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Friday, June 30, 2017

Business leaders may be overconfident in their ability to respond to disruption 06-30

Disruptive change is accelerating, driven by new technologies and rising competition from both traditional and nontraditional players. As a result, Innosight forecasts that half of companies in the S&P 500 will be replaced over the coming decade, due to loss of market value or acquisitions.

What are leaders doing about these challenges? And how do they feel about their ability to prepare for and manage them? In May 2017, we surveyed more than 300 executives at major corporations with revenues of $2 billion and higher about their current attitudes, experiences, and responses to marketplace disruption. The results tell a mixed story. Key findings include:

    • Business leaders may be overconfident in their ability to respond to disruption. 80% of respondents say they recognize they need to transform, and 82% expressed degrees of confidence that their company is prepared to change in response to disruptive trends. Yet there are multiple warning signs in the data—including perceptions of competition and disruption—that suggest they may be in a “confidence bubble.”
    • Broad understanding about what they need to do to respond to disruption. Executives see the need for a two-pronged approach to the future. They say they are likely to both transform their core business while also investing in new growth businesses. They also see the need to expand within existing markets and enter into new markets.
  • Talent and leadership are concerns. Executives say finding and retaining the right talent is considered the biggest obstacle to transformation. Moreover, 81% say that top management is not open to new ideas.
  • Digital and AI may be blind spots. Despite artificial intelligence and digital technologies rapidly transforming markets around the world, executives are downplaying the threat these forces will play to their own businesses. 

“One could say that the worrying thing here is that executives aren’t more worried,” says Scott Anthony, managing partner at Innosight. “The pace of change continues, and digitalization is accelerating, so leaders should be investing more, expecting to reconfigure their organizations and more, and should be paying closer attention to new product ideas and new growth ventures”

Main Finding: The Confidence Bubble

Perhaps the  most striking finding  is the  disconnect between confidence levels  and  specific per- ceptions of threats and  competition. 82% of respondents expressed degrees of confidence that their company is prepared to change in response to disruptive trends. Yet their actual activities fall short of what is required to justify  their confidence. There are multiple warning signs in the data that suggest they have strategy and  organizational blind spots that may undermine their ability to adapt.

• Underestimating new  sources of competition. When asked about the  sources of future competition, fully two-thirds of respondents (67%) think  it will be from “mostly existing” competition while fewer than one-in-four (23%) think  their companies will be facing “mostly new” sources of competition. In a related question, 55% expect competition to come mostly from  within their existing industries, with just 10% saying competition will come from new industries.                                                      
• New  thinking gets short shrift. 81% say new growth products and  ideas sometimes or often do not  get enough attention from  top management.                                                                                                              
• Keeping up, but not  ahead. When it comes to keeping up with the  pace of change, only
7% report their companies are  moving much faster than the  overall market, with only
24% saying somewhat faster.

Modest investment in digital. Digital business models and platforms are  disrupting industry after industry, but  53% of respondents said that they plan either no increase in digital investment or a less than 25% increase.                                                                                                                                              
• Underestimating new  technology. Despite rapid advances in the  emerging technology of artificial intelligence, fully 65% of executives said AI is not  too threatening or not  at all a threat to their business.

“One could say that the  worrying thing here is that executives aren’t more worried,” said Innosight managing partner Scott D. Anthony. “The pace of change continues, and  digitalization is accelerating, so leaders should be investing more, expecting to reconfigure their organizations more, and  should be paying closer attention to new product ideas and  new growth ventures.”

Reproduced from Innosight Research.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

What you need to know about the Petya ransomware outbreak 06-29

A new strain of ransomware has appeared in multiple countries. On June 27, 2017, Petya ransomware emerged and began spreading itself to large organizations across Europe. This ransomware uses what is called the Eternal Blue exploit in Windows computers. It is not impacting individual users at the time of this writing.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware generally presents users with an ultimatum: pay a fee to unlock and reclaim personal data, or don’t pay the fee and lose the data indefinitely. Ransomware is able to automatically corrupt and delete files in the event that monetary compensation is not received, leaving most users with little time to resolve the problem through alternate means.

