2014 A Review

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I had been scratchy in writing my reflections at the end of the year in the past. But managed to write at least a few posts every year in the blog which will be stepping into its 10th year. The last year had been one of those years – where I made positive progress in the areas where I am passionate about. Personally and professionally there were some really great moments for me this year. Last year was the first full year working in US, and did involve some new set of learning and career progressions within my role. At home, my mom travelled oversees for the first time in her life, spent 6 months with me in Seattle and we travelled to Canada. She has visited 3 countries in row now if I include her Dubai adventures. And finally after 29 years I am entering a new phase in life.  In addition to these big moments, I would want to reflect the learnings I had in the areas I spend most of  my time outside work - Technology, Health & Fitness, Personal Finance , Books, & Music,movies & Travel.
Technology : I think the overall investment of my time in this area had been the lowest so far in the last 10 years. My new skill learning were on Business intelligence tools like Power BI, Power View etc. to have better data analytics. I did build a few cool dashboards at work that did help me get a good space in the team around Data analytics. But I am yet to really get deeper in this space. I moved out of Windows phone platform later in the year to really get a hang of other mobile OS. I am using a cyanogen mod which is a community distribution of stock android running on a One Plus One. Took a bet on the low cost device but with ultra specifications, so far enjoying the phone with solid build. Initially had some glitch with the configurations especially with encrypting the device but had been awesome post that. Also followed the major tech industry news, and saw the Microsoft stock soar for the first time phenomenally this year with the new focus after CEO change. Spent some time in our company Hackathon on coming up with a new concept related to intelligent learning and development systems which is integrated, machine learnt and more personalized solution. Did get some good review from people but stayed as a concept without much progress into executing the idea.  2015 is going to be a big year in this area for me. I am planning to have my next career progression into a role much closer to technology.
Health & Fitness : Excellent year of progress. I did Increase my knowledge in this space quite a bit by reading for the purpose of improvement in my actual training. So the biggest events this year were Seattle to Portland (STP) cycling event, where I biked for 328 KM in over 17 hours. Involved a good 3 months of training and a lot of practice. More satisfactory was the fact that through this event we could send 10 kids in India to school without any fee for a year. Later in the year participated in my first open water swim event across lake Washington. This was a 1.45 mile swim across the lake from Seattle to Kirkland swimming for about 50 minutes. Training for this breaking away from swimming pools and going with some open water swim groups was an awesome experience. This year had some amazing underwater experiences as well. Completed my first PADI open water diver certification in march at Hawaii , and later completed a Advanced open water diver certification in November at Phuket. About 10 deep sea dives this year and moments of bliss underwater and my deepest dive this year was 110 feet and the longest dive was close to 45 minutes. In addition to these events, got a new addiction to the Pro Club spinning class especially one of the instructor there for the Monday night cycling is just awesome. Have made efforts to be regular at the club whenever not training for the events outdoor. Regarding my food patterns, yet to hit a regular rhythm in this, but hope to do better in 2015. Went for some amazing hikes in the summer, and the Lake Serene Hike was the highlight of the year. But did experiment a lot with the right kind of food , timing, fasting schedules etc. that suits my body to stay active and energetic majority of the time in the day. Sleep patters had been not so regular this is one I need to really focus a bit, may be next year. So for 2015 , my biggest goal is going to be completing the STP 2015 in a day and completing the Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3. Yes Ironman is going to be a big stretch, but stretch goals really push us.
Personal Finance : Its been about 5 years since I started focusing really well on this area. Joined a very passionate personal finance group called Asan Ideas for Wealth in Facebook. This is not a typical stock suggesting group, this group primarily focuses on knowledge building with more Q&A. Some of the big folks in this group were the passionate personal finance bloggers including my own favorite P.V Subramaniam of subramoney.com . This year in addition to my favorite knowledge source on this area like Jagoinvestor, got exposed to various big writers and thought leaders in this space like. Pattabiraman Murari a Physics professor in IIT-M writes of freefincal , Basant Maheshwari of Thoughtful Investor, Safal Niveshak and also Sanjay Bakshi of MDI BFBV fame. Knowing these people and reading their various writings and blogs helped me really improve my knowledge in retirement planning and various financial products. On the Action zone, did a good job in building emergency fund, continuing with my pure term insurance and good medical insurance for my mother. Closed my housing loan and did focus on continuing my retirement plan systematic investment plans. Thanks to Modinomics and the overall positive economic outlook the mutual funds performed well last year with more than decent returns. But overall a good year, and needs more time investment in this especially in the action zone next year with the changes in my life situation.
