Wednesday, January 29, 2014

As Facebook turns 10, Mark Zuckerberg wants to change how tech industry works


Mark Zuckerberg was in his element. 

Zuckerberg, whose social network turns 10 years old next week, spoke on Tuesday at a meeting of the Open Compute Project. 

Open Compute is an initiative that Facebook started three years ago to help big computing centers add the kind of cost cuts and efficiency gains from open-source software - where programmers share ideas and code across company, university and even national boundaries - to single computer servers and Web management.

If that sounds technical, you are right. Speaking to this engineering audience, Zuckerberg was much less guarded than usual about what he has done and where he is going.

His goals - some achieved and others still aspirational - paint a picture of someone who wants to do more than just be the king of social media. He wants to change the high-tech business, all the way to the guts of the data centre. And he thinks he is on his way to doing it.

To start, he believes he has eliminated the technical advantages enjoyed by Amazon, Google and Yahoo. 

Facebook got big after those other companies had all built proprietary global computing systems. Unable to replicate quickly what they had learned, he introduced Open Compute, which effectively crowdsourced the problem of rethinking servers, server racks, cabling, networking and a hundred other engineering problems.

"When you're first to design something, there's advantage to keeping secrets," he said, adding that "from our perspective, it was much better" to take an open-source approach. Now, he said, "we're far ahead."

He did it while saving shareholders money and hugging the planet. 

According to Jay Parikh, Facebook's vice president for infrastructure, the company has saved $1.2 billion in energy and management costs by using open source products in the last three years.

"It's not just about saving money, we're saving a ton of money," he said. The server system that contains Facebook's core social graph, or all of the content that people interact with regularly, performs 4 billion operations a second, he said, at 24 percent less cost and 38 percent more efficient energy utilization than a conventional system.

Zuckerberg said Facebook's green energy approach, including windmill-based systems in Iowa and hydroelectric systems in Sweden, had saved the equivalent of power for 40,000 homes and emissions equal to 50,000 cars in the last year.

He has also done his bit to destabilize an industry worth more than $100 billion. 

Big tech changes, an eminent Internet economist/investor has pointed out, require a committed buyer who will encourage young companies to endure several years of learning to perfect breakthrough products.

For most of Silicon Valley's history, this was done by the U.S. military. Facebook and the open computing project, which has drawn 150 companies, including Intel and Microsoft, looks like that firm buyer of transformational big-ticket computing technology.

As Zuckerberg put it Tuesday, "folks are heavily incentivized" to build new kinds of hardware when there is a prospect of big sales. "Facebook is a partnership company."

Innovations like servers made from cheap cellphone chips and now computer networking gear at perhaps half the operational cost of conventional products were features of the show floor at the open computing project.

"The way the market is addressed will change," said Frank Frankovsky, Facebook's vice president for hardware design and chairman of the project. "People are starting new businesses made for the way customers want to consume technology - more flexible, with more choice and control."

As tech history shows, it is tough for the incumbents to compete if that becomes the norm. 

Zuckerberg really wants to connect a few billion more people. To put that another way, he is up for destroying several decades of international telecommunications practice.

That is probably a $1 trillion business. Besides Facebook and the project, Zuckerberg has started Internet.org. The headline job of the organization is to get pretty much the whole planet connected. It sounds like a noble thing to do, but it is clear he is getting ready to dive into the guts of what that will take, including remaking how the world uses wireless spectrum.

"Having a smartphone doesn't mean you're connected," he said. "An iPhone costs $2,000 for two years, and only $500 of that is the phone."

Facebook, he said, is working with carriers to deliver new services and will also seek new ways to make data hauling over wireless much more efficient.

Parikh said Internet.org was doing research, establishing partnerships with phone companies and looking at new ways to remake wireless systems, the same way it has been remaking servers and networking.

Then there is that matter of remaking how all businesses work. Oh, and much of the rest of the planet as well. 

Facebook claims to have participation from 25 million small businesses, but for the most part these are little more than informational pages. That could change as Facebook finds its own ways to sell the kind of business services increasingly offered by Amazon, Google and Microsoft, wrapped inside social media.

"The line between 'work' and 'not work' is blurring," he said, adding that in the future data gathering and analytics "will just be baked into how folks do business."

Additionally, Facebook would like to connect people to things like their cars and home appliances. 

"We do identity, social and enable services to easily bring their friends and content," he said. "That should automatically extend to the Internet of Things."

In Zuckerberg's own low-pulse way, realizing the scale of his ambitions freaks him out sometimes. Because of Facebook's size and reach, "we have more responsibility," he said.

Ten years ago, "I remember we had first version of Facebook at Harvard," he said. "I said, 'OK, we've done this, someone will build this for the world.'"

He added, "I had no idea we'd be the ones."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Consul General N. Parthasarathi

Shri N Parthasarathi graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in 1974 from Mysore University and served as an Executive Engineer with a major PSU in India till 1980. During this period, he also earned the degrees of MBA (International Marketing) and Post Graduate Diploma (Industrial Management) from Bangalore University in India.
Started serving as the Consul General of India in San Francisco from October 13, 2011. Earlier, from September 2005 to September 2008, he was Ambassador of India to the Republic of South Korea. From October 2008 to September 2011, he served as Ambassador of India to Senegal. He was also concurrently accredited as Ambassador of India to Mali, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde islands, as well as High Commissioner of India to the Republic of The Gambia.
Shri Parthasarathi joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1981 and has served as a diplomat in countries throughout the world, including in Belgium, Senegal, Pakistan, United Kingdom and Syria. He has also served in different capacities in the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Finance (Department of Economic Affairs) in New Delhi. Shri Parthasarathy’s hobbies include writing, spirituality, mentoring youth, golf and bridge.
He has published two books: (i) ‘The Reluctant Assassin’, a fictional thriller, published in Delhi, in January 2005; and (ii) ‘Bi Dan Hwang Hoo’ (Silk Empress), a fictional novel linking the ancient history of India and Korea. The latter was translated in the Korean language and published in Seoul in June 2007.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Maharana Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur

Sriji Arvind Singh Mewar (born 13 December 1944) is the 76th custodian of the Mewar dynasty.[1] The Maharanas are considered not rulers but custodians of the kingdom on behalf of Sri Eklingji (Lord Siva). He is the second son of Bhagwat Singh Mewar and younger brother of Maharana Mahendra Singh Mewar. Upon the death of his father Bhagwat Singh Mewar in 1984, he became the head of his branch of the family as elder brother Maharana Mahendra Singh Mewar voluntarily split from family, but retained the title of Maharana.

A graduate of the Mayo CollegeAjmer he did a hotel management course in the UK and then went on to Chicago, USA where he learnt the job thoroughly which reportedly included washing dishes, changing linen and serving the guests. He has a wonderful crystal collection in the palace as well as its fantastic fleet of antique cars opened to the public for a considerable fee. The Maharajah has a collection of Mercedes Benz cars comprising a Mercedes 180, Mercedes 190, Mercedes Fintail and a rare Mercedes W116 Special edition Saloon built by Maybach. The collection also includes many rolls Royce cars including a 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom II.

Married to Princess Vijayaraj of Kutch, Gujarat, they have three children: Princess Bhargavi Mewar, Princess Padmaja Mewar and Prince Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar.

Arvind Singh Mewar is Managing Trustee for the Maharana Mewar Charitable Foundation and Chairman and Managing Director of the HRH Group of Hotels. Both these organisations were established by his father Bhagwat Singh Mewar. After the independence of India in 1947, Bhagwat Singh Mewar started focusing on the preservation of Palaces, tradition of House of Mewar and earning money through these palaces by converting them to Heritage Hotels.[2]

The tourism industry Bhagwat Singh Mewar began with a single royal residence (the Lake Palace) turned into a hotel in 1963 is now the Historic Resort Hotels (HRH) Group which includes the Kumbhalgarh Fort, with the second longest wall in the world after the Great Wall of China and numerous palaces. The Shiv Niwas palace of Udaipur received the Heritage Award for Excellence in January 1999 from the Prime Minister. Today the HRH Group of Hotels have many palaces throughout Rajasthan converted into luxury heritage hotels. Staff totals over 1200 personnel employed in the family's heritage hotels, resorts and charitable institutions.

Joe Green President FWD.US

In the Fall of 2003, while an undergraduate at Harvard University, Joe Green helped Mark Zuckerberg (who would later found Facebook) create Facemash, a website that allowed users to compare and rate the faces of Harvard undergraduates for attractiveness. Both Green and Zuckerberg were threatened with explusion by Harvard's administrative board.

Green had reportedly attempted to persuade Mark Zuckerberg to create a social network centered around politics, but Zuckerberg created Facebook instead.

In light of the trouble with Facemash, Green's father advised him against collaborating with Zuckerberg on projects similar to Facemash in the future. As a result, Green declined Zuckerberg's offer of shares in Facebook. Had Green accepted, these shares would have been worth billions of dollars at the time of the Facebook IPO.

Green studied under Marshall Ganz, who sparked his interest further in community activism and grassroots organizing. Ganz was pivotal in helping the Democratic Party with its grassroots organizing. In 2004, Green worked on Democratic nominee John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. In 2005, Green started Essembly, a nonpartisan social network that helped connect people with others who shared their political views.

Joe Green is the President and Founder of FWD.us, which organizes the tech community around public policies to promote a knowledge economy. Joe's vision for FWD.us is rooted in his unique hybrid experience as a tech entrepreneur and in political campaigns. Joe founded Causes, the largest platform for charity and activism, and co-founded NationBuilder, the leading software for community organizing. These two genre-defining companies combine the best of traditional organizing with a socially enabled web, making the tools of democracy more widely available and empowering people to become leaders.

Joe started in local politics by winning election to his local school board. He went on to work on several other political campaigns at the local, state and national level, including John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. He is a board member of Causes, NationBuilder and the Salesforce Foundation.

Indians a rising force in California politics


When Neel Kashkari announced he was running for governor last week, he became the latest Californian of Indian descent to step onto the political stage, the most recent example of a rising trend in one of America's most ethnically diverse states.

Kashkari is part of a surge of second-generation Indians emerging in politics, despite their relatively small population in California.

While Sikh Californians have been farming in California's Central Valley for nearly a century, the last couple of decades have brought a wave of technology workers and entrepreneurs into Silicon Valley, where they have formed a tight-knit, supportive and financially successful community.

Tapping into that donor base will be key to the Republican Kashkari's campaign, even if many donors will have to cross party lines to support him.

The growing roster of candidates and elected officials of Indian descent includes Democrat Ami Bera, a doctor who holds a Sacramento-area congressional seat; Democrat Ro Khanna, who is challenging for another in the San Francisco Bay Area; Vanila Singh, a Republican who recently announced she is entering the same Bay Area race; and Republican Ricky Gill, who attracted millions of dollars from Indian-Americans in the Central Valley before losing a tight congressional race two years ago.

San Francisco attorney Harmeet Dhillon was elected vice-chairwoman of the California Republican Party last year, while Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose mother was from India, is the highest-profile California officeholder with Indian ancestry.

