Global SIM Options when you Travel from India

If you think most mobile operators are fleecing you with ridiculously high roaming tariffs, this post is for you.  The good news is there are quite a few options now. Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Matrix and Clay, both provide country specific SIM cards. The obvious advantage is that you get a local number for the country you plan to travel to.  The offerings are quite similar and more or less equally priced. However,  both do not provide tariff details on their web site and you have to call them instead. The customer service rep than transfers you to a sales rep who in turn promises to get back with tariff details. C’mon folks, this is 2010! They also provide data services (GPRS and/or Blackberry) for some countries but that seems to be quite expensive ($ 4 per MB in case of Matrix).
  2. Airtel WorldSim: Airtel offers a global SIM that works in many countries. The advantage is that you don’t have to change SIM when you are traveling to multiple countries.  Your Indian Airtel number is mapped on to forward calls to this SIM. So your folks in India can dial a local number to reach you. The negatives are that this is more expensive (per call charges as well as initial SIM card charges) than other alternatives (although less expensive than normal roaming). Also, you will need to have an Airtel connection before you can opt for this service. Since it is a single SIM that works everywhere, you get just one number (a UK number). That is probably good if you are traveling to UK but may not be a good option if you are traveling elsewhere. No GPRS/data services.
  3. Reliance Passport World SIM: This is the cheapest option. Like Airtel, you get one global SIM that works everywhere. But you can’t forward calls from your India number. This also gives you one UK number and so the same issue that applies to Airtel applies here as well. Another big disadvantage is that it works on call back mechanism – which means when you dial a number, the service connects that number, calls you back and bridges you. Not sure if that’s convenient! Even though the web site says they provide data services (GPRS), they don’t.
  4. You could of course stick with standard roaming facilities provided by your cell phone provider. That’s possibly the most convenient option if you are okay to pay that much.
  5. Finally, you could buy Skype credit and use that or buy a SIM card locally.

So what’s been your experience with these? Is there anything else that i’ve missed out?

Random Thoughts about SIs and IT industry

I am thinking of reviving this blog yet again.

I’ve been part of the System Integrator industry for a long time and have seen it from close quarters. I believe there is much hype, too many myths as well as a lot of FUD about SIs. I also think there’s a serious lack of "balanced" perspective about this industry. One of the main reason for that probably is that a lot of good people are employed by these very SIs and so its difficult for them to be unbiased and open.

So I’m going to be writing about various aspects of System Integrators and more generally about the IT industry –  such as software development, off-shoring, outsourcing, Indian software companies, project management models and so forth. I will also be talking about some "cool" concepts and why they do or do not work – such as Center of excellence (CoE), Solution Center, shared services, six sigma, CMM, CMMi, PCMM, Agile and so on.

Obviously, I can’t be balanced if I don’t talk about some of the other related things like stupid project managers, unrealistic clients, work life balance (or the lack of it),  Indian IT leadership and their so called innovations to reduce costs.

This is an industry where people are called resources and are usually identified by cells in an excel sheet. However, as I said, I will try my best to be balanced and so it won’t be just bad things. Instead, I will also write about the advantages, good things as well as best practices.

So all you folks from Wipro, Infosys, TCS, CTS, Accenture, IBM and others – send me your comments and anecdotes.  I will obviously keep all your information confidential.

Collaborate and Innovate

ideaken - collaborate to innovate

Congratulations to good friends and ex-colleagues – Munish and Jayesh who have given up their cushy jobs at Wipro to launch ideaken. ideaken uses social media to enable collaborative innovation. To quote:

Collaborative innovation takes place when one starts to leverage unknown or unnamed sources of ideas, solutions & knowledge along with the known and named sources. The basic intention is to increase the chances of problem-to-solution match by increasing the solver base dramatically. Enterprises need to source the diversity of talent, tap into the wisdom of crowds and reach out to the underutilized talent sources. While most of the enterprises understand the power of collaborative innovation, the means to achieve the same on a continual basis and on a wide scale is not available.

They essentially provide a platform to bring together “Seekers” and “Solvers” who can then help each other. Seekers offer challenges such as: “Practical solution to save stranded Whales, Dolphins, and other big fish” or “Domino helper – a device which allows a player to set up dominos faster for a toppling game”. Solvers then select the challenges that interest them and then offer solutions.

ideaken is also available as a software as a service  that organizations can use with their own branding.

Here’s wishing you all the best guys. I’m sure ideaken will do well.

Checklist – Setting up Home Office in India

I’ve recently set up my home office and it was quite an experience. There were quite a few checklists on the web but they were really not suitable for Indian conditions (are we the only ones who use a UPS? ). So here’s what worked for me. Your mileage may be different.