Books :  Low focus this year and read probably couple of books in behavioral economics – Thinking fast and slow , Munger’s Poor Charlie’s Almanack are the few I could recollect. Spent a good time reading Damodaran’s valuation books, that was some serious learning in the mid of the year and loved reading his posts and books. Some business books read this year include Barbarians at the gate on RJR Nabisco leverage buy-out. Simon Singh’s Simpsons and Mathemetical secrets was another good pick. But low book reading volume this year, and my next year focus is to read atleast 1 book a month. Setting really a low target but hope I get beyond the 12-15 books next year. The feeds and blogs take considerable reading time for me and could not really focus on physical books these days. A good target for next year.
Music, Movies & Travel :  After a scratchy start with Mridangam in 2013 at Hyderabad, my search continued in Seattle. This year I found an awesome Tabla teacher  who inspired me and have tried to be regular with the classes. Have been dabbling a bit with very basic knowledge. The search in this space is to enjoy the music I listen more.  A long long way to even get to that space. On Movies, a lot of movies I saw this year. Watched pretty much every Tamil movie released this year. But some stand out movies this year were in no order – Thegidi, Jigarthanda , Salim, Kaviya Thalaivan , Mundasupatti, Goli Soda, Vaayai Moodi Pesavum, Un Samayal Arayil. The disappointment this year was Superstars, Lingaa, though I am a die hard fan of Rajinikanth.  In addition to Tamil movies, got crazy with malayalam movies in the last three years. All started with Ustad Hotel, this year there were some quality Malayalam movies I watched. Maybe to increase my reading, I should reduce my time watching every crap movie that is getting released. But one of my big guilty indulgence is movies.
Travel this year was amazing. Started the new year at Las Vegas and Grand Canyon trip with friends. Vegas is too artificial for me, but Grand Canyon is worth the long travel, what a natural wonder that is.  Later in March, went to Maui,  Hawaii with friends. This is paradise on earth, and would love to go to Hawaii again may be with my bike. Later in the year travelled to Canada with my mom. We visited Vancouver and Victoria Island. Victoria island is a beautiful place and a good weekend getaway as well. The year end travel was to Cambodia and Thailand. Angkor Wat , Thom and Ta Phrom in Seam Rip are must see. A cultural heritage site, with lot of references to Indian Mythology. Wonderful diving experience in Phuket and layover in Bangkok. Bangkok is crowded, nasty and to polluted and I would not want to even have a layover time there next and will do a different route.  Also had some local travel like Portland, Mount Rainier this year. Not to miss my India travel, went back home after 13 months. Had an amazing time for a week at home and with my fiancĂ© and relatives. But overall good amount of travel this year. Next year is also going to be similar at-least in January.
Made a lot of new friends in Seattle and continued volunteering with Isha Seattle group. My blogging frequency this year was decent compared to past few years, with atleast one post a month. A lot of happenings this year, there were few unexpected turns as well and that made things more interesting. As I continue to learn, I am very hopeful about the year 2015. Not predicting or crystal gazing anything next year but very positive about the future and try to best utilize every opportunity coming in front of me. Thanks to so many of my friends and family members who have directly or indirectly helped me, without their support and help I would not be able to make any big progress.
I have very few regular readers of my blog. most of them are my friends who occasionally reach this place to know about what is happening in my life. Rest of the traffic is for the tool tips I write from search engines. Got my first Google Adsense payout this year after 9 years of having this blog.
But For my friends, I did send an email about my marriage next month. In case I missed, here is the detail. I am getting married to Sakthi Pavithra, in January 2015.  So 2014 was the last year I was single. A picture is worth more than 1000 words, ( I wrote too much, so tried a picture collage of various things in 2014)
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The Next Big Thing

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Identifying the next big thing and catching the right wave to ride is everyone’s dream . That has been the constant quest for business to succeed no matter what industry they are in. With disruption happening across industries, in the last decade there had been a lot of startups that are buzzing with technology as the key enabler to disrupt.
