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Innovation or Imitation

I have always thought that the Indian software industry must become more product-oriented rather than service, as going forward making stuff is going to help us stand on our own feet. Majority of our firms today do maintenance of products that have been created elsewhere and need looking-after for customers. I came across as article that talked about Indian entrepreneurs who have jumped into the product bandwagon and it seemed encouraging. The article Indian Product Entrepreneurs: Your Time Has Come mentions some products like Zoho that seem to be counterparts to products already present in the market, but are much cheaper. So it looks like people have made their own versions of existing products, with a few improvements and are able to sell them at lower prices largely because the development cost is lower in India. Some would say we are just ripping off existing products, but that argument might not hold good if we make those systems better, for example Facebook came after Orkut and MySpace but it was way better, thus it caught on. Having said that, more importantly we need to build things that are really innovative going forward, now that we have experienced professionals in our ranks too. We must use the price advantage, no doubt, but also think long term to create something disruptive.

Plnnr.com generates trip plans automatically

Travel planning is something that we always begin a few days before embarking on a trip, and while I have found it interesting, it is also very time consuming with loads of information available on the Internet. One cannot really decide if a certain place or activity is what one would like to do, and finding this is probably an interesting problem to solve using technology.

I have been thinking about it for a while and thought that with some user input, and all the information freely available about different cities, the places to visit, and types of activities they are most popular for, one should be able to automatically generate itineraries by mining this large information base. I came across a very cool website called Plnnr, which does exactly this. They have a really nice interface, with a few cities to choose from, and the itineraries that are generated are based on user preferences such as family trip, how intensive it should be, dates etc. Integrate this with hotel information and you have a pre-planned holiday in seconds. Going forward, one could probably add flight recommendations, weather related information to change plans on the fly, estimate of how much the entire trip would cost based on the recommendations, notifications about deals in the neighborhood, feeds from friends who have been to these places, etc but its very useful as of today in its current form.

Techcrunch Disrupt NYC Startup Battlefield

A few promising startups that I liked:

1. Square – This might just change the way we buy lunch, coffee or just about anything at stores. Eliminates the clunky cash register, card swipers, and saves a ton of paper and signatures.

2. Arrived – This pitch started off a little cold, but caught on after demoing a number of good features to let friends know when you arrive in their city, and to take it forward from there.

3. Sonar – An app that lets you find the people who are most relevant to you in a room, gathering, outing using their public online information such as Facebook, LinkedIn etc. Helps you make connections faster and better.

4. Weotta – Can’t figure out what to do this weekend? This will help you make plans based on the type of outing and mood.

5. Getaround – This is like the AirBnb for cars. People can rent out their cars to others which would otherwise be parked all day/night, and make money. They went on to win the competition.

6. BillGuard – Looks at your credit card transactions and notifies you if any fraudulent or incorrect charges have been made, by mining a lot of data about credit card fraud and what people are saying about companies. Looks like a useful tool that will help you save money, especially those who do not check their statements with diligence.