"It symbolizes the changing face of California," said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a political science professor at the University of California, Riverside and director of the National Asian American Survey. "Even though Latinos are the largest nonwhite group in the state, there's room for other communities to also break through."

Latinos are about 40 per cent of California's 38 million residents and have a solid record of exercising their political muscle. By comparison, Indians make up less than 2 per cent of the population, or about 638,000, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

There is a long Sikh history in the Central Valley, where Kash Gill is mayor of Yuba City and Sonny Dhaliwal is mayor of Lathrop, in San Joaquin County. But many other Indian immigrants are more recent, and it is their U.S.-born children who are now bounding into politics, Ramakrishnan said.

His research has found that compared with other much larger Asian constituencies, Indian-Americans have high levels of voter participation. They also are among the most consistently Democratic-leaning, although a significant portion have no party affiliation. That could create an opening for candidates such as Kashkari, a moderate on social issues who supports abortion rights and gay marriage.

Indian donors backed governors Nikki Haley of North Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, both of whom are Indian and Republican.

"When there's an Indian candidate, Indian donors have been very enthusiastic about supporting them," regardless of their party, said Dhillon, the state GOP official. "They're a longstanding funding base for candidates, but there are very few candidates."

Among the children of immigrants emerging into politics is Khanna, 37, a former Department of Commerce staffer who is challenging incumbent Democrat Mike Honda in the majority Asian 17th Congressional District in the Silicon Valley. When his parents immigrated in the 1960s, they were focused on securing a middle-class life, getting a good education for their children and "taking a shot at the American dream," he said.

"My generation that has had the opportunity to go to public school, go to football games, walk the precincts ... that generation is going to give back in public service to the state and the country," Khanna said.

Similarly, Kashkari, 40, said his platform focusing on education and jobs resonates in the Indian community, where education is highly valued.

"Indians in America recognize how the opportunities that they have been able to pursue are not possible in India, and that's part of why they feel a sense of gratitude and to try to help others," he said.

Kashkari, who is Hindu, has spent much of the last year meeting with potential donors across the country.

"To try and raise enough money to credibly challenge the governor, we're going to have to tap into Indians, not just in California, but across the country," said Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official and an engineer by training. "The idea that one of their sons could go run for governor of California is really exciting for them, and then the platform that I've developed, focusing on jobs and education and economic empowerment, that just - it's a perfect fit."

Brown has amassed at least $17 million for an expected re-election campaign.

Influential Indians in Silicon Valley are demonstrating their might in other ways, too.

Businessman Vivek Ranadive, a successful software pioneer, emerged at the intersection of business and sports last year as he led a consortium of owners to buy the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise. He is the league's first Indian-American owner, and the NBA hopes to parlay his position as it seeks to expand into India.

Both Khanna and Kashkari cited a Silicon Valley mentality that merges well with an Indian view of success that places hard work above all else. They called the tech hub a meritocracy, where those who work hard can get ahead and people are less focused on race, religion or ethnicity.

"You've got Chinese entrepreneurs, you've got Indian entrepreneurs, you have American entrepreneurs, Russians. It is the great melting pot, and the key to getting ahead is, 'Are you smart and will you work hard?'" Kashkari said. "I think Indians are making a phenomenal contribution in Silicon valley and in California and in the country, and I think it's high time that Indians in America start to get more involved politically."

India's unusual mix of polluted air, poor sanitation and contaminated water may make the country among the most dangerous in the world.

In mid-January, air pollution in Beijing was so bad that the government issued urgent health warnings and closed four major highways, prompting the panicked buying of air filters and donning of face masks. But in New Delhi, where pea-soup smog created what was by some measurements even more dangerous air, there were few signs of alarm in the country's boisterous news media, or on its effervescent Twittersphere.

Despite Beijing's widespread reputation as having some of the most polluted air of any major city in the world, an examination of daily pollution figures collected from both cities suggests that New Delhi's air is more laden with dangerous small particles of pollution more often than Beijing's. Lately, a very bad air day in Beijing is about an average one in New Delhi.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing sent out warnings in mid-January, when a measure of harmful fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 for the first time this year went above 500, in the upper reaches of the measurement scale. This refers to particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which are believed to pose the greatest health risk because they penetrate deeply into lungs.

But for the first three weeks of this year, New Delhi's average daily peak reading of fine particulate matter from Punjabi Bagh, a monitor whose readings are often below those of other city and independent monitors, was 473, more than twice as high as the same average in Beijing of 227. By the time Beijing had its first pollution breach past 500 on the night of Jan. 15, Delhi had already had eight such days. Indeed, only once in three weeks did New Delhi's daily peak value of fine particles fall below 300, a level more than 12 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

"It's always puzzled me that the focus is always on China and not India," said Angel Hsu, director of the environmental performance measurement program at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. "China has realized that it can't hide behind its usual opacity, whereas India gets no pressure to release better data. So there simply isn't good public data on India like there is for China."

Experts have long known that India's air is among the worst in the world. A recent analysis by Yale researchers found that seven of the 10 countries with the worst air pollution exposures are in South Asia. And evidence is mounting that Indians pay a higher price for air pollution than almost anyone in the world. A recent study showed that Indians have the world's weakest lungs, with far less capacity than Chinese lungs. Researchers are beginning to suspect that India's unusual mix of polluted air, poor sanitation and contaminated water may make the country among the most dangerous in the world for lungs.


India has the world's highest death rate because of chronic respiratory diseases, and it has more deaths from asthma than any other nation, according to the World Health Organization. A recent study found that half of all visits to doctors in India are for respiratory problems, according to Sundeep Salvi, director of the Chest Research Foundation in Pune.