How to deal with Ransomware:

  1. Do not pay the ransom. It only encourages and funds these attackers. Even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that you will be able to regain access to your files.                                             
  2. Be sure you are backing up your data on a regular basis. If you do become a victim of a ransomware attack, you will be able to restore any impacted files from a known good backup. Restoration of your files from a backup is the fastest way to regain access to your data.                               
  3. Do not provide personal information when answering an email, unsolicited phone call, text message or instant message. Phishers will try to trick employees into installing malware, or gain intelligence for attacks by claiming to be from IT. Be sure to contact your IT department if you or your coworkers receive suspicious calls.                                                                                       
  4. Use reputable internet security software and a firewall. Maintaining a strong firewall and keeping your security software up to date are critical. It’s important to use antivirus software from a reputable company because of fake software out there.                                                                        
  5. Employ content scanning and filtering on your mail servers. Inbound e-mails should be scanned for known threats and should block any attachment types that could pose a threat.                           
  6. Make sure that all systems and software are up-to-date with relevant patches. Exploit kits hosted on compromised websites are commonly used to spread malware. Regular patching of vulnerable software is necessary to help prevent infection.                                                                                            
  7. If traveling, alert your IT department beforehand, especially if you’re going to be using public wireless Internet. Make sure you use a trustworthy Virtual Private Network (VPN) when accessing public Wi-Fi like Norton WiFi Privacy.
Symantec is continuing to analyze this threat and will post further information as soon as it becomes available.

This article is authored by an employee of Norton by Symantec.

View at the original source

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

How Anticipating Future Variety Curbs Consumer Boredom 06-29

Image credit Shyam's Imagination Library

If your favorite chocolate brownie ice cream were on sale, then surely buying a few containers to stock in your freezer would makes sense, right? Surprisingly, the answer may be no, according to recent research from Wharton marketing professor Barbara Kahn, who also serves as director of the school’s Jay H. Baker Retailing Center. In a paper titled “Anticipation of Future Variety Reduces Satiation from Current Experiences,” Kahn and her co-authors — Julio Sevilla from the University of Georgia and Jiao Zhang from the University of Oregon — debunk the notion that consumers respond positively to an endless supply of the exact same product.

Through controlled lab experiments, Kahn and her team found that when consumers are offered more variety for future consumption, their perception of present satisfaction changes. The paper was published in the Journal of Marketing Research. Kahn spoke with Knowledge@Wharton about what the research means for marketers. 

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton:  Could you give us a summary of your research?

Barbara Kahn: What the research shows is that if you anticipate consuming a variety of things in the future, you will satiate slowly on what you’re consuming now.

Knowledge@Wharton: This sort of sounds like the reason why we all overeat at the buffet.

Kahn: Except overeating is consumption, and this is about eating the same thing over time, how fast you get bored with it or how fast you satiate with it. The reason it’s interesting to marketers is, of course, that marketers want you to consume as much as possible of their product. But the problem is when you consume a lot over time, you get bored, or satiate. This is not just for food; it could be for music or for anything else that you consume over time. Is there a way to reduce the boredom so that you’ll enjoy what you’re consuming for a longer period of time?

What we found was that some of that boredom and satiation is cognitive. It’s not all physical. If we can encourage you to think about something in the future that’s related to what you’re consuming now, and that will offer more variety, then you’ll satiate more slowly.

In an article you wrote for the American Marketing Association on this research, you introduced the example of yogurt, which I think helps to clarify this. Could you explain that example?

Kahn: Say you’re eating vanilla yogurt every single day for lunch for a week, two weeks, three weeks. You could imagine over time that you’d get bored with vanilla yogurt. What can we do to make you less bored?

Knowledge@Wharton: If you went to Costco or BJs or some warehouse and bought a whole pallet of yogurt, and it was all different flavors or some flavor different from vanilla, and you knew in the future you would consume that, it would make you satiate more slowly with the vanilla yogurt you’re eating over time today. That’s the idea.

Knowledge@Wharton: What are the implications for retailers like Costco, for example?
Kahn: It’s that selling a variety of things has a benefit over and above what you might think. Just having the variety in the refrigerator will make the enjoyment of a single flavor more pleasurable.
Knowledge@Wharton: What is the biggest surprise that came out of this research?

Kahn: We’ve always known a lot about anticipation; a lot of past research has shown that you should savor the anticipation of something good. There’s an advantage in planning for a vacation or a wedding or something that’s really fun. You might actually enjoy the anticipation of the event more than the event itself. That’s something that’s been shown before.

