Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From studying under the streetlights to CEO of a US firm!

From studying under the streetlights to CEO of a US firm!

Here is the rags-to-riches story of an extremely talented boy from a small village in Tamil Nadu who has risen to be the chief executive officer of a company in Seattle , USA . It is also the story of how Kalyana Raman Srinivasan, who was so indigent that he had to study under a streetlight, but then managed to score excellent marks, rose in life and became today's Kal Raman.
At every turn in his life, he took the difficult path and it turned out to be the right one and in the right direction. His rise to the top is more dramatic than a thriller. Today, he is a very successful entrepreneur and the founder-CEO of GlobalScholar.

Read his extraordinary story of triumph and determination . . .
Difficult childhood
Kal Raman was born and brought up in a small village called Mannarakoil in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. It was a comfortable normal middle class life for him and his siblings as his father was a Tahasildar there. But the sudden death of his father at the age of 45 changed everything overnight. Kal was 15 then. "My mother got a pension of Rs 420 a month and you can imagine how tough it is to educate four children and feed five mouths with Rs 420?"
Hi life changed dramatically after his father's death. The family moved from the rented house to a hut that had no proper water supply or electricity. Kal Raman remembers, "All of us used to study under the streetlight and, thank god, the streetlights used to work those days! MGR (M G Ramachandran) was the chief minister then. We had to sell the plates to buy rice to eat and my mother used to give us rice in our hands. That bad was our situation."
But his mother, who had studied till the 8th standard, was very particular that her children studied. "All our relatives wanted my elder brother to stop studying and take up the small job offered by the government but my mother wanted him to continue studying."
"Then they wanted me to learn typewriting and shorthand so that I could get some job after the 10th standard. But mother said, 'My children are going to get the best education I can offer. Education is our salvation.' She was my hero for her vision and she still is my hero."
What kept the family going? "We were sad but because we accepted our fate, we were at peace with whatever that happened to us. We knew our father would not come back to lift us up from poverty. We also knew our salvation was a long way away."
He didn't know why he used to tell his mother, "One day I will give you so much money that you will not know what to do with it!" Years later, he did exactly that!

First turning point in life
Kal Raman believes that God played a hand in all the major turning points in his life. The first turning point in life was after his 12th standard. He got good marks in both the engineering and medicine entrance exams, and for engineering, he got admission at the Anna University in Chennai while for medicine, it was in the Tirunelveli Medical College .

"While going in the bus with my mother to join the medical college, I told her, "If I join for medicine here, the high probability is that my life may begin and end in Tirunelveli. I really want to see the world.' She agreed with my decision to go to Chennai and join Anna University and study Electrical Engineering and Electronics."
So, he stepped into a new world outside Tirunelveli, and that was Chennai. Though he had got merit scholarship and a lot of good people helped him pay the initial fee, the scholarship amount never used to reach him regularly or on time.

"The mess fee was Rs 250 a month and I used to be a defaulter in the mess at least six months in a year. Till you pay the mess fee, you cannot eat in the mess. So, I used to live on day scholars' lunch boxes and also use to fast. That is when I learnt to fast ! I must say a lot of friends helped me with money and food."
Scarcity of money was so bad that he had no money to buy food just before the final semester exams. When he gave his final semester exams, he had not eaten for a day-and-a-half. "After finishing the exam, I almost fainted."
The day after the exams came all the scholarship money that was due and it was around Rs 5,000. "So, I went home a rich man and that helped us repay some loans."

