Two Years On: From Job to Jobless to Business

vlcsnap-2012-08-13-01h39m35s82

Well, say hello to baxiabhishek & partners, a business entity (self-proprietorship) with which I’ll do business – offering digital consulting to clients – starting August 2013.

The Process
I’m as geeky in anything finance as Internet Explorer 6 users are in technology. Okay, maybe I’m a little better.  But I was all worried and getting things started in order to have registration et al. When I finally did it, I found it surprisingly easy for a proprietorship.

Just head to the Automation of Central Excise and Service Tax portal, fill the ST1 form for registration, head to the Central Excise and Customs Commisionerate of your region to submit your identity documents and proofs, and it’s done. You’ll get the ST2 form, which is essentially the registration certificate.

Opening a business (current) account, while I assumed would be simpler, was otherwise. Every bank would have different requirements. SBI had nine in total which included IT returns, business registration certificate from Municipal Commissioner of Gurgaon, and few other things. HDFC Bank asked for the minimum documents (although the highest minimum balance requirement), and so I chose it. I gave my PAN, Passport, and the ST2 registration. Sorted.

My primary savings account is Citibank, so I did not consider it for the business account. I know it would’ve been best though. The processes and ‘please visit the branch’ mandates of ICICIs and HDFCs are annoying!

The Journey
After leaving my fine job at Microsoft in June 2011, I’ve been treading the parallel road of being an independent digital consultant and technology columnist for a while now. Two years actually. While the former was the intended play when I decided to quit the ‘job’, the latter was always an indulgence which started to take more of my time. When the ZDNet offer came up, I knew this was a parallel profession rather than a laidback interest.

Anyway, I was lucky in the initial months of being ‘jobless’, picking up clients like SAB Miller, American Express, and Microsoft, and bagging more like PVR Cinemas, HP, and others on the way. Sometime I thought I was ‘getting there’ quicker than I hoped for, but knew that I had to work on consistency rather than flash-in-the-pan projects and campaigns.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
It’s been good. I’ve got an exciting portfolio, have engaged with several brands, and travelled to several tech events with media credentials. I miss the water cooler conversations and the table tennis matches at Microsoft, and the ego boost of working at one of the best, and my favourite, technology brands, but being your own boss and working from home never killed anybody. Sometimes, I maybe broke, but I sleep contended. Or stay up in excitement.

The Next Step
I’ve already got my eyes on a proposition of renting an office space. Since I’m restricted in the need by size, I’ll go for the new-age shared/virtual office spaces and have, I guess, zeroed down on one. Soon.

Computex 2013 Panel Discussion: Connected Automobiles

So, it was a great trip to Taipei, Taiwan for Computex 2013. It is estimated that total visitor count for the five days was over 130,000!

At the event, I was part of a panel discussion discussing technology in automobiles, something that SYNC by Microsoft brings to Ford cars. We talked about the scenarios, the need, and did a little bit of crystal-ball gazing.

Tips for Urban Cycling

DSC_0001 (2).JPG

Few months back, I finally fulfilled the long-pending wish to own a bike. I now ride a Firefox Cyclone to meetings, local market, and sometimes just like that. I’ll start with the obvious disclaimer that these tips come from an amateur biker. Never hurts to reinforce the obvious sometimes, though.

  • Follow the traffic rules. Of course, the Motor Vehicles Act does not apply on cycles, but it works out in your own favour. Stop at red lights, drive on the right side of the road, avoid riding the opposite way in one-ways, you get the drift! Don’t abuse the liberty that comes with a bike.
  • If you are venturing out a distance or to a busy area, wear a helmet. If you ride in the dark frequently, get yourself a bike lamp.
  • Don’t hang carry-bags on your bike’s handle! I’ve seen so many people do it. Get a saddle bag or keep a foldable sling bag or something that you can get on your shoulder or back when you venture out.
  • If you ride a lot in a hot or humid city, carry a water bottle. I prefer Gatorade, but you can have anything similar. If you use a bottle holder on the bike’s tube, carry a cheap sipper so that you can leave it on the bike when you get indoors, and you wouldn’t mind if somebody steals it.
  • If you listen to music on your rides like I do, keep the volume to mid-level. While high volume on a nice headset would really give you the kick, it would also cancel all the noise on the road including somebody honking at you or a vehicle going past by you.
  • If you like to measure if you are improving your riding speeds or the distance covered, use fitness applications like Endomondo or Runkeeper on your smartphones. They are fun, and you can stack up your rides with your friends.