But what’s different about this research is that we show that anticipating variety in the future affects your current consumption. That’s somewhat surprising because you wouldn’t think that just thinking about something in the future could affect how you’re enjoying something today.

Knowledge@Wharton: One of the other interesting examples you brought up in your AMA article was the idea that maybe it’s not always best to keep a surprise gift a secret from a significant other. Could you explain that?
“You wouldn’t think that just thinking about something in the future could affect how you’re enjoying something today.”
Kahn: The point is that if people can anticipate something that’s going to happen in the future, not only do you savor the excitement of the future, but it also can affect your current consumption, so that’s a little counter-intuitive.

Knowledge@Wharton: If someone’s going to give you a surprise vacation, for example, knowing about it earlier helps you to anticipate and actually enjoy something else in the present, correct?

Kahn: Right. You know you’re going to have a lot of varied activities — you’re going to go skiing and mountain climbing or whatever you’re going to do in the future — so maybe you won’t be as bored with what you’re doing right now.

Knowledge@Wharton: There are all sorts of implications for this. What are you going to look at next?

Kahn: It’s interesting to think about how consuming variety can affect things besides the actual utility you have for the variety. One of the projects I’m working on with a doctoral student at Drexel University is how consuming variety can make you feel less guilty or more fulfilled when you’re in a self-regulatory mode — like when you’re trying to like control your weight or eat more healthily. Sometimes, using variety as a cue for doing more of a good thing or less of a bad thing can alleviate guilt. That’s kind of an interesting thing — that variety in and of itself can affect these other kinds of feelings or emotions.

Reproduced from  KNOWLEDGE@WHARTON

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Building a Winning Business Model Portfolio 06-28

Many companies today are operating several business models at once. But despite the potential that business model diversification has for generating growth and profit, executives need to carefully assess the strategic contributions of each element of their business model portfolio.

Across many industries, companies are using innovative business models as a basis for competitive advantage. In recent years, for example, we have seen upstarts such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbnb Inc. use multisided business models to leverage ordinary resources against established competitors that rely on unique resources. Increasingly, organizations are adopting two or more business models at once. Multiple business models provide companies with a diversification vehicle that enables them to tap into resources and capabilities that aren’t available through other means. By definition, a company diversifies into a business model portfolio when it engages in at least two ways of creating and/or monetizing value. 

To illustrate how business model diversification can work, consider Netflix Inc. Netflix deployed two distinct business models (DVDs by mail and online streaming) to challenge Blockbuster and other movie rental incumbents. Although its rapid market penetration and growth are indisputable, Netflix did not initially depend on traditional approaches to diversification. In fact, the company offered U.S. customers essentially the same movies through both its DVD by mail and online streaming services, but it offered different subscription prices, a choice of physical versus digital rentals, and value-added services online, including tailored recommendations. Netflix’s business model diversification helped it to expand its U.S. market share, which provided a springboard for extensive international expansion as well as an expanded product portfolio that now includes original content.

Although Netflix’s success shows how multiple business models can work to make organizations more competitive, such success stories are, more often than not, specific to a particular company’s circumstances. However, there can also be industry-wide patterns. When we studied various business model configurations in the Formula One automobile racing industry, we found that certain configurations of business models were associated with higher performance than others. We concluded that the higher-performing business model configurations generally led to better results because there were complementarities between the two business models chosen that helped companies both learn faster and further develop key business capabilities.

As companies attempt to diversify into portfolios of business models that achieve higher performance than other configurations, they need to match their own resources and capabilities to the external opportunities they face. The goal is to establish a unique bundle of resources and capabilities that can deliver sustainable competitive advantage.

Despite the potential that business model diversification has for generating growth and profit, most companies lack the tools to assess the value of business models in their portfolio or their strategic contributions. In practice, different business models can be in direct conflict with one another, resulting in cannibalization and resource dilution. For example, they may provide offers that are mutually exclusive, or defocus resources from core activities that sustain competitive advantage.
For instance, beginning in the late 1980s, the direct-sales business model of Dell Computer Corp. (now Dell Technologies) fundamentally altered the structure of the personal computer industry.

Once Dell’s approach was seen as a success, competitors such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Compaq tried to copy it. Unfortunately, the other companies found that pursuing two business models at once undermined their existing competitive advantages. Rather than offering synergies, the direct-sales business model required different assets and new capabilities (such as flexible fabrication lines and the ability to reorganize supply chains) and risked alienating distributors, who represented a core customer base.

