What does Yahoo’s work from home ban mean for Indian cos – Source The Economic Times

 Soon after internet giantYahoo took away employee freedom to work from home, Indian companies are slowly voicing hitherto unexpressed concerns about productivity losses such flexibility may cause. ”Flexitime is a utopian concept that is not going to help anyone,” says K Ramkumar, Executive Director, ICICI Bank.

“Whatever is not natural to the market and commerce, will not work. Customer is the king.” India Inc has mostly celebrated work from home or remote work as a best practice to attract and retain talent. Hardly anyone has yet voiced concerns of productivity losses such practices may cause.
“Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” a Yahoo memo announcing the rollback observed. “Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” it added.

Some HR heads of companies that have given employees such flexibility are now beginning to echo Yahoo’s concerns. None of them have yet moved to curb the practice, nor have they given any indication that they may consider such a move. “In India, unlike the west, employees do not have a separate office space in their homes. In that way, productivity could get hampered if one works from home,” says Saurabh Govil, vice-president HR, Wipro.

The company offers flexi-work on a case-to-case basis. In the US though, Wipro has been asking its people to come to office, especially those who do not have to stay at customer’s site. “Coming to office helps in developing a culture that is crucial; even small water cooler conversations are important,” Govil adds. Srimathi Shivashankar, AVP & Head – Diversity & Sustainability, HCL Technologies, says working out of home in India is quite challenging. 

“If you ask me whether Indian homes give women/men this kind of work ambience then my answer is no,” she says. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, extended family members have very little understanding that working from home is equivalent to working at office and that the individual should be supported to stay productive. 

Secondly, the household support staff do take holidays, leaving the individual working from home with household chores. Thirdly, when it comes to telecommunication/calls/online meetings, Indian households with noisy surroundings have a good distance to traverse vis-a-vis our western counterparts. Fourthly, network connectivity and security is still an issue in many cities. Lastly, power cuts across Indian states also act as a dampener on productivity. HCL Technologies introduced flexiwork options one-and-a-half year ago despite these challenges. Unlike 5-6 years ago, when such flexibility first found its way into Indian workplaces, the pressures of the recent economic slowdown may also be forcing companies to reconsider their assumptions. 

“Now companies have other concerns like top line and bottom line. They are insisting on ownership and accountability from their employees,” says Saundarya Rajesh, founder president, AVTAR Career Creators & FLEXI Careers India. Mahindra & Mahindra, which employs 150,000 employees, says such flexibility works only when there is a structure around it. It works only where one can measure productivity and performance, says Prince Augustin, EVP – Group Human Capital & Leadership Development at Mahindra & Mahindra. 

“If work is more individual-oriented then he should be allowed to work from home because otherwise you may end up losing the person. Also it definitely helps to attract women employees as well,” adds Augustin. However, some like Infosys still root for work from home. “Our experience has been that when used appropriately, such interventions aid productivity and help employees contribute their best,” says outgoing HR head Nandita Gurjar.

Barring a handful of progressive companies, work from home remains a hazy concept in India. At a CEO Forum last week, Sairee Chahal, co-founder of Fleximoms, a diversity hiring and back-to-work specialist, was at pains to explain work from home concept to the CEO of an e-commerce start-up. The assumption of the CEO was that work from home is not a serious approach work and that people who opt for it, want a lighter job. 

“In India, work from home is a fearful concept for most organisations,” says Chahal. For every five job applications that Fleximoms gets, it receives 25-30 applications for work from home jobs. “By overlooking this talent pool, companies are doing themselves a disservice,” she says. Interweave Consulting, a firm that works with companies on work life balance and diversity, says that it is a complicated process and can not be a free for all. The firm has advised IBM, Cadbury and HSBC on the same.

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LG launching Galaxy S3 rival Optimus G @ Rs 30,990 – Source The Economic Times

 LG is all set to launch its erstwhile flagshipsmartphone Optimus G in India at an event in Mumbai on February 27. This device is pitted against the current market leader Samsung Galaxy S III and is the basis for the highly popular Google Nexus 4. India will be among the first countries outside the US, Canada, Japan and South Korea, as the device is yet to hit Europe as well as other major markets. The phone is available on online retail sites in the country at Rs30,990 even before its launch. 