Aamir Khan fans and their Filmfare ire

aamir-khan-filmfare

Aamir Khan’s a great actor, and arguably one of the finest that Hindi cinema has seen. Also, fans are allowed a little liberty of biases and over the top arguments.

However, one thing that keeps coming back is Aamir’s moral high ground of not ‘attending’ Filmfare Awards implying that they are biased and he’s not interested. Meanwhile, he has attended Academy Awards and National Awards which is ironic because there have been controversies and allegations of bias with National Awards as well.

You’re not interested, you do not attend the award functions. Ajay Devgn does not. You’re not interested, you withdraw. Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle withdrew from nominations in the seventies; for other reasons though. Aamir Khan allows his name in the nominations, but doesn’t allow clips of his movies to be shown for other nominations.

Anyway, this post just didn’t come out of nowhere. I thought of writing about Aamir’s sour-grapes-turned-arrogance after seeing a friend’s Facebook post.

“After 7 previous nominations for historical films like QSQT, Dil, Dil Hai ke Manta Nahi, Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Rangeela and some more, Aamir Khan got his first Filfmfare award in 1996 for Raja Hindustani.

No wonder the intelligent man gave up on the frivolous Filmfares and all other awards. All real actors should follow suit.”

Really? Let’s dive in to those ‘nominations for historical films’. I’ll start with a disclaimer. While I’m a huge fan of films, I do not put Filmfare Awards on a very high pedestal myself. There are frequent mishits, and best actors are often popular stars really.

In 1988, Anil Kapoor won the award for best actor for Tezaab deservedly. Anil was terrific, and fairly Aamir won the best debut for QSQT. Jackie Shroff for Parinda in 1989 and Sunny Deol for Ghayal in 1990 were well deserved too. These three were landmark performances of the three actors so most, including Aamir, wouldn’t have complained.

In 1991, he competed with Amitabh Bachchan (Hum), Anil Kapoor (Lamhe) and Sanjay Dutt (Saajan). Although Amitabh won, Anil and Sanjay’s were far better performances than Aamir in Dil Hai ke Maanta Nahi. Sanjay was terrific in Saajan and even in Sadak that year. Amitabh was gracious enough to call the youngsters on stage to share the award. Sanjay Dutt of course joined him, while Aamir was not present.

1992 is when this issue started. All was hunky-dory till then, and he even performed with Juhi Chawla at the event. While the debate would never end if Aamir Khan deserved the best actor award for Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar or the eventual winner Anil Kapoor did for Beta, Aamir got offended. Aamir’s was a great performance (and it is one of my favorite film of the 90s), but Anil’s wasn’t a shade less if not better. Anil, with Madhuri Dixit and Aruna Irani, delivered a powerful package. This was the last Filmfare Awards ceremony that Aamir attended.

1993 was undoubtedly the year of SRK. Shahrukh won the best actor for Baazigar, and Aamir’s fine performance in Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke wasn’t close. Shahrukh was also nominated for best villain for Darr, arguably one of his best performances, but didn’t win that one.

In 1994, Aamir was excellent in Andaz Apna Apna and so was SRK in Kabhi Haan Kabh Naa (my favorite SRK movie in the 90s). But the honors went to Nana Patekar for his impactful performance in Krantiveer.

1995 is when Aamir fans would’ve been rightly disappointed. He delivered brilliant performances in both Akele Hum Akele Tum (although a scene-by-scene copy of Kramer vs. Kramer) and Rangeela. But the overwhelming success and popularity of DDLJ swayed the best actor award towards SRK. The movie of course won almost all major awards in total that night.

If the disappointment of 1995 was understandable, the success of 1996 should be the ironic compensation. Aamir won for the lame Raja Hindustani over Sunny Deol in Ghatak, Salman Khan in Khamoshi, and a brilliant Chandrachur Singh in Maachis. Aamir won in the same way that SRK won last year – Average performance in the year’s biggest hits.
That’s how popular awards work, love it or hate it. Amitabh Bachchan didn’t win for Deewar or Sholay, and has probably the worst win-loss ratio at Filmfare Awards amongst all the fine actors in this post. While most wouldn’t doubt his credentials, he doesn’t have too many to show on his report card and hasn’t cribbed. Aamir’s been unlucky that his fine films in the 90s came against some of the career-best performances of the actors who won like Sanjay Dutt when he won for Vaastav against Aamir in Sarfarosh (my favorite Aamir film).