The Case for Business Model Diversification

Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter has noted that strategic diversification is about combining activities that efficiently relate to and mutually reinforce one another, forming a system of activities, as opposed to a collection of isolated activities. In the process, the strategic fit may increase the value of the individual assets in addition to contributing to competitive advantage and superior profitability.

A business model is a system of interdependent organizational activities to create and capture value. Executives need to assess whether there is fit not only between the activities underpinning each business model but also across multiple business models. In fact, although the fit within a business model’s activities can reduce costs or enhance differentiation, the complementarities within a portfolio can further enhance individual activities and create unique and hard-to-imitate resources and capabilities. Indeed, diversified configurations of business models may offer unique opportunities for increased performance.

How can companies assess whether there are advantages to using multiple business models? And when might it make sense to focus on fewer business models rather than more? To develop our understanding of business models, we studied the Formula One auto racing industry, the various businesses operated by Inc., and nearly 50 other companies. (See “About the Research.”) In this article, we offer a framework built on three core questions:
  • What should you consider when thinking about business model diversification?
  • In deciding to add a new business model to your portfolio, how can you assess and optimize its value?
  • How should you modify your business model portfolio over time? 
Question 1: What should you consider when thinking about business model diversification?

When contemplating model diversification, managers should begin by assessing the extent to which the business models in the company’s portfolio can share resources. By sharing physical assets across business models, companies can enjoy economies of scope and eliminate redundancies. This approach is particularly valuable in capital-intensive and technology-focused industries. Successful business model diversification can help companies reduce risk. Biopharmaceutical companies provide a good example. Because they operate in highly uncertain environments where the time lag between an investment and the returns can be extremely long, many companies try to limit the risk by tapping into different revenue streams (such as R&D services, royalties, patents, and health care products). What’s more, they try to share valuable assets such as financial and knowledge resources across business models in order to create cross-business synergies.

Another question to consider is whether the additional business model will provide access to valuable assets that can help an existing business. For example, Formula One teams that, in addition to racing, sell advanced components such as engines and gearboxes to competitors gain access to valuable data about how those components perform — an intangible resource that can provide insights that allow the teams that sell components to further develop their own technology, win more car races, and sell future engines at higher prices. In such cases, the two business models have positive complementarities.

Question 2: In deciding to add a new business model to your portfolio, how can you assess and optimize its value?

As attractive as “synergetic” business model diversification may seem, optimizing this approach entails challenges. How can a manager ensure that the company’s portfolio of business models will have synergies? Historically, management scholars thought that competitive advantage was mostly based on a company’s ability to control valuable, unique, and scarce resources. As a result, many organizations focused their efforts and capital on acquiring and safeguarding what they considered to be “extraordinary assets.”

When considering new business models, managers should start by looking for promising opportunities that would tap into existing company resources to achieve economies of scope and greater capacity utilization. The new business models should utilize resources and capabilities that are closely related to some employed by the existing business model or models. However, managers should be careful not to let the costs of acquiring new resources restrict their freedom to develop new products and services.

Indeed, there is a risk that a company’s prior investments in valuable resources and capabilities can inhibit its ability to adopt new business models. Consider the case of Nokia Corp., the Finnish technology company. In the early 2000s, Nokia was a global leader in mobile handset manufacturing. Yet its mobile strategy was heavily geared toward controlling strategic and costly resources, as exemplified by its $8.1 billion purchase of Navteq Co., which supplied advanced navigation data. In contrast to Apple Inc., whose versatile iPhone platform took the mobile phone market by storm, Nokia failed to respond well to emerging consumer trends or leverage high-priced acquisitions such as Navteq. Within a relatively short period, it lost its competitive edge in the mobile phone business. In 2012, Microsoft Corp. acquired Nokia’s phone and tablet business for less than the amount Nokia had paid to acquire Navteq five years earlier.

Business model diversification enables companies to maximize existing resources while developing capabilities that enhance their value across multiple activities. Therefore, managers should begin by asking: Does my proposed new business model help maximize the use of my current resource base while meeting an important need in the marketplace? If the answer to that question is yes, managers can expect their portfolio to generate cost efficiencies while also providing opportunities for risk reduction through cross-subsidization of the portfolio’s interrelated activities.