Clean Air Asia, an advocacy group, found that another common measure of pollution known as PM10, for particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter, averaged 117 in Beijing in a six-month period in 2011. In New Delhi, the Center for Science and Environment used government data and found that an average measure of PM10 in 2011 was 281, nearly 2 1/2 times higher.

Perhaps most worrisome, Delhi's peak daily fine particle pollution levels are 44 percent higher this year than they were last year, when they averaged 328 over the first three weeks of the year. Fine particle pollution has been strongly linked with premature death, heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. In October, the World Health Organization declared that it caused lung cancer.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing posts on Twitter the readings of its air monitor, helping to spur wide awareness of the problem. The readings have more than 35,000 followers. The United States does not release similar readings from its New Delhi embassy, saying the Indian government releases its own figures.

In China, concerns about air quality have transfixed many urban residents, and some government officials say curbing the pollution is a priority.

But in India, Delhi's newly elected regional government did not mention air pollution among its 18 priorities, and India's environment minister quit in December amid widespread criticism that she was delaying crucial industrial projects. Her replacement, the government's petroleum minister, almost immediately approved several projects that could add considerably to pollution. India and China resisted pollution limits in global climate talks in Warsaw in November.

Frank Hammes, chief executive of IQAir, a Swiss-based maker of air filters, said his company's sales were hundreds of times higher in China than in India.

"In China, people are extremely concerned about the air, especially around small children," Hammes said. "Why there's not the same concern in India is puzzling."

In multiple interviews, Delhiites expressed a mixture of unawareness and despair about the city's pollution levels. "I don't think pollution is a major concern for Delhi," said Akanksha Singh, a 20-year-old engineering student who lives on Delhi's outskirts in Ghaziabad, adding that he felt that Delhi's pollution problems were not nearly as bad as those of surrounding towns.

In 1998, India's Supreme Court ordered that Delhi's taxis, three-wheelers and buses be converted to compressed natural gas, but the resulting improvements in air quality were short-lived as cars have flooded the roads. In the 1970s, Delhi had about 800,000 vehicles; now it has 7.5 million, with 1,400 more added daily.

"Now the air is far worse than it ever was," said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of the Center for Science and Environment.

Indians' relatively poor lung function has long been recognized, but researchers assumed for years that the difference was genetic.

Then a 2010 study found that the children of Indian immigrants who were born and raised in the United States had far better lung function than those born and raised in India.

"It's not genetics; it's mostly the environment," said MyLinh Duong, an assistant professor of respirology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

In a study published in October, Duong compared lung tests taken in 38,517 healthy nonsmokers from 17 countries who were matched by height, age and sex. Indians' lung function was by far the lowest among those tested.

All of this has led some wealthy Indians to consider leaving.

Annat Jain, a private equity investor who returned to India in 2001 after spending 12 years in the United States, said his father had died last year of heart failure worsened by breathing problems. Now his 4-year-old daughter must be given twice-daily breathing treatments.

"But whenever we leave the country, everyone goes back to breathing normally," he said. "It's something my wife and I talk about constantly."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Indian-American Neel Kashkari to run for California Governor

Neel Kashkari, a former US Treasury official and architect of the US bank bailout during the 2008 financial crisis, says he is running for Governor of California.
 
He entered the race on Tuesday as a Republican newcomer who faces long odds against incumbent Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat.
 
Kashkari, an Indian-American, made the announcement in a speech at California State University, Sacramento. He cited California's public schools and economy as his motivation for running, declaring that status quo is unacceptable.

"Today, the gift of a good education and the opportunity it creates are out of reach for millions of struggling Californians...That's why I'm running for governor: To create jobs and give kids a quality education. Jobs and education. That's it. That's my platform," he said. 
 
The 40-year-old first generation Ohio native has no political experience and has never before sought public office.
 
He faces a formidable challenge in trying to unseat Brown, who is widely expected to run for another term and has $17 million in his campaign account.
 
Right now, Kashkari's only Republican challenger is California assembly memmber, Tim Donnelly, a tea party favourite and staunch social conservative.

Kashkari's campaign team includes political consultants who advised Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Kashkari's parents emigrated from India 50 years ago. The son of middle class parents, Kashkari is a multimillionaire now and lives in Laguna Beach in Orange County,

He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering at the University of Illinois and moved to California in 1998 to work as a design engineer at TRW in Redondo Beach.

He later earned his master's of business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and returned to California to help Silicon Valley entrepreneurs raise capital to grow their companies and create jobs.

He was appointed to the Department of Treasury in 2006 by then Republican President George W. Bush.

"When the financial crisis erupted, he worked to bring together lawmakers from both parties to write and pass landmark legislation to prevent widespread economic collapse," his website claims.
Last year, Kashkari quit his job as an investment banking executive and began travelling across the state and mulling his run for governor, meeting with potential donors, community organizations and regular Californians, according to Mercury News.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

23 Indian-origin entrepreneurs in Forbes' 'brightest young stars'

Over 20 Indian-origin young entrepreneurs are among Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's "brightest young stars" under the age of 30 from diverse fields like finance, media, sports and education, described by the publication as "prodigies reinventing the world right now." 

The Forbes third annual '30 Under 30' list comprises young achievers in 15 different fields and includes icons like pop singers Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, founder and CEO of the short-form blogging platform Tumblr David Karp, tennis player Maria Sharapova and Pakistani girls' rights activist Malala Yousafzai.

"This is an exhilarating time to be young and ambitious. Never before has youth been such an advantage. These founders and funders, brand builders and do-gooders aren't waiting around for a proper career bump up the establishment ladder. Their ambitions are way bigger and perfectly suited to the dynamic, entrepreneurial, and impatient digital world they grew up in," Forbes said.