Another point, which of course fans would debate. Aamir in 90s didn’t get success in different roles. His fan-following was limited as well. All his attempts at intense or non-romantic roles tanked. Even SRK who became type-cast after DDLJ till recent years had by then delivered great performances in the movies mentioned above. Aamir’s brilliant variety came late, after the 1996 win – Sarfarosh, Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan, and 1947: Earth et al.

Let’s be fair, AK fans. See you at the movies.

So long, Microsoft!

2440882926_8f1a43a3bc_o

FAQs

Have you quit Microsoft?
May 30, 2011 is my last day at Microsoft. Yes, I have. I joined on July 30, 2007.

Really? You were always a fan!
I still am. I love Microsoft. I’ve met some awesome folks and participated in some delicious discussions that have made me learn so much and given me some great perspectives.

Then why leave?
I leave in no grudge. And their is no love lost. I had to do something new that gives me greater value, and here I am. I need to make more money too to counter the fuel-price hike! I might shed a tear or two as I surrender my Orange badge.

Exit from the MVP group?
Well, technically, yes. I’m not in the Microsoft MVP Award program team anymore nor an MVP. However, I’ve made some great friendships and a fine network of like-minded folks within the group which would stay forever. I’ll continue to work with the same people, and on similar things.

So, what will you do?
I want to start things on my own. Do some consulting jig, some social media or online marketing strategy, web content assignments, and some technology trainings. Either or all. Now is the time to work on the framework of freelance worker.

How can we help?
Think of me when you have the requirement of hiring a vendor/contractor for any of the offerings. Beer would be on me. My profile et al is at www.baxiabhishek.info.

We’ll miss you at the next tech event!
Wait! Communities are my forever indulgence and I’ve loved to participate, moderate, and mentor several of those since my college days. I will continue to participate actively in online and offline communities, with the forever evident bias for Microsoft!

Amazon: Building Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company

kindle

The title of this post is actually the email signature of the Amazon Kindle support representative that I communicated with. I think I agree.

Here’s the story…

On my recent trip, my Kindle’s display went kaput. After some chest pain, and mild heart-attack, I called up Amazon Kindle support. Customer details, and a couple of questions later…

I’m sorry your Kindle isn’t working. I’m sending you a replacement Kindle via Priority International Courier to get it to you as soon as possible.

Wow! In less than five minutes? Blood pressure returned to close to normal.

A replacement order was created with charges and immediately refunded. The charge for the order was $204.93 ($139 Kindle + Custom and import duties), and the refund was the same amount. Essentially, no charges to me.

3 days later, in India, the replacement Kindle was received. A little dance happened.

I now have to ship the conked-off Kindle back to a Kentucky warehouse within 30 days. Okay, will do. But Amazon wants me to do a small extra bit.

Please indicate the cost of shipping you paid with your return. We’ll use this amount to reimburse your return shipping costs.

Holy schmoly! After I’ve shipped out the malfunctioning unit, I have to go to a provided link and claim refund of shipping costs back to Amazon. Blood pressure shoots up in glee!

If you’re floored by the awesome customer service, here’s the icing on the cake and choco-chip on my waffle… I bought the Kindle in US. At the time of purchase, I paid $139 only, and no Custom or import duties. Amazon chose to pay those for the replacement!

Remembering papa…

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
Sent as a remembrance message by my good friend, Akhil, on dad’s first death anniversary.

Missing Girl Found: Social Media Put to Good Use

What an awesome social media success story!
A young girl  ran away from home; daughter of a Microsoft employee.
The internal discussion lists spread the message and then social media took over. Several Microsoft folks tweeted and posted updates about the missing girl.
A manager at Fairwood Safeway saw her picture and recognized her, called it in and the family immediately went to pick her up.
Big props to the entire Microsoft community who tweeted, posted, shared or otherwise spread the word about this little girl – what a fantastic bunch of people you are!
A message from her mom:
A manager at Fairwood Safeway called us and thought she recognized her- we drove over and it was her- we ran in and got her. She is so tired, dirty and scared- she slept on a sidewalk outside the library last night. She is home, she is safe- thank you ALL for your thoughts and prayers and well wishes and sharing the information, I know that it was all the immediate help, love and care that brought her home.
I’ve avoided taking names of the people involved in the post. Let’s respect their privacy.

iPad vs. Kindle. Not.