In 1994, Amazon, for example, started with a single business model: selling books online. By 2016, the company had grown so that it was achieving close to $136 billion in revenue and operated a number of business models. Along the way, Amazon invested heavily in powerful servers and the development of an automated web infrastructure whose sole objective initially was to power its own website’s massive traffic. Over the years, Amazon has acquired technological prowess and invaluable expertise in the development of web and data infrastructures; based on this expertise, it offers web services and infrastructure to thousands of companies (including Netflix, Siemens, and Vodafone) and has become one of the leading cloud-computing service providers.

Not only is the ownership of such resources of immense value for Amazon’s core e-business activities, it also has value as a stand-alone business model. Indeed, in 2016, Amazon Web Services brought in more than $12 billion in revenues and more than $3 billion in operating income. Although e-commerce still accounts for the majority of Amazon’s revenues, Amazon Web Services is a high-performing business unit.

By supporting a variety of business models and ensuring their survival, Amazon enjoys access to other critical resources. For example, with the Amazon Prime membership business model, the company gains access to important user data, promotes its brand, and fuels sales through the e-commerce platform. Resources and capabilities underpinning business models are often inextricably tied to one another, and thus not easily separable. For instance, Amazon Web Services used resource codeployment to create a new revenue stream. The technological infrastructures and expertise involved are woven into Amazon’s technology development capabilities.

When crafting new business models, managers also need to ensure that the models they create will be linked to the company’s existing distinctive capabilities and what it does best. For example, Apple leveraged its superior design and product development capabilities to serve product markets — going over and above PCs — but also capitalized on its exceptional management and marketing capabilities to develop a unique value proposition and customer engagement mechanism: in other words, a business model innovation. This enabled Apple to first disrupt the digital music industry (with iTunes and the iPod) and then reap the benefits of that disruption via the iPhone.

To translate capabilities beyond their current functional boundaries, managers should first delineate the structure of their individual business models’ activities. This isn’t always easy: Existing business models are often tightly intertwined and difficult to describe in isolation. Careful investigation can reveal potent and dynamic cross-business-model linkages, which might suggest new growth opportunities that transcend industry and product market boundaries.

As noted above, Amazon’s complementary business models work together in generating mutually reinforcing advantages. Amazon Web Services, for example, helps subsidize the Amazon Prime business model. Prime memberships, in turn, provide Amazon with more customer purchase data, which enhances customer service and the online retail experience. This, in turn, feeds buyer demand, which attracts more sellers, which ensures low-cost products, and so on.

Question 3: How should you modify your business model portfolio over time?

As appealing as the idea of cross-business-model synergies may seem, implementation is rarely straightforward. The same is true for intra-business-model portfolio complementarities. Therefore, we think it’s critical for managers to regularly examine portfolio synergies critically and granularly. (See “Analyzing a Business Model Portfolio.”)

Consider the logic behind Amazon’s technology products business (which has included devices such as the Kindle reader, Kindle Fire, Fire TV, Fire Phone, Dash Button, and Echo). These products are often bundled and sold with access to other Amazon products and services (such as its e-books and Prime subscriptions). However, among the company’s business models, some of Amazon’s technology products seem to have, in our analysis, the weakest synergies within the portfolio.

As its technological resources grew, Amazon thought it was gaining new capabilities it could apply to the development of technologies that complemented its online retail activities. In reality, though, Amazon’s business model diversification into electronics manufacturing only partially leverages the company’s distinctive capabilities in the areas of online platform and big-data management.

Those capabilities are, in fact, quite different from hardware technological development in consumer electronics, and hardware design needs to respond to changing consumer tastes and overcome established customer loyalties. Amazon products often compete directly with products offered by other suppliers, and some of Amazon’s products have fallen short of expectations. For example, Amazon launched its Fire Phone in 2014. But due to poor response from consumers, the company reduced the price to just 99 cents with a two-year contract, and it discontinued the product in 2015.

However, Amazon has recently taken steps to increase the synergies between its consumer products and the rest of its business. In launching Amazon AI, a set of cloud-based artificial intelligence services, in fall 2016, the company has sought to leverage the artificial intelligence technology behind its Echo devices and Alexa personal assistant software.

In general, executives need to examine the interrelationships across their business model portfolio rigorously and on a regular basis. Like other forms of corporate diversification, business model diversification does not always generate superior performance. In settings where a business model isn’t generating the synergies that were envisioned, managers shouldn’t be afraid to improve, streamline, or divest from business models in the portfolio, to focus on and bolster the activities that are strategically optimal.