The list of 450 young achievers includes 23 men and women who are of Indian-origin and are doing exemplary work like founding learning centers in India, or establishing a software company that helps teachers track classroom behavior, working as vice president at an American football team based in Jacksonville, Florida and owner of an exclusive chocolate boutique.

The young turks in the field of finance include Ganesh Betanabhatla, 28, who is the Managing director at investment firm Talara Capital.

Rushabh Doshi, 29, is a trader at financial firm DW Investment Management, who specialises in high-yield and distressed debt. Chaitanya Mehra, 28, is the portfolio manager at investment firm Och-Ziff Capital Management.

Neil Mehta, 29, is the founder of investment firm Greenoaks Capital, where he manages some $600 million, investing in industries ranging from ecommerce to insurance.

Sahil Lavingia, 21, is the founder and CEO of Gumroad, a web tool that lets creators quickly and easily sell digital products online.

Among the list of social entreprenuers is 29-year-old Karan Chopra who cofounded, GADCO, which is Ghana's largest producer of rice.

Krishna Ramkumar, 28, is the cofounder of Avanti, a group of learning centers in Mumbai, Delhi, Kanpur and Chennai that provides 750 bright, low-income high school students with science and math education. 

Ajaita Shah, 29, founded India-based Frontier Markets which brings clean energy to families at the base of the pyramid.

Kavita Shukla, 29, invented and patented FreshPaper a low-cost, compostable paper infused with edible organic spices that keeps produce fresh two to four times longer while still in high school.

Making a mark in the field of sports is 28-year-old Megha Parekh, who is Vice president at American football team Jacksonville Jaguars.

Amir Rao, 29, is a studio director at Supergiant Games and is co-creator of the action role-playing video game Bastion, which has sold over 2.2 million copies since 2011 and won multiple awards.

In the science category, Divya Nag, 22, is a leading name having cofounded, Stem Cell Theranostics and StartX Med.

Raghu Chivukula, 29, is Resident Physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Surbhi Sarna, 28, was inspired to found nVision Medical when at age 13, Sarna suffered from ovarian cysts that were so painful they made her faint.

Since doctors couldn't tell her if they were cancerous, a young Sarna vowed to create a technology to detect ovarian cancer quickly and early, Forbes said.

Sam Chaudhary, 27, cofounded ClassDojo, a software company that helps teachers track classroom behavior.

Sayamindu Dasgupta, 29, is a PhD student at MIT Media Lab and is vital to the Lifelong Kindergarten Research Groups Scratch project, which enables kids to programme their own games, animated stories, and art and share them with millions of other children around the world.

Pranav Yadav, 28, is the CEO of Neuro-Insight, a neuro-marketing firm that has developed a patented brain-mapping technology to investigate and improve the quality of TV commercials, programming and platforms.

Eesha Khare, 18, won the Young Scientist Award at the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Forbes said her invention could pave the way to a cell phone that can be fully charged in just seconds.

Aditi Malhotra, 28, is the founder of Tache Artisan Chocolate boutique.

Can India do away with income tax?

The BJP, as per media reports, may incorporate a proposal to abolish income, sales and excise taxes in its Vision 2025 document, which will be released before the polls. Many in the top leadership have come out supporting the idea in recent weeks. On January 2, Pune-based anti-tax group Arthakranti made a presentation to senior BJP leaders, including Rajnath Singh, LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, former finance minister Yashwant Sinha and Nitin Gadkari, on simplifying taxation by a flat Banking Transaction Tax (BTT).
 
Not all leaders were impressed initially; most importantly Yashwant Sinha, the former finance minister, said that we would be heading back to the Vedic days. Clearly, there are legal and constitutional issues involved, as sales and excise taxes are in the domain of state governments. And administration of the new regime would require a huge overall of the existing system, most importantly the banking system, notwithstanding the recent Nachiket Mor panel recommendations.
 
It might sound surprising, but there are countries where you do not need to pay income tax (UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Cayman Islands, Bahrain, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Saudi Arabia, Brunei Darussalam), as per KPMG's 2012 survey of 114 countries. People in these countries, however, do need to contribute towards social security. Some of these countries are well-known tax havens, while most others have managed to use natural resources to fund government expenses. Can India afford to do away with income taxes?
 
If you are tempted to brush aside the idea of zero income-tax, freshly propounded by Narendra Modi in his speech in Delhi last weekend, because of concerns over revenue and the ability of the government to carry on with governance functions and redistribution a la' a welfare state, think again. The direct taxation of personal expenditures for consumption is one of the oldest yet least tried ideas in the history of taxation. The idea itself has been germane since the 17th century!
 
A number of distinguished economists for over a century have argued that it is the "ideal" form of taxation. The only "perfectly unexceptionable and just principle of income tax", John Stuart Mill contended, is to "exempt all savings". Because savings are excluded from the tax base, its supporters claim that it encourages thrift, which in turn should stimulate investment. Among the most influential work on this theme is by Kaldor who developed the idea of an "expenditure tax" (1955) as a substitute for income tax.
 
The political economy behind taxation:
 
Although largely politically motivated (and you can't fault it purely on this, as all reforms may be attributed accordingly), the fresh Modi proposition has both merits and demerits and deserves a serious thinking, especially given the state of the economy, stubborn inflation and with savings rates having fallen significantly in recent years in India.
 
It is not such a bad idea either:
 
The consumption tax, sometimes referred to as a 'spending tax' or 'expenditure tax', is quite like the income tax, with one key difference being that the tax base is expenditure, not income. Levied directly, tax payers may still file annual returns accompanied with exemptions and deductions, if at all. Irving Fisher, writing in 1942, and earlier advocates of the expenditure tax based their case primarily on the argument that the income tax involved "double taxation" of savings and distorted the choice of individuals in favour of consumption. Thus, not only is the income tax unjust but it encourages consumption and leisure at the expense of thrift and enterprise.
 