First job
Like opting for Chennai and joining Anna University instead of a college in Tirunelveli, Kal Raman took another risk with his first job also. His first job was with Tata Consulting Engineers (TCE), and he had a choice of joining either Chennai or Mumbai. Although he knew nobody in Mumbai, he chose the capital of Maharashtra .
He remembered the first day. "It was interesting. With bag and baggage, I went to the TCE office after taking a shower at the railway station as I had no money to go to any hotel. After the first introduction at the office, the manager noticed that I was wearing slippers to the office. He called me and said, "I don't care which college you are coming from but this is not acceptable. You should come in shoes tomorrow."
I said I couldn't come in shoes the next day and this the manager construed as arrogance. "How could you talk like this?" he asked me. I said, "Sir, it is not that I don't want to, but I can't afford to buy shoes. Only after I get my first pay cheque, can I buy shoes. Sir, I request you not to terminate my job because of this. I and my family need this job."
Shocked to hear the explanation, the manager asked, "Where are you staying?" and the reply was, "Dadar Railway Station."
So distressed was the manager to hear Kal speak that he immediately released a month's salary in advance and also arranged for him to be at his friend's place till he could find a place to stay. "He bought me a pair of shoes and those were my first shoes. The next day, I sent Rs 1,500 from the advance to my mother."
From electrical engineering to programming
Kal's rise in career was meteoric in a short span of time. Within a month, he got a chance to move to Bengaluru (then Bangalore ) and also to programming. Soon, he was in Chennai with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Within a few months, he was sent to Edinburgh , UK .
From Edinburgh , his next stop was the United States . In 1992, he went to the US as an entry level contractor with Wal-Mart. In two years, he was a director running a division.

When he left Wal-Mart after six years, he was a man running the information systems for the International Division of the retail giant.
In 1998, he joined Online Pharmacy as the chief information officer and in 2001 at the age of 30, he was the CEO of the company.

He was at the right place at the right time. "God was there at every step guiding me to take the right decisions. I was also willing to take risks and tread new paths," Kal says.
Starting GlobalScholar
Philanthropist Mike Milken who had donated more than a billion dollars to education, wanted to use technology so that high quality education was accessible to ordinary people. Milken convinced Kal to join him. That was the time Kal was building schools in his village for poor students.

In October 2007, Global Scholar was launched targetting both teachers and students by acquiring four companies -- National Scholar (USA), Classof1 ( India ), Excelsior (USA), and Ex-Logica (USA) -- that were into education.
"Three months after the launch, I travelled all over the US , India , Singapore and China talking to teachers and companies and the public. I found that the only way to impact education was by impressing teachers. The biggest scarcity in the world is good teachers. We decided to help teachers with teaching practices and kids, learning practices."

Kal Raman decided to concentrate on the US market as the US is more advanced in using technology. "They are also willing to pay money for technology. At present, schools buy the material which can be used by teachers, students and parents."
Today, they have 200 people working for GlobalScholar in Chennai and 150 in the US . The study material is prepared in the Chennai office.
The company that was started with $50 million will have in excess of $32 million and will generate $5 million of profits. In 2008, the turnover of the company was Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million) and in 2009, it was Rs 80 crore (Rs 800 million). In the current year it will be 150-160 crore (Rs 1.5-1.6 billion).
"GlobalScholar is growing at 200 per cent every year. We have 1,000 schools and 10 million students, which is one out of 10 kids in the US , using our study material. This is almost 18 per cent of the US population. We are the fastest growing education company in the US ."
GlobalScholar will soon introduce a pilot project in India and China . In the course of all this, Kalyana Raman became Kal Raman. "The country gave me everything and took half my name."
Giving back to society
Kal Raman is in India now for the Kumbhabhishekam of the temple at his village Mannarkoil. "It is taking place after 500 years. It is the culmination of two-and-a-half years of work. I have spent more than one and a half crore rupees (Rs 15 million) to renovate the temple and do the Kumbhabhishekam. More than anything else, I have given jobs to all my friends in the village who are masons and carpenters."
Other than this, he has also adopted all the orphanages around his village and he takes care of around 2,000 kids, some of whom are physically handicapped.