Looking at the last decade of disruptions – an online website killed brick and mortar book stores first ( Amazon vs. Barnes & Nobles), and slowly they started dominating selling pretty much everything on the earth including turkeys for thanksgiving.  Startups to Big companies are in constant quest for this next big thing to create a breakthrough in the industry. The breakthrough could be anything like an iPhone, iPod , Search advertising or even a simple app like Whatsapp ( to remind it was worth 19 Billion USD) or even a platform like Windows or Android.  The one common thing among them - other than making huge money for business, the disruption had real impact on people. The scale at which it swept the whole world was enormous.
Recently I had to review and judge a B School Business Plan contest, which had participation from every premier B Schools in India, the likes of IIMs, XLRI, FMS etc.  So the contest was about writing a business plan for the Next Big thing with technology as a key enabler for a company to invest. The company is a high-tech product based company. With that premise there were about 40 entries to the event. I did end up shortlisting about 7 for the finals based on novelty of the idea (or how disruptive the idea was), feasibility, practical thought, research and the real impact it would have on people.  At the end of this exercise, I made some logical grouping of the various ideas among those entries and looked at what areas they are trying to disrupt, and what are the existing startup / big company initiatives around them. I am sure many of the names I will highlight are already popular and are on its way to be the next big thing, but we are yet to see the full potential.  All the below are my own observations based on submissions and may be limited with what I know and not exhaustive on what is happening in industry. Below are the groupings I finally made,
  • Sharing Economy based ideas / Peer to Peer Economy : Almost 70% of the business ideas submitted were on this space, were the focus was about sharing an additional resource which some one own.  The business ideas try to help end provider earn money effectively using that resource by sharing and also provide value addition for the end customer. The main company that is building the infrastructural support for this system would pocket a considerable chunk of profit to themselves and by scaling across markets they would grow.  The ideas proposed were around providing Car Rides, Errand work for people, Home cooked food , personal living space - houses / condos , or money for lending.  All these were enabled with the help of technology , mostly an App or a website which is social. So the leading startups in this space – Airbnb ( For shared house or vacation rentals) , Uber/Lyft ( Car Rides) , Task Rabbit (Errands) ,  EatWith ( For food or sharing the dining experience). But for Peer to Peer lending there is yet to be a leader in the space as of now, but Facebook tried  building this part of the messenger app and we are yet to see breakthrough in that.  This is one space to watch as the new generation tries to rely more on a sharing economy than owning economy we were in. In the previous generation ownership value was very high and with the new trend it is going down and this space would see some successful startups in the coming years.
  • Education based ideas :  This is one industry ripe for disruption. It is also an industry and mostly run for profit except the one which is government run. Rest of them in majority are run for profit. There were about 20% of ideas in this area around - E-learning, e-certificate management, online tutor-student matching,  predictive analytics to improve student performance, alumni management,  learning infrastructure like email, shared space for files etc.  There have been many companies trying to disrupt this space especially breaking the university system–  Massive open online courses by Coursera , Udacity and edX are some recent developments in the last few years.  There are also some good open source learning management system like Moodle and the big companies like Google, Microsoft all are trying with their own products like Google Helpouts and their productivity apps customized for education sector. But yet this is one place yet to be really explored for breakthrough. Even Coursera  like MOOC made the content available to the masses, the dropout rate  is pretty high with the number of people who actually complete the course is low vs registering for a course. The learning outcome is yet to be measured. Also how will this really impact in people’s life for better jobs, or better productivity etc. are yet to be measured successfully.
  • Agriculture based ideas : This is a big market and definitely needs to be enabled further with technology. In India, there was not high PC penetration, but now there is internet penetration with the help of smart phones.  There were couple of good ideas with smartphone / feature phone based ideas to help the farmers and also some crowdsourcing ideas around this. Especially helping farmers to arrive at pricing in a crowd sourced way rather than relying on middle men and may be the commodity exchanges. I have not really researched on the startups in this area, but an interesting space to watch.
There were few other ideas related to security , and social reporting apps with Geo-tags.  There was a lot of social and crowdsourcing aspects added to most of the ideas. It was an interesting read overall going through the various B Plan ideas, and I have been brainstorming quite some time with my friends to start some business. As always its not about the idea alone, but problem we are solving for people and the execution of that really matters for success even if that idea may not be novel. If we do a good job in showing the customers real value they would definitely make a switch even if some other alternative exists. Watching this space, in identifying the next big thing is interesting and I would continue to do.