Nicholas Kaldor, in his book 'Expenditure Tax' (1955), broadened the case for the expenditure tax by arguing that expenditure was a better measure of ability to pay than income. Kaldor viewed the individual's taxable capacity as his "spending power" which includes all the various forms of economic wealth (stocks of wealth as well as recurrent and irregular flows of money) which must be reduced to a common denominator of so much per annum for tax purposes. Also, allowance should be made for differences in individual needs which make some persons more or less able to pay than others with the same spending power.
 
Kaldor argued that the best way to arrive at a person's spending power vis-a-vis his needs is to look at his day-to-day living expenses. He viewed income as an inferior measure of taxable capacity because it does not encompass spending power in other forms and takes no account of differences among individuals as to the need to save.
 
One major argument put forward against the expenditure tax is that by taking away savings from the tax-base, one tends to favour the rich, as they are in a better position to save larger portions of their incomes. This would render the proposition 'inequitable'. It may also lead to greater concentration of wealth in the hands of few. Kaldor addressed this criticism by arguing that the rates of an expenditure tax can be made steeply progressive in order to tax the rich heavily. One would be still better off, as a large part of the spending by the rich is out of capital, which is generally untouched by the income tax.
 
Another criticism of the consumption base is that it would favour the miser over the spendthrift, even where both had the same spending power or ability to pay. Kaldor's response to this objection goes to the basic rationale of the expenditure tax: People should be taxed on what they take out of the common pool, not on what they put into it. He argued that only by spending, and not by earning and saving, does the individual impose a burden on the rest of the community. In other words, personal consumption drains the resources available to the community for investment and public uses while work and saving add to these resources. This view may not find buyers in many other schools of thought. In addition to value judgments as to the fairest method of direct taxation, important economic considerations are involved in the case for and against the expenditure tax. One generally accepted merit of the tax is that it would be highly effective as an anti-inflationary tool. On the other hand, the tax lacks the automatic stabilizing effect of the income tax in periods of recession. Other economic considerations, such as relative effects on incentives to work, invest and undertake risks are more debatable.
 
Current facts on income tax in India:
 
In contemporary India, income tax is largely a tax on the middle class salary earner. The poor hardly pays any income tax. The rich have dividends and capital gains as large part of their source of income rather than salaries. We could not believe the finance minister when he mentioned in his last Budget speech that only about 42,800 people have declared taxable income of over Rs. 1 crore annually. Further, 400,000 people (with incomes more than Rs. 20 lakh, and constituting 1 per cent of the tax-base) account for 63 per cent of the income taxes collected from individuals in an economy with a tax paying base of 3-4 crore people. Thus, 99 per cent of India's taxpaying people are being coerced into filing their tax-returns, while they pay miniscule amounts as tax on some pretext or other. The guys who pay up are mostly the salaried class, because they can't evade it, as it gets deducted as TDS.
 
Case for replacing income tax by a 'consumption tax' like BTT:
 
The above facts present a strong case around equity for doing away with or even revamping the current income tax regime at the minimum. Why should only a particular class be forced to pay taxes? At least theoretically, this holds ground. In addition, it would render great political mileage to the political parties supporting/proposing such a change. The middle class - both salaried and non-salaried -  who have demonstrated a renewed vigour in political participation in recent elections, would be enchanted by a proposal that reduces their net tax liabilities from existing 10-20 per cent to a mere 2 per cent! The BJP has a potential out-of-the-box match winning idea, especially since it hardly has anything on economic policy for 2014 general election. If some journalists aware of BJP core-thinking group are to be believed, the party is planning to pursue this idea vigorously.
 
But then how would the government make up for the loss in tax-revenue, if it were to scrap income taxes. As per 2013-14 Union Budget, personal income tax has been budgeted at Rs. 2,47,639 crore for the current fiscal year. This, as also in the past years, accounts for about 23 per cent of the total revenue receipts of the govt. The total gross tax revenue of the govt. (including the state's share) stands at about Rs. 12.4 lakh crore (budgeted) in the current fiscal. A two per cent Banking Transaction Tax on current banking transaction can potentially generate about Rs. 15 lakh crore - more than compensating for the loss.
 
The biggest criticism of the BTT is that a large fraction of consumption expenditure in India is still cash (83 per cent by my estimates in 2011, and informally verified by experts in Finance Ministry) and hence we would be leaving a large section of the population out of the tax-net. This is a fair criticism. But, then we surely would be moving up on the 'indifference curve' and getting closer to the Pareto Optimal choice. In plain-speak, the new proposed tax system would be more equitable than the existing one, without compromising on the revenue side.

Monday, January 6, 2014

US The Clean Energy Economy in Three Charts

Over the last five years, American inventors and investors have delivered significant progress in developing and deploying key clean energy technologies, supported by Administration policies.  Electricity production from solar and wind has doubled.  Our cars and trucks go further on a gallon of gasoline, saving families money at the pump.  And in 2012, U.S. carbon pollution fell to its lowest level in nearly 20 years. The simple fact is that key clean energy technology costs are continuing to come down, and these technologies are producing more American energy than ever before.  
Wind Energy
In 2012, wind was America’s largest source of new electricity generation capacity, accounting for 43 percent of all new installations. Altogether the United States has deployed about 60 gigawatts of wind power — enough to power 15 million homes. This growth in wind deployment has spurred more U.S. manufacturing.  A recent DOE wind market report estimates 72 percent of the wind turbine equipment installed in the United States last year was made by domestic manufacturers, nearly tripling from 25 percent in 2006-2007. And according to the American Wind Energy Association, by 2012 there were well over 80,000 workers employed in wind-related jobs in the U.S. 
Supported by Administration investments, generation of electricity from wind and solar has more than doubled, and the costs of solar and wind technologies have come down significantly.  

Solar Energy
Since 2008, the price of solar panels has fallen by 75 percent, and solar installations have increased by a factor of 13. Administration support has helped to launch some largest solar projects in the world, and renewable energy permitting on federal lands has gone from virtually zero to nearly 50 approved solar, wind and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands, since 2009, including associated transmission corridors and infrastructure to connect to established power grids. When built, these projects add up to more than 13,300 megawatts – enough energy to power 4.6 million homes and support more than 19,000 construction and operations jobs.
Better Vehicles
Thanks to Administration investments and fuel economy standards, we have a more fuel-efficient vehicle fleet that will continue to improve. As a result, families are saving money at the pump and we’re using less and less gasoline. Taken together, the standards the Administration has proposed to date span model years 2011 to 2025, and they represent the toughest fuel economy standards in history. Under these new standards, average fuel efficiency for cars and trucks will nearly double, reaching an average performance equivalent of nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025.
In fact, we are already seeing more efficient cars and trucks roll off the assembly line thanks in part to these standards. Five years ago, Chrysler didn’t have any vehicles delivering 30 mpg; now they make a half dozen. Last year, Ford offered a record-setting 8 models that are expected to deliver 40 mpg or higher. And in 2012, General Motors sold more than 1 million vehicles that get 30 mpg or better.
These trends in fuel efficiency will continue and, when the Administration’s fuel economy standards are fully implemented, the average driver will save more than $8,000 at the pump. When the standards take full effect in 2025, they will reduce oil imports by 2.2 million barrels per day and cut carbon pollution by 6 billion metric tons, which is roughly equivalent to all emissions from the United States last year.
In addition to improved fuel economy, the advanced vehicles are gaining traction. For example, during the first eleven months of 2013, Americans bought more than 87,000 plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), nearly twice as many as sold during the same period in 2012, and the number of PEV’s on the road surpassed 100,000 for the first time. In fact, the market for plug-in electric vehicles has grown much faster than the early market for hybrids. And prices are falling and export markets are opening up. Since 2008, the cost of electric vehicle batteries – which really drive the economics of EVs – has dropped by 50 percent.


BJP considers abolishing income tax

When Narendra Modi called the current taxation scheme a burden on the common man, sharing the dais with yoga guru Baba Remdev on Sunday in Delhi, it wasn't a remark made off the cuff. "Time demands a new tax reform," the BJP's prime ministerial candidate said.

There are serious discussions within the BJP on how to overhaul the tax regime and make it more beneficial for the common man as it prepares its Vision Document 2025 that will be released with an eye on general elections, due by May. 

The obvious question is: where would the government get its money from?

The BJP says that could come through radical reform in the tax system and also possibly through bank transaction taxes that could earn Rs. 40,000 crores in revenue. The party says it's also planning major changes in petro-economics with an eye on petrol and diesel pricing that's at par with international standards.

Only approximately three per cent of India's population pays income tax while the bulk of the government's revenue comes from indirect taxes that include excise, service, sales and value-added taxes among others.

However, many believe the BJP's populist idea is not practical.

Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha mocked the idea, "Ramdev's model of economic freedom is more like freedom from economics. I'd like to say intellectual bankruptcy comes before economic bankruptcy. If Ramdev were to be Modi's economic advisor, we just have to say you don't hire a yoga expert to have a healthy economy."

Though Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, a former tax officer himself, is in favour of simplifying the tax system, he cautions against the idea of abolishing taxes altogether. "The suggestion that all taxes need to be abolished to be replaced by a single tax in a modern economy is complicated and betrays its understanding."

Other experts point out that though simplification of tax policies is long overdue, what is needed is consistency, no matter who is in power.
 
"There has to be political will and there has to be consistency on this. There are so many amendments so often. Usually what ends up happening is that people make plans for 10-20 years but suddenly realize what they have planned for last year is no longer applicable for this year," KM Agarwal, former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India told NDTV.

Industry body FICCI's president Siddharth Birla says, "Whichever is the government of the day should lay down policies, should lay down a vision, should lay down a direction. I don't think there is any particular concern whether it is A or B or C, but what we do want is implementation and clarity in policies."

The question is: will the BJP act on the radical proposal if it comes to power?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Up in the sky: Silicon Valley's $1 billion-plus club

Fab.com, an online retailer selling affordable high design, last year seemed as if it could be the next Amazon.

Just a few months later, however, it looked as if it could become the next Pets.com.

Big-name venture capitalists, including the Andreessen Horowitz firm, poured money into the company over the last few years, lured by its startling growth rate. After raising some $170 million in venture funding, Fab accepted an additional $150 million in June, a round that valued the company at $1 billion and vaulted it into the club of billion-dollar technology startups that include Snapchat, Pinterest, Evernote, Spotify and Dropbox.

But by the end of the summer, Fab had fallen from that elite. Amid financial trouble, it fired hundreds of employees. A company co-founder and the chief operating officer left the company. Its valuation sank below $1 billion, leaving some investors underwater.

The rise and stumbles of Fab demonstrate how swiftly the fortunes of startups can change. At the company's giddy high point, it also illustrated why some billion-dollar-plus valuations have raised concerns of a new dot-com bubble.

"Predicting what's undervalued and what's overvalued is fabulously hard," said Josh Lerner, a professor of entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School. "It's a trope to see a young, highly valued company and say it's wrong, but sometimes it is."

Fab declined to comment for this article.

The growth of the billion-dollar club has eclipsed the exuberance of more than a decade ago.

In the three years from 2011 through 2013, there were at least 34 investments that valued companies at $1 billion or more, according to Dow Jones VentureSource, compared with 16 from 1998 to 2000.

Yet it is more than a speculative frenzy that is driving up the valuations of these companies. A number of changes in the capital markets, the venture capital industry and the public equity markets have conspired to make it easier than ever for unproven startups to be valued at $1 billion or more.

For one, the stock and merger markets have demonstrated that many companies' high-flying valuations are justified. Facebook's stock has surged after its early stumbles. Newly public companies like Twitter are performing well. And Instagram and Tumblr both sold for more than $1 billion each, emboldening venture capitalists.

"A number of high-profile companies in the social media space have been successful," Lerner said. "It's creating a feedback loop."

Another factor driving up valuations is the 38 percent rise last year in the Nasdaq composite index, which is heavy with technology companies. For venture investors eager to find the next big thing, the healthy stock market acts as a green light to keep pouring money into private companies that might go public or get sold.

"There's always this long and almost irrational exuberance tied to the enthusiasm, excitement and growth of a company when the economy is doing well," said Jayshree Ullal, chief executive of Arista Networks, a cloud networking company reportedly valued near $2.5 billion.

What's more, the availability of cheap financing for companies and investors, which has helped buoy the stock market, is allowing investors to easily finance deals and borrow money.

Pension funds and endowments are putting more money into venture funds. In the third quarter, venture capital firms raised $4.1 billion, an increase of 28 percent from the previous quarter, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

And with so much cash to deploy, venture funds are competing with one another to invest the money, a process that often drives up valuations.

When the ride-sharing service Lyft was seeking to raise a new round of funding last year, many firms, including Greylock Partners, were interested in investing. But before they could offer Lyft any cash, Andreessen Horowitz swooped in with an offer that Lyft could not refuse, according to people briefed on the situation.

Andreessen Horowitz is known in Silicon Valley for such tactics, having had success with companies like Facebook, Twitter and Skype. According to CB Insights, which tracks venture investing, the average size of the firm's investment was substantially higher than those of rivals New Enterprise Associates and Greylock.

But Andreessen Horowitz is not alone. In the third quarter, venture capital firms invested $7.8 billion, an increase of 12 percent from the previous quarter, according to the venture capital association and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The competition is especially tough when it comes to later-stage investments in the most admired billion-dollar tech companies, a group that includes such companies as Square, Box and Uber.

And the fight is becoming more fierce as new investors jockey to compete with venture funds. Competition from later-stage investors like Meritech Capital, Institutional Venture Partners and hedge funds like Tiger Global and Valiant Capital Management has driven up valuations.

These funds expect lower returns than venture capitalists, so they take less risk by investing in more mature companies that are safer bets.

"If you've got funds and you need to basically deploy pretty big chunks of capital, wouldn't you rather invest in things that seem like a sure thing?" said Aileen Lee, founder of Cowboy Ventures. In a widely read blog post on tech companies worth more than $1 billion, Lee called the group the "Unicorn Club."

Last May, Evernote, a company that makes a productivity app, raised money that drove the valuation significantly higher. Just seven months later, interest from Valiant, a hedge fund based in San Francisco that also invested in Dropbox, and AGC Equity Partners' affiliate m8 Capital, elevated the valuation to a reported $2 billion.

For those venture firms that aren't able to invest in the top companies, the inclination is to spread out their investments among a broad pool of companies, many of which are derivative.

When the deals site Groupon was thriving, for example, big investors including Amazon poured money into rival LivingSocial. For a time, the company was valued at more than $1.5 billion. But in February, LivingSocial took $110 million in new funding at a lower valuation, a so-called down round.

"These funds have a lot of money and push money out into whatever looks hot," said Alexander Ljungqvist, professor of finance at New York University. "It's like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks."

With so much cash in the bank, many companies that in previous cycles might have been prompted to sell or go public can now stay private longer - a strategy they saw Facebook use with success.

"That's why you're seeing LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., going out at $20 billion valuations instead of a billion like eBay or Amazon," said John Backus, founder of New Atlantic Ventures and a member of the National Venture Capital Association board. "There's a lot more value accruing to the private investors."

And the rise in so-called secondary offerings, which allow executives and early employees to sell some of their shares when the company is still private, is driving up valuations as new investors compete for a limited number of shares on the secondary market.

Some find recent valuations unreasonable.

"I don't know any other way to value a company than to look at its future cash flow and compare it to current cash flow," said Brian Hamilton, the chairman of Sageworks, which analyzes the financials of private companies. "Where we are today, I don't see where the values are coming from based upon any judicious or even very optimistic view of a company's future cash flow and revenue."

But many investors contend that young companies will one day justify their eye-popping valuations.

"Valuations are never a reflection of today's performance, it's a reflection of the future opportunity," Ullal of Arista Networks said. "Most of these companies grow into their valuations nicely and those that don't fall by the wayside."

And technology boosters note that the market for Internet companies is larger than it was 15 years ago.

"In the last cycle, there were barely 500 million people online, and they were all on 56k modems," said David Lee of SV Angel, an early- stage investor. "By 2015, there will be 5 billion people with a supercomputer in their hands."

Still, to some, Fab and other companies that attain high valuations are a sign that too much money is chasing too few good ideas.

"This is a drama that has played out many times before," said Lerner of Harvard. "The music inevitably stops at a certain point."