Monday, January 12, 2009

Murray’s Might, Somdev’s Surge

Andy Murray has been increasingly proving to be the player to beat on the ATP tour. He has always played his tennis with panache but has shown significant improvement in his serve, fitness and match temperament since last Wimbledon. His 3 consecutive victories over Federer, including the one last week at Doha, following the US Open final loss is no mean streak. At the upcoming Australian Open, he is an equal contender as Federer and Nadal to snatch the title from Djokovic. [Would refrain from saying stronger contender than Federer and Nadal since those two rise to occasion at Grand Slams, although Nadal has to prove more on hard court slams]

Though, the story of the week for Indian tennis followers is obviously Somdev's surge from relative oblivion. The guy at just under 24 is no kid but has revived the hopes of Indian tennis fans to see a national tennis hero fighting it out at major tennis events. Presuming he is playing at the Australian Open qualifiers [the draws are yet to be out], if he makes it and reaches even third round, it will be the biggest tennis news for Indians following Sania Mirza's success at the same event 4 years back.

PS: What needs to improve in India on tennis front is the reporting of tennis matches. Having read match reports of Somdev's last 3 matches at the Chennai Open, I am yet to get even an idea of what kind of game he [or his opponent] plays. The reports read like 'it went on serve for seven games before…' or 'they were locked in an intense battle..' or 'he missed a couple of more breakpoints ..'. But there is no mention of what kind of game [front-court, back-court] the player plays, what was working on that day and what wasn't [serve, backhand etc] and what kind of strategy changes were witnessed. Instead the reports portray these matches as dramas instead of battles of skills!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Federer and Nadal Launch 2009 ATP World Tour

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (sorry, I still spell Federer before Nadal) helped launch the 2009 ATP World Tour in spectacular fashion last Sun in a unique game of tennis aboard a traditional Arabian Dhow in Doha Bay (reminds me of first such attempt by ATP in Dubai at Burj Al Arab Hotel with Federer and Agassi playing them on a helipad). These two have taken the game of tennis to new heights in the last few years in terms of everything including skills, stamina, temperament and not-to-forget, sportsmanship. The prospect of them fighting over another year for the 2009 crown is salivating to say the least. Only Andy Murray, as shown by him in the second half of the season last year, with his incredible hands and feel, can pose serious challenge. Novak Djokovic may be ranked 3rd but will have to work even harder than last year, to defend his Australian Open title. There was a huge gulf between Federer / Nadal and the rest till 2007). 2008 saw Djokovic and Murray bridge it with reasonable success. It will be interesting to see who can step up in 2009; although I don't see any of the remaining top 10 players from 2008 do it.

Like any other tennis fan, the scheduling of years first Grand Slam Australian Open intrigues me. While it helps jump-start the year after a month and half's break with it being scheduled barely into the third week of the year, it leaves you wishing that there was a more gradual build up to it. May be Indian Wells and Key Biscayne can be played a little earlier as a build up to it and the Grand Slam be played under slightly cooler skies. But in terms of the quality of tennis and popularity amongst the players, Australian Open is catching up every year and is now looked forward to almost as much as other Grand Slams.

Personally, my wish from the year would be Federer defeating Nadal at the French Open equaling Sampras's record; and again at Wimbledon - breaking the record; employing more aggressive net play! His graceful game, spotless sportsmanship, statesmanlike interviews often make you wish for a lot – and often fulfill!

PS: Regarding women's game – who cares?! With the departure of Martina Hingis, and now Justin Henin, the game has become just way too much one-dimensional. Ball banging baseline rallies are likely to rule the year – with scant respect for grace, touch or feel!

Monday, December 29, 2008

SaaS Growth with Technology Initiatives

The recording and the slides for the Microsoft / Mural SaaS webinar have been posted on the webinar's website. The webinar provides practical tips and guidance to emerging SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) vendors to achieve market success. Various Microsoft partners address different challenges faced by growing SaaS ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) like; identifying the right hosting solution (hosting), lead nurturing (marketing), using technology to identify growth opportunities (technology) and expanding business through referrals (operations / account management).
This free 90 minutes webinar is a great value for any Business / Technical Decision Makers in the SaaS community.

I represented Blue Star Infotech, a Microsoft technology partner, providing guidance on how SaaS vendors can leverage technology innovations to grow their SaaS business. Excerpts below:

Many SaaS vendors limit their user experience / client access modality to web channel. While web ensures ubiquitous access, it also necessitates having an internet channel and limits the client capabilities to the sandbox environment of the browsers. Vendors can significantly expand the reach and the usability of their application by providing desktop clients with offline capabilities (Smart Clients) that can provide some core functionalities in offline mode and leverage full power of desktop environment. The productivity of the users can be significantly enhanced by providing them access to the SaaS application from within productivity tools like Office Outlook, Excel, Word.

SaaS providers should consider consuming various utility cloud services available in the cloud (like weather, map etc) to augment their core solution with low-cost but highly usable peripheral features. They can also greatly benefit from infrastructure cloud services (like storage, identification, computation etc) optimizing their operational expenses.

SaaS ISVs should take the advantage of their access to customers’ data, analyzing various data elements core to their ecosystem through the recorded transactions, building kind of intelligence that can help them not just cross-sell / up-sell their other services but come up with altogether new services.

To be able to sell their solutions to large enterprises, SaaS providers should ensure that their solution integrates well within enterprise environment, providing:
  • UI integration – to make their solution consistent with enterprise customer’s UI / branding guidelines
  • Data integration – to share data with other enterprise apps
  • Process integration – to enable business process workflow
  • Security integration – to enable single sign on
  • Operational integration – transparently working with the enterprise’s IT and helpdesk support
All of these would not only ensure growth for the SaaS businesses but would also increase the stickiness of their SaaS solution in the customer environment – a customer, who has installed any component of the solution and has integrated the solution with other apps in their environment, is less likely to get rid of the solution than the others who have not!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bootstrapping ..

[A bit of an abrupt start but while there are many tips on blogging on the net, there is none on how to write the first post! :)]

Year 2008 has been sort of unique for me, in the sense that it has placed me in the public forums on more than one occassion. It all started in Feb 08 with Microsoft Office Developer Conference when we got opportunity to present SharePoint, Silverlight, Live Services based Travel Portal Solution in John Graham's Real World track. At the same conference, got in front of the camera for the first time and appeared for an 'OBA (Office Business Applications) Interview'. In the middle of year, was randomly interviewed at Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston as a supporting cast [without any title credits :)]. Later in the year at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference, spent some time with Channel 9 talking about just launched technologies, my organization Blue Star Infotech and such. And finally, this webinar - on practical guidance for S0ftware-as-a-Service companies to take their business to the next level.

Not sure how much all of these has helped the respective audience, but it has helped me overcome my stage fright- to some extent. While I have been doing presentations to customers, prospects and such for living for years now, this is a different ball game altogether. With an attempt to build upon that, starting this blog - to share my thoughts on technologies (my work), tennis (my passion) and possibly my kids (my life) ... and anything else that compels me enough!