The primary purpose of a business is to drive growth and performance while generating value for customers. Although it’s common for managers to focus on financial performance, good managers seek to exploit new opportunities to create additional value, such as cross-selling, differentiation, reputation, user data, and capability development. Managed wisely, business model diversification can help executives improve performance and advance the purpose of the enterprise.

Business model portfolios encompass multiple activities that are sometimes difficult to disentangle and analyze. To maximize the complementarity across a business model portfolio, it is important to identify the relationships between the different business models’ resources and capabilities, and their impact on performance. We developed a visualization tool to map such critical connections. We used it when analyzing the business model complementarities of several companies in our research. The diagram above shows a sample analysis for a hypothetical company with four business models.

To visualize the complementarities in your own business model portfolio, follow these steps:

1. List your company’s business models in a column on the far left.

2. For each business model, identify the key resources it generates (for example, financial resources, user data, highly skilled human resources, or new technologies). Place them in the second column from the left. Label that column “Resources.”

3. For each business model, identify the key capabilities that stem from it (for example, technological capabilities, sales capabilities, new product development capabilities, or communication capabilities) and place them in a “Capabilities” column, to the right of the “Resources” column.

4. Identify one or more performance measures important to your organization. These can be financial measures (such as return on equity or return on investment), market-driven measures (such as market share or number of users), or other types of measures (such as product quality). Place them in a “Performance” column on the far right.

5. Now use arrows of one color (green in the diagram above) to connect each business model to its associated resources and capabilities and, ultimately, to performance. Think about the mechanisms that underpin such relationships. You can use thicker lines to identify the most strategic ones.

6. Resources are often bundled with other resources, as are capabilities. Use arrows of another color (orange in the diagram above) to identify such relationships. For example, amassing user data creates monetization opportunities and thus increases financial resources.

7. Then analyze: Which business models produce fewer (or less valuable) resources and capabilities? Which business models (as well as their resources and capabilities) display fewer synergies with the others? How strong is their relationship to performance measures? You might want to consider how to strengthen the weakest ties, create new synergies, or — if that is not doable — possibly drop less-embedded business models to focus on the more complementary ones.

8. Business model portfolios are as dynamic as the activities they underpin. Update your model portfolio chart periodically to make sure your business model portfolio is always maximized.

Reproduced from MITSloan Management Review

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ex-ISRO head K Kasturirangan to head panel on National Education Policy 06-28

The above image is a famous cartoon by the late R. K. Laxman on School education in India.

It is a good news....

The education policy needs a frequent relook. In 2011. CCE (Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation) in Schools was implemented based on Prof. Yashpal committee report.

Now CCE has is being replaced by making evaluation a multiple area assessment with curricular, extra curricular, areas along with academics being part of the total evaluation.

The aim is to decrease the workload on the student by means of continuous evaluation by taking number of small tests throughout the year in place of single test at the end of the academic program. Only Grades are awarded to students based on work experience skills, dexterity, innovation, steadiness, teamwork, public speaking, behavior, etc. to evaluate and present an overall measure of the student's ability.

This helps the students who are not good in academics to show their talent in other fields such as arts, humanities, sports, music, athletics, and also helps to motivate the students who have a thirst of knowledge.

Thus the arenas of learning stood, evolved, expanded and diversified.

The policy will move ahead from this to a more radical approach to education and imparting.

But then, nothing can match, what we had in the ancient Indian culture and tradition of Gurukul.
Here we had the establishment of an emotional bond between the teacher and student. A relation which was a little higher in order to that between a parent and the child.

Seeing the quality knowledge and experience of the members of the committee and of course the knowledge and expertise that the hon. minister for HRD Shri. Prakash Jawadekar has in Academic domain, we can expect the team to almost create a revolution in the future educationin the country.

Of course it will take us a lot of time to reach that stage of evolution in Education, imparting, and achieving a teacher, student equilibrium.

We are still not as enabled, empowered, or enlightened as the Rishis and Munis of that era were.

The Development................

The HRD ministry has also chosen eight other experts and educationists, including former IAS

officer KJ Alphonse and Ram Shanker Kureel. 

The Union ministry of human resource development has appointed former Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) head Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan to head the much-awaited committee to draft the National Education Policy, officials said on Monday.

