Friday, December 09, 2005

Bill Gates in India

Bill Gates is in India after a gap of close to 3 years now. The last time Bill Gates visited India was in the year 2002. But this time his visit created lot of excitement among the politicians and the industry honchos. This post will cover some of the major aspects of his visit, his look towards India as an emerging economy and how is Microsoft scaling up its presence in India under the able leadership of Ravi Venkatesan.

The meeting between Bill Gates and Finance Minister, Mr. P Chidambaram over a breakfast table was perhaps one that got lot of media attention. Bill Gates met the finance minister over the breakfast that was later termed as a Power Breakfast by the media. Chidambaram talked about how the working population in India is growing at a much faster pace when compared to other countries and how this could be a very big advantage for a developing country like us. Bill Gates appreciated India’s progress on the software and computer technology side together with Biology (Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences) and said that we are building world-class institutions in these areas. One of the sentences by Chidambaram was this: “Europe spends more money to support one cow than the per capita income of 100 developing countries. The per capita of European cow is that high”. He also talked about the way countries like Malayasia had built excess capacity that is helping it immensely now. China is doing the same. To this Bill Gates said that he never understood the manufacturing process and hence has no comments to offer but he talked about the manufacturing of X – Box, the gaming console of Microsoft on the lines of Playstation 2 and Nintendo. Microsoft today makes its X – Box entirely out of Guangzhou, China. The reason being all the components are made here. The ports or roads are very good; the other transportation infrastructure is incredible.

After the broadband-based Internet world, the next big thing that will happen according to Bill Gates is the “Talking Computer”. Bill Gates says that computers can’t talk, can’t see, and can’t hear. In next 5-10 years, as per the vision of Bill Gates computers will recognize things, talk like humans and recognize our handwriting and what not. It will be a sort of natural interface unlike the usage of keyboard. Bill Gates believes that Microsoft is in a leading position in this kind of research and hopes to bring the innovation to the people which will change their life.

Some things to ponder about Bill Gates are his idea of most influential thinkers. The most influential books according to Bill Gates are:
Ø Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat”
Ø Jeffery Sach’s “The End of Poverty”
Ø Jack Welch’s “Straight from the Gut”

Microsoft’s vision is to take computer to every home and every desk is not half done as per what he says. He says that Microsoft will continue to innovate and bring the best products for its customers that will bring excitement in their lives.

The most watched programme on television on Tuesday and Wednesday night was the chat between the Infosys Chairman, N R Narayanmurthy and Bill Gates hosted by Prannoy Roy. I happened to watch the second part of this chat. It was an amazing experience to see the two stalwarts talk on various issues relating to India. When Murthy was asked to check his microphone he said the normal 1…2…3… but when Bill Gates was asked to check the microphone he said 1 billion, 2 billion, 3 billion on which the crowd went into laughter burst. The talk between the two was a great one. He said that Google is not following the right business model and soon they will have to change it. He said Google search is not completely free. They earn revenue through advertisement, which they do not share with the people who use their search engine. So in what sense their services are free. He questioned.

The most important and landmark event in the life of Gates was when he got a computer terminal to work at the tender age of 13. When the same question was posed to Murthy he said the major drive to start Infosys in him had arisen out of an unpleasant encounter with the legal authorities in Bulgaria.
On the investment front, Microsoft has said that they will invest 1.7 billion dollars over a period of 3 years in India and will increase the headcount in the country's development centre by 3000. Mostly the MIDC carries out basic research in the field of computing. IBM is the only other company which carries out basic research other than Microsoft.
When asked by one of the audience regarding the qualities a person should possess to achieve success, Gates said the following:
Ø Passion
Ø Intelligence
Ø Integrity

Passion to perform. To do the best possible with limited resources in hand. Intelligence. To understand the subtle points of business. Integrity. To ensure that we understand our boundaries and our limits. All in all, the programme was a delight to watch after a long time.

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