"I feel if I can educate these children, eventually we can make a difference in the society. We also help 100 children in their higher education. Around my village, everyone knows that if a kid who studies well cannot afford to pay fees, he has to only come to my house; his education will be taken care of."
"I do not do this as charity; its my responsibility. I am giving something back to the society that fed me, taught me, and took care of me and gave me hope.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Natural Beauty

Natural Beauty

Obama may skip temple over headscarf concerns

Obama may skip temple over headscarf concerns

Ravi Velloor
The Straits Times
Publication Date : 21-10-2010

Should United States President Barack Obama, whose middle name is Hussein, wear a headscarf that may convey the impression that he is Muslim, when he is not?

Obama, who is visiting India early next month, looks set to cancel a trip to the Sikh holy city of Amritsar for that reason. Instead, he will stay overnight at the Mumbai hotel that bore the brunt of the November 2008 terrorist attacks before flying directly to New Delhi for a trip that, some officials say, still lacks a "big idea".

His trip to India would be his longest overseas stay in a single country since taking office. Amritsar, in India's Punjab state, is the seat of the Golden Temple, Sikhism's holiest shrine. Obama had marked out the temple visit as one of the high points of the trip.

However, a clash of opinion within his camp about the headgear that is compulsorily worn around the shrine has led to second guessing about the trip, according to Indian and Western officials.

"As of now, the visit to Amritsar seems unlikely," said an American official. "But pressure is also building on the President from the Sikh community and we hear some religious leaders are saying it is OK for him to wear a baseball cap. So, let's see."

His aides are concerned that photos of Obama with his head covered would revive claims in the US that he is a closet Muslim.

Sikhs in America have often been confused for Muslims because of their elaborate turbans. In the months after the 9/11 attacks on the US, some Sikhs were the targets of drive-by shootings by Americans who did not know how to differentiate between the two communities.

Since his elevation to the presidency, Obama has tried to open bridges to the vibrant Sikh community, even celebrating the birthday of Guru Nanak, Sikhism's founder, at the White House.

It now looks like Obama will start his trip in Mumbai, staying overnight at the historic Old Wing of the Taj Mahal Hotel, much of which was damaged in the terror attack on Mumbai. He also may visit Chabad House, a Jewish centre not far from the hotel, which was also attacked.

A meeting with top Indian businessmen has been scheduled in Mumbai and organisers have reportedly needled people there by trying to weed out entrepreneurs with links to the outsourcing industry. Mr Obama's repeated attacks on US companies that farm out work to India have been a point of irritation here, although it is recognised that a lot of this is driven by domestic political concerns.

Likewise, India is also angered by reports that the US is set to funnel as much as US$2 billion in extra money to Pakistan, to aid its fight against the Taliban.

Pre-trip planning for the talks in New Delhi with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have focused on Indian demands for the US to loosen curbs on high technology transfers and unqualified US support for a permanent seat for India at the United Nations Security Council.

The US wants to press India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Both sides are looking for ways to protect the substantial political investment in the relationship," said Kanwal Sibal, a former Indian foreign secretary. "Expectations from the trip though are a bit muted."

Clowning everywhere


The clock keeps turning
And the heart keeps yearning
For a place to belong
While I sing this song
Events happen
That remind me
Of satin, lace, and leather
As I look around
Everything is as light as a feather
Will rock you to the bone
It will drive you around
Through the unknown
It will shock you to the core
And drive you out the door
Hold on to your boot straps
You're in for a ride
Forget about the weather
And your foolish pride

Do not disturb the animals: Authorities threaten to raid Russell Brand and Katy Perry's wedding if things get too raucous

Do not disturb the animals: Authorities threaten to raid Russell Brand and Katy Perry's wedding if things get too raucous
By Daily Mail Reporter
October 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Donald Trump On President George W. Bush

Donald Trump On President George W. Bush

Monday, October 18, 2010

Google self-driving car in the works

Google self-driving car in the works
Google is at it again. In a show of its willingness to experiment with technologies that won’t pay off for years to come, the search giant is now taking a stab at cars that can drive itself in highway or city traffic.

Anyone driving on California’s route 101 between San Francisco and Palo Alto in the last eight months would have spotted a small fleet of Prius’ with a man seemingly sitting idle on the wheel. That is clearly not the case. It’s Google’s software and hardware hard at work.