  1. Laptop and/or desktop: I use two – a Mac and a PC. What are the challenges I faced in migrating from a PC to Mac and why do i still use both is a topic of another post. I bought my Mac from Unicorn in Malviya Nagar. They gave me a good price.
  2. A printer: There are quite a few out there. I do a lot of research and print quite a bit. I also do a lot of scanning for expense proofs and so on. So I bought a slightly bigger printer – HP Officejet 8500. It’s an all in one MFD. Although I’m not very happy with the performance but i think that’s probably only my piece. It’s also got Ethernet connectivity and so I don’t need to keep my laptop connected to it. I can even print photographs directly from my mobile phone.   This model also has a wireless variation but I didn’t go for that because I figured that unlike my laptop, i’m not going to carry around the printer. I bought it from Nehru Place, which btw is an amazing place for such gadgets.
  3. An Internet connection with unlimited bandwidth and reasonably high speed connection. The maximum speed for a reasonable price I got in Noida was from Airtel.  BSNL is just too much of a pain to get. Again, the connection quality is not too good (skype calls drop, downloads break) but their service is good and I don’t have another option.
  4. A backup internet connection. I’ve been struggling with this but haven’t found anything good yet. I have experimented with mobile broadband cards (Tata photon plus as well as BSNL EVDO). Both of them suck big time and i’ve heard Reliance is not too different. But frankly I haven’t tried that yet and they are not ready to give me a demo at my place. I also took MTNL 3g but that doesn’t work at many places even in Delhi plus recharge coupons for 3g are not available yet. I am not sure what’s up with our 3g policy – private operators are not allowed to offer 3g and public sector operators have no clue in life. So for now,  i’m still experimenting.
  5. Data plan for checking emails or surfing on mobile. You need blackberry services or a GPRS data plan which most operators provide. I use Vodafone (have also experimented with MTNL 3g as mentioned above).
  6. Telephone connection (mobile as well as landline). I use airtel for my land line. For mobile connections, there are just too many options and frankly speaking there’s not much of a difference. I use airtel for my personal mobile and vodafone for my official mobile. I got vodafone primarily because of a good deal i got for an unlimited data plan.
  7. If you have to interact with folks abroad, you need a less expensive way of calling. I use skype as well as Vodafone calling cards. The quality of audio is usually much better with Skype  but as i mentioned above, the connection drops occasionally and so I generally prefer phone calls over skype calls. Most other operators provide these phone cards as well.
  8. A good noise canceling headset
  9. Phones – both land line as well as a mobile phone. There are quite a few options there, especially for mobiles – from blackberry to iphone to cheap chinese imitations. I use a Nokia E71 and a micromax dual SIM phone. My Nokia has a SIP phone built in and so i can make skype calls using that but I think that’s only for academic satisfaction though as the quality is not too good. You can also buy one of those skype phones (some of which can also double up as land line phones) from Nehru Place.
  10. A Wireless router (or modem). I have an old netgear but i’m quite happy with it. I can connect my two laptops, printer as well as mobile phone
  11. Office furniture. If you’re going to spend a reasonable amount of time working, this is probably the most important aspect for your office. I bought a large L-shaped table and a chair from Home Town in Noida. I was very particular about the chair because I wanted something comfortable enough to discourage me from working on my bean bag.
  12. Stationery (printer paper, staplers, pen, file boxes, ……)
  13. An uninterrupted power supply (UPS). Although, my apartment complex has a generator backup but when power goes off, it always takes about 30 seconds for the generator to take over.  You need a UPS so that at least the modem and routers don’t restart in the event of power shutdown.
  14. An external drive to keep your backups. I bought a seagate 1 TB drive (again from Nehru place). I’m also experimenting with online backup and sync services (like dropbox, microsoft live and some others).
  15. A warranty and service plan for all the stuff above – laptop, desktop, printer etc. Don’t underestimate the importance of this and try to get something that covers onsite visits as well.
  16. A coffee/tea maker, AC, heater etc but I guess if you need these you probably already have them.
  17. Lots of different cables!. But don’t worry about it too much as every device you buy will come with required cables.
  18. Next on my list is an external monitor and keyboard. I haven’t bought these yet but since I spend a lot of time on my Mac, I think these will improve my productivity.
  19. I also moved my treadmill to my office in the hope that i’d use it more often for the purpose it was bought for!

Okay so this should be a good start. I will add to it as and when I remember more. If you think i’ve missed out something, please leave a comment and i’ll add that to the list.

What's Up?

Happy New Year everyone. Here’s wishing you a great twenty-ten.

I have renamed this blog to just “Random Thoughts”. Of course, i’d still be writing about Content Technologies but on the CMS Watch blog now.

In fact, I’ve been enjoying my work at CMS Watch, where I cover Portals, Enterprise Content Management and Web Content Management marketplaces. I haven’t been able to post to this blog for a while but I’ve written a few on the CMS Watch blog:

An important component of our research is based on feedback from actual users of technologies we cover. So i’m always interested in hearing your experiences (both good and bad). If you would like to share something, please leave a comment here or send me an email at adurga (at) cmswatch (dot) com.

I will hopefully be writing more often from now on on this blog as well as CMS Watch.