A few days back, around the Kindle 3 (not official version name, but third generation in releases) launch, I tweeted saying the Kindle is now tempting me, and I might just take a dive into the world of eBook readers, and add another gadget to my bag.

Surprisingly, several folks on my social networks advised me to go for iPad (with the Kindle app), which is ’obviously shinier and better.’

And then I wondered. Not just me being an Apple anti-fan, I still think this advice was wrong on many counts, probably swayed by Apple’s ‘magical’ hype.

Price: $139/$189 Kindle vs. $499 iPad
While I specified, I was intending to go for the Wi-fi Kindle, at $139, it is clearly a case of apples vs. oranges, or maybe even cashewnuts vs. oranges.

Battery Life: 3 weeks vs. 10 hours
Kindle’s battery life with wireless always on is a claimed 3 weeks. On a long trip, 10 hours is all you would read?

Reading experience:
There is a reason why no eBook reader in the market has a colored screen – LCD, LED, or any other display technology. iPad, or any other handheld device, does not offer the paper-like screen or the optimum contrast and sharp display to read indoors as well as in sunlight.

Thoughts?

iPad is a great consumption device, but I prefer my Dell Mini notebook, which also allows me to do ‘real work’ and run regular Windows apps.

P.S. I did explore other eBook readers like Nook and Sony Reader, but they don’t work in India.

P.P.S. A couple of Indian eBook readers have also been launched – Infibeam’s Pi and Wink. No verdict on them, as yet.

Search, Save, and Export Twitter–The Archivist

MIX Online has released a new Azure-hosted lab called The Archivist. The Archivist allows you to create archives of Twitter topics that you can save, export and analyze.

 

There are now over 50,000,000 tweets being created each day. But, tweets are transitory. Twitter itself doesn’t allow access into their database more than two weeks – and for a trending topic, one may not be able to access tweets older than 24 hours. Enter The Archivist, a new lab from Mix Online. It is a website that allows people to archive, analyze and export tweets.

The Archivist can create archives of tweets equivalent to any search done at http://search.twitter.com.  What is the difference between searching directly on Twitter versus searching from The Archivist?  Well, once you save a search from The Archivist, your search will continue to run, day and night, every day, every night, creating an archive for you based on that search.

Once you have started an archive, The Archivist data mines on your behalf, providing six visualizations that offer insight into a given archive of tweets. Any additional data mining you’d like to do can be done by exporting and saving the entire archive, to be manipulated in a program such as Excel.

 

  • Is this a replacement for Bing or Twitter as a Twitter search tool?
    • No. Bing and Twitter are excellent search engines, but The Archivist’s main features are the ability to save, export, and analyze tweets based on a search. The Archivist will also continue to update your archive.
  • How long will you store my tweets?
    • As long as you log in within 60 days of your last log in, we will continue to store your tweets.
  • Hey, I looked at search.twitter.com and The Archivist and they do not match exactly, what’s up?
  • Why did you use Azure?
    • We wanted to take advantage of our cloud offering and the functionality it gave us. It provided background services, scaling, monitoring, database and more.
  • Hey, this is cool, can I build my own version of The Archivist?
    • Absolutely. With all MIX Online labs, we make the code and design assets available for folks to peruse and use in their own apps. In fact, you can also contribute to the project if you like. For more information, please visit the Developers’ page. It will help you get started building services and applications using The Archivist and it’s codebase.
  • What is MIX Online?
    • MIX Online (at http://visitmix.com) is a community site for Designers, Developers and Web Builders. MIX Online provides insights from our team and other industry pros with articles and opinions; free, open source, ready-to-download prototypes and tools from our labs; and we host, speak at and attend lots of industry events.
  • What is a MIX Online Lab?
    • A Lab is a free, open source, ready-to-download tool or website prototype. Labs are not official products from Microsoft (e.g. Microsoft Office, MSN, etc.). Check out our other Labs we have built on our Labs page.

Older posts
Newer posts