A few photos and video of the Google self-driving car iare now available online; we have reproduced them here for you.

Using artificial-intelligence software that can sense anything near the car and mimic the decisions made by a human driver, Google is hoping these cars will be the way of the future. There is of course a human driver to take control if any oops! moments are about to occur. There is also a Google techie looking after the navigation and software systems from the passenger seat.

Google’s fleet of seven Prius’ and one Audi TT have driven some 1,000 miles without human control and more than 140,000 miles with occasional human intervention. One of these Prius’ could even drive itself up and down San Francisco’s (in)famous Lombard Street, one of the steepest and bendiest streets in the United States. The only accident so far, engineers say, was when one such ‘driverless’ car was slammed from the back while waiting at a red light.

Automated cars have been around for years and futurists have been crying hoarse that they can change the world and its roads much the same way the internet, or should we say Google search has.

Automated, or robot drivers, react faster than humans, don’t drink and drive, don’t get road rage, don’t get distracted, sleepy or lazy. They have a 360 degree of awareness, knows all the routes beforehand thanks to global positioning systems (GPS). In 2008, in the United States alone, some 37,000 people died in road accidents (1.2 million globally, U.N. reckons). Google says that their driverless cars can bring this number down significantly thanks to the inherent advantages of a computer driving a car.

Google’s engineers say these cars could double the capacity of roads be allowing cars to drive closer together at higher speeds. Also, because, they reckon, computer-driven cars are less likely to crash, cars can be built lighter, presumably with less physical safety features, lowering the cars weight significantly. And low eight equals less fuel consumed and thus less emissions too.

During a half-hour drive with The New York Times recently, the car, beginning on Google’s campus in Mountain View, California, equipped with a variety of sensors and following a programmed route nimbly accelerated in the entrance lane and merged into fast-moving highway traffic.

It consistently drove at the speed limit, which it knew because the limit for every road is included in its database, and left the freeway several exits later. The car then drove through rush-hour traffic through Mountain View, stopping for lights and stop signs, as well as making announcements like “approaching a crosswalk” (to warn the human at the wheel) or “turn ahead” in a pleasant female (duh!) voice. This same system, Google says, would alert the driver if anything was amiss with any of the car’s multiple sensors.

The most brilliant thing about this technology is that it can be apparently be adapted to make the passengers comfortable. Currently, there are two settings: ‘cautious and aggressive.’

In ‘cautious’ mode, the car will be more submissive and gallant – letting other cars onto the highway before itself; while in ‘aggressive’ mode, the car will try to do so first and while leaving a little less room for errors.

However, even the most optimistic of predictions put the deployment of the technology more than eight years away. But the lack of an obvious and immediate route to profit is not discouraging Google. This is an encouraging sign. Google has never shied away from experimental technologies that may be expensive now but reaps many more millions in the future.

One way it could profit is by leasing or selling the technology it develops to other driverless car manufacturers. It could also supply the car’s hardware to such firms. Oh and don’t forget advertising. With the car driving itself, Google can keep streaming ads to your cellphone, laptop or car screens itself.

To make this possible, Google gathered some of the best engineers from the DARPA Challenges, a series of autonomous vehicle races organized by the U.S. government. The project however, is the brainchild of Sebastian Thrun, the 43-year-old director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, a Google engineer and the co-inventor of Google’s Street View mapping service.

“We’ve always been optimistic about technology’s ability to advance society, which is why we have pushed so hard to improve the capabilities of self-driving cars beyond where they are today,” Thrun said on Google’s blog. “While this project is very much in the experimental stage, it provides a glimpse of what transportation might look like in the future thanks to advanced computer science. And that future is very exciting.”
Let’s just hope there are no ‘error 500s’ on the way!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Jew talking to God

A Jew talking to God


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The World Tallest Tower ’s interior

The World Tallest Tower ’s interior
Burj Khalifa..

Men vs Women decision making

Men vs Women decision making