In Conversation with MadanmohanRao, Author of NetCh@kra: 15 years of Internet in India
Madanmohan Rao is an independent consultant and writer, specializing in the very broad domain of knowledge management. A computer science graduate from IIT Bombay and an MS, Ph.D from University of Massachusetts, Madan is a man who has donned multiple hats over the years and has been successful with all of them. From moving up the corporate ladder, being an independent consultant to being a DJ with World Music and also a writer; he has done it all. It was indeed a pleasure to have Madan at our office to have a candid chat about his work and how his journey has panned out.
YS: It’s a pleasure having you with us! Tell us a bit about your journey.
Madan: Well, thank you. It’s been an absolute fun ride and I have been thoroughly enjoying what I’ve been doing. After my return from the US in 1997, I was in Bombay and then Bangalore, and have been here ever since. I work in the domain of knowledge management. I love disseminating knowledge and working with new ideas which drove me to startups and I hence, help and mentor a lot of the budding entrepreneurs. Writing is also a passion hence I do a lot of writing in this area. NetCh@kra was my latest book co-authored with Osama Manzar and writing consumes a lot of my time.
YS: Tell us a bit about NetCh@kra.
Madan: Sure, NetCh@kra is a look back at the past 15 years of Internet in India. From 1995, when Internet access was made commercial and available to citizens, we look at what changes happened throughout the period, in education, healthcare, innovation leveraging the net. And we’re really proud with the outcome (smiles).
YS: You mentioned Knowledge Management; it is almost, ‘all compassing’. Can you tell us a bit more about the work you do here?
Madan: Sure! In the field of KM, I’ve written a series of books called ‘The Knowledge Management Chronicles’ which is about how do organizations do KM. This area includes information management- how do companies handle data, with the advent of internet, how is information held and other similar questions. The other important area of KM is how to get people to work together? How to make them collaborate and work with more synergy? It is very important for people to come together, share knowledge, publish it and use different channels to consume it and all this comes under knowledge management.
YS: So, while consulting, what is the size of the companies you deal with?
Madan: Typically, these are companies with a few hundred or several thousand employees. These are companies spread across the globe and have many domains to cover. Startups in India are now opening up to the idea and questions like how do I sort my data? These questions are now being addressed.
YS: Being a computer science graduate, what made you to shift lines into consulting and writing?
Madan: I loved computers and technology but I like the application part of it. I realized there’s so much more that can be done with technology and finding my calling, shifted more towards digital media. After a stint with Microland, an IT services and consulting company, I moved on to do independent consulting, contract based research reports and lot of writing. As a freelancer, life is very good.
YS: Can you explain a bit more about your role as a mentor or consultant.
Madan: Whenever a person is thinking of starting up, there are two key steps; the first is to have an idea and second is to implement it. Both need massive structuring and streamlining and having seen and worked with a lot of such ideas, I give advice as to what might work and what may not. For example, MobileMonday is a network of entrepreneurs for whom I do research on trends in mobile services and innovation, market opportunities, and regional linkages. This work also extends to Singapore, Finland and of late, we’ve been doing a lot of work in Africa as well.
YS: While executing an idea and growing a company, there is a phase of going from team A to team B (the bigger team) where lots of processes need to be setup. Do you see this problem widely?
Madan: Yes, this is a big issue. How does a team grow after a certain point? Is it in time or size? Here is where a lot of processes need to be set up, a lot of tools, number crunching, etc needs to be worked upon. And this is the one key area where we as consultants come into the fray.
YS: On a personal level, what is your drive?
Madan: Being in Bangalore, I think we’re sitting on a global story! How do entrepreneurs come together, how do people create companies, scale them up and establish them; it is a great place to be. Personally, I love building ideas and businesses and would be happy to see some of these stories going global.
YS: What is your favourite space?
Madan: I love how mobile is coming up. I also like internet and social media - so basically digital technology but it’s more interesting to see the intermingling of these areas. How mobile is coming together with green, how social and mobile are solving problems and such areas are very exciting. My background being very interdisciplinary, I would love to see more and more of this happening.
YS: What would your advice be to people starting up?
Madan: 1) Get a big idea, validate it. Take it to the market, get some mentors on board. 2) Think long term and global!
YS: And what according to you should the government do to foster this growth?
Madan: There are a couple of things here. Firstly, the infrastructure- India needs some massive support here. Secondly, capacity building is important. More and more people should be encouraged to become entrepreneurs and help solve problems like innovation in school education.