The LG Optimus G comes with a 4.7-inch True HD IPS touch-screen that supports resolution of 1280x768p and 318ppi pixel density. This smartphone runs onAndroid 4.1 (Jelly Bean) and packs a 1.5GHz quad-core processor under the hood, supported by 2GB RAM. It has 32GB in-built memory and does not support microSD expansion. 

A highlight of LG Optimus G is its 13MP rear camera with LED flash, since most rivals (including Galaxy S III) come with an 8MP sensor. On the front panel of LG’s new phone in India is a 1.3MP unit. Connectivity features in the device include 2G, 3G, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 and microUSB 2.0. It is powered by a 2,100mAh battery and comes with Dolby mobile sound enhancement technology. 

LG in January announced that the sales of Optimus G clocked 1 million units within four months of launch in just four markets. It recently said it aims to increase smartphone shipments in 2013 by 52% and attain sales of 40 million units this year. 

Despite the new launch, LG will find its presence lacking in the top rung as new smartphones that boast of better features and are priced higher have already hit India. While Nokia and HTC rolled out their top-of-the-line smartphones Lumia 920 and Butterfly in India in January, BlackBerry announced the launch of its Z10 earlier this week. Sources say that Sony is also gearing up to launch its flagship Xperia Z in the country next week at a price of approximately Rs 45,000. 

In this space, Apple and Samsung have previously launched leading devices like iPhone 5 and Galaxy Not II, respectively. LG’s new flagship smartphone, Optimus G Pro, has been officially announced in South Korea but there is no word on its arrival in India.

Intel launches latest platform for crunching Big Data – Source The Economic TImes

Intel launched a new software platform for number-crunching on a massive scale, its latest offering in a growing field that it hopes will boost sales of its powerful server chips. 

The Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker is one of a growing number of technology companies that want to help organizations find value in Big Data – the analysis of vast troves of information that can be culled from social media, Web searches, financial records, and other mountains of digital facts and figures. 

Intel unveiled its third customized version of Hadoop, the open-source software that aggregates results from large sets of data and is widely used in Big Data analysis. 

Intel’s tweaks to Hadoop optimize it to work better with solid-state drives as well as other improvements, Boyd Davis, vice president of Intel’s architecture group and general manager of the datacenter software division, said at a news event on Tuesday. 

Intel hopes that developing software to encourage more companies to leap into Big Data analysis will lead to higher sales of its high-end Xeon server processors. 

“One of our biggest motivators is to drive faster growth of the data center itself,” Davis said. 

Intel plans to distribute its version of Hadoop through vendors and service providers and will also sell its own technical support services.

India first to put smartphone in space – Source The Economic Times

India has successfully launched the world’s first smartphone — loaded with a number of experimental ‘Apps’ , some serious and some just for fun — into the orbit. The University of Surrey’s Surrey Space Centre (SSC) said on Tuesday that theSTRaND-1 , a nano-satellite carrying a smartphone, has successfully been launched into space from India. 

STRaND-1 is a training and demonstration mission, designed to test commercial offthe-shelf technologies in space. The Apps on board STRaND-1 were developed by winners of a facebook competition held last year. iTesa for example will record the magnitude of the magnetic field around the phone during orbit. Used as a precursor to further scientific studies, such as detecting Alfven waves (magnetic oscillations in our upper atmosphere ), the iTEsa app could provide proof of principle. 

The Scream in Space app was developed by Cambridge University Space Flight and will make full use of the smartphone’s speakers. Testing the theory ‘in space no-one can hear you scream, made popular in the 1979 film ‘Alien’ , the app will play videos of the best screams while in orbit and screams will be recorded using the smartphone’s own microphone . 

The STRAND Data app will show satellite telemetry on the smartphone’s display which can be imaged by an additional camera on-board . This will enable new graphical telemetry to interpret trends. 

The 360 app will take images using the smartphone’s camera and use the technology onboard the spacecraft to establish STRaND-1 ‘s position. The public will be able to request their own unique satellite image of Earth through the website, where images can be seen on a map showing where they have been acquired. Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, SSC director said, “STRaND-1 mission is a fantastic achievement.” 

STRaND-1 is a training and demonstration mission weighing 4.3 kg launched into a 785km Sun-synchronous orbit on ISRO’s PSLV launcher. Sir Martin added, “This launch is SSC’s first with Isro, and I am looking forward to exploring opportunities for further launches and a wider collaboration on space projects in the future.”