit it — we are copying the Netflix model. ilovereadin is netflix-for-books-in-Chennai.

Much amusement to having run away with stolen idea. Reminds me of a Shel Silverstein poem where ‘The Nap Taker’ was in court for taking a nap (and beating his eggs, whipping his cream, punching a clock, killing an hour or two, shooting a basketball and stealing second base) and got sentenced to ninety million years of nap-time to serve as an example for other children not to take naps. You — Amrutash — you stole idea and ran with it. We — the court of ideas — sentence you to keep running for the next fifty million years to serve as example for other people to not run away with ideas.

4. Buying books feels good. Buying books that I don’t have the time to read sucks. Its a sinking feeling. Goes like this — “OOOOH, this book is so cool! Such a nice cover. Such pretty pictures. OH, nice opening.” (silence) (check which member to deliver books to) (pack book) (despatch) (feel bad) (sink) (repeat)

5. Roald Dahl. I discovered Roald Dahl too late in my life. I’ve discovered that there are tons of awesome children’s books, that I’ve never read. Makes me want to be 10 again. Reminds me of that song from 3 Idiots — Give me another chance, I wanna grow up once again.

6. Setting up a new kitchen is much easier when there is time to actually cook. Making eggs is not really cooking. Although, I must admit, I have become very good at frying eggs. And I make absolutely gorgeous bread omelettes, with potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and onions, and cabbage, and cheese.

7. Some really cool management books were bought last week. Saw them and felt bad to have kicked the corporate ladder so early. Can never become a maverick employee, rise too fast and then write a book about how to be a maverick corporate rapid ladder climber, which is a bit of a tongue twister.

8. Sleep has been sacrificed. Much blood has flown. Much more will flow as more sleep will be sacrificed. Luckily, at the Indian Institute of Technology, they taught us to sleep only on national holidays. (Quote attributed to Asok (Dilbert, Scott Adams) — lest they accuse me of running away with the quote.)