According to officials, the HRD ministry has also chosen eight other experts and educationists from various backgrounds. They include former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer KJ Alphonse and Ram Shanker Kureel, who has a wide experience in the field of agricultural sciences and management.

MK Shridhar, who has served as member secretary of the Karnataka State Innovation Council, TV Kattimani, an expert on language communication, Mazhar Asif, a professor of Persian at Guwahati University, and former director of education, Uttar Pradesh, Krishan Mohan Tripathi will also bring a wealth of experience to the panel, sources said.

The committee also includes renowned mathematician Manjul Bhargava, who teaches at Princeton University, US, and vice-chancellor of SNDT Women’s University Vasudha Kamat, sources added.

“It took us some time but the panel that has been appointed has members from diverse background especially in the field of education,” a source said.

The National Policy on Education was framed in 1986 and modified in 1992. The government has now appointed a committee to draft the final policy document. Consultations on the policy started during the tenure of the previous HRD minister Smriti Irani.

However, it courted controversy after some of the suggestions were found to be regressive by educationists. Her successor, Prakash Javadekar, restarted the discussion on by inviting suggestions from various political parties, educationists and institutions.

Officials said this diversity would help the panel to understand the diverse issues that have to be kept in mind for the formulation of such a key policy document, the sources said.  

Please contribute your insight through comments here or on the social media platforms. 

Best Wishes, 


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Blockchain explained 06-25

Why it matters: Like the internet in its early years, blockchain technology is hard to understand and predict, but could become ubiquitous in the exchange of digital and physical goods, information, and online platforms. Figure it out now.

What is a blockchain?

Blockchain is a term widely used to represent an entire new suite of technologies. There is substantial confusion around its definition because the technology is early-stage, and can be implemented in many ways depending on the objective.

“At a high level, blockchain technology allows a network of computers to agree at regular intervals on the true state of a distributed ledger,” says MIT Sloan Assistant Professor Christian Catalini, an expert in blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency. “Such ledgers can contain different types of shared data, such as transaction records, attributes of transactions, credentials, or other pieces of information.

The ledger is often secured through a clever mix of cryptography and game theory, and does not require trusted nodes like traditional networks. This is what allows bitcoin to transfer value across the globe without resorting to traditional intermediaries such as banks.”

On a blockchain, transactions are recorded chronologically, forming an immutable chain, and can be more or less private or anonymous depending on how the technology is implemented. The ledger is distributed across many participants in the network — it doesn’t exist in one place. Instead, copies exist and are simultaneously updated with every fully participating node in the ecosystem. A block could represent transactions and data of many types — currency, digital rights, intellectual property, identity, or property titles, to name a few.

“The technology is particularly useful when you combine a distributed ledger together with a cryptotoken,” Catalini says. “Suddenly you can bootstrap an entire network that can achieve internet-level consensus about the state and authenticity of a block’s contents in a decentralized way. Every node that participates in the network can verify the true state of the ledger and transact on it at a very low cost. This is one step away from a distributed marketplace, and will enable new types of digital platforms.”

How is blockchain related to bitcoin?

Bitcoin, with a market cap of more than $40 billion, is the largest implementation of blockchain technology to date. While a lot of media attention has shifted from bitcoin to blockchain, the two are intertwined.

“When The Economist put blockchain on the cover in 2015, it wasn’t really about its use to support a digital currency anymore. It was all about the other applications this technology will unleash within the next 5 to 10 years,” Catalini says. “For example, in finance and accounting there is excitement about the ability to settle and reconcile global transactions at a lower cost using the technology. In logistics the attention is all on how you can use the immutable audit trail generated by a blockchain to improve the tracking of goods through the economy. Others are fascinated by the possibility to use this as a better identity and authentication system.”

There are two types of costs blockchain could reduce for you: the cost of verification and the cost of networking. 
So what’s the big deal?

In a recent paper, Catalini explains why business leaders should be excited about blockchain — it can save them money and could upend how business is conducted.

Every business and organization engages in many types of transactions every day. Each of those transactions requires verification. In many cases, that verification is easy. You know your customers, your clients, your colleagues, and your business partners. Having worked with them and their products, data, or information, you have a pretty good idea of their value and trustworthiness.

“But every so often, there’s a problem, and when a problem arises, we often have to perform some sort of audit,” Catalini says. “It could be actual auditors coming into a firm. But in many other cases, you’re running some sort of process to make sure the person claiming to have those credentials did have those credentials, or the firm selling you the goods did have the certification. When we do that, it’s a costly, labor-intensive process for society. The marketplace slows down and you have to incur additional costs to match demand and supply.”

“The reason distributed ledgers become so useful in these cases is because if you recorded those attributes you now need to verify securely on a blockchain, you can always go back and refer back to them at no cost,” he says. “It’s costless verification. So when you think about why bitcoin works, it’s because it can cheaply verify that the funds are actually there. You can transfer value from here to anywhere on the globe at almost zero transaction cost. Sending secure messages that carry value does not require a bank or PayPal in the middle anymore.”

In short: Because the blockchain verifies trustworthiness, you don’t have to. And the friction of the transaction is reduced, resulting in cost and time savings.

Using a blockchain can also reduce the cost of running a secure network. This will happen over a longer timeline, Catalini says, perhaps a decade. The internet has already allowed for a faster, less stilted exchange of goods and services. But it still needs intermediaries, however efficient they may be — think eBay, Airbnb, and Uber.

“Those intermediaries are costly and earn rents for processing payments, maintaining a reputation system, matching demand and supply,” Catalini says. “This is where blockchain technology,
combined with a cryptotoken, allows you to rethink an entire value chain from the ground up.

That’s where incumbents should be slightly worried, because in the long run the way you may be delivering value to your customers and competing against other companies could be fundamentally different.”

Blockchain technology could mean greater privacy and security for you and your customers.
Catalini calls it data leakage. When you give a bartender your driver’s license, all that person needs to know is your age. But you’re revealing so much more — your address, your height, whether you’re an organ donor, etc.

The same thing happens in commercial transactions.

“As your business partner, I need to know that you’re trustworthy and reliable, but for simple transactions I don’t really need to know many other things about you,” Catalini says. “Information disclosure is increasingly becoming a cost because of data breaches. We can’t keep our data private and it’s becoming increasingly complex to do so within large organizations. So imagine a model where you can verify certain attributes are true or false, potentially using a decentralized infrastructure, but you don’t have to reveal all these attributes all the time.”

In a business transaction context, Catalini says, a blockchain could be used to build a reputation score for a party, who could then be verified as trustworthy or solvent without having to open its books for a full audit.

“Reputation scores both for businesses and individuals are today siloed into different platforms, and there is very little portability across platforms. Blockchain can improve on this,” he says.

Which industries could blockchain disrupt?

“All of them,” Catalini says. “The technology is what economists call a general purpose technology, and we will see many applications across different verticals.”

Here are a few to keep an eye on.

Central banks: Many central banks — including those in Canada, Singapore, and England — are studying and experimenting with blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. The potential applications include lower settlement risk, more efficient taxation, faster cross-border payments, inter-bank payments, and novel approaches to quantitative easing. Imagine a central bank stimulating the economy by delivering digital currency automatically to citizens. Don’t expect big moves from big countries soon. The risk is too high, Catalini says. But expect to see smaller, developed countries with a high tolerance for technology experimentation lead the way and possibly experiment with a fiat-backed, digital currency for some of their needs.

Finance: The busiest area of application so far, blockchain is being used by companies seeking to offer low cost, secure, verifiable international payments and settlement. Ripple is  one of the leaders in this space on the banking side. Meanwhile, companies like Digital Asset and Chain seek to create a faster, more efficient financial infrastructure for tracking and exchanging financial assets of any type.
Money transfer: In 2014, two MIT students raised and distributed $100 worth of bitcoin to every MIT undergraduate.

They wanted to see what would happen and generate interest on campus. Catalini, together with Professor Catherine Tucker, designed the experiment and studied the results. While 11 percent immediately cashed out their bitcoin, 49 percent were still holding on to some bitcoin. Some students used the funds to make purchases at local merchants, some of whom accepted bitcoin. Others traded with each other. Meanwhile, startups around the world competed to become the consumer trading application for bitcoin.

Then PayPal bought Venmo, a payment platform that trades cash. PayPal’s own mobile app allows for peer-to-peer transactions, as well. The bitcoin-based consumer payment industry cooled down. But the application of blockchain remains attractive because of the lower costs it could offer parties in global, peer-to-peer transactions. Rapid payment company Circle, which advertises itself as “Like a text filled with cash,” stopped allowing users to exchange bitcoin last year, but is building a protocol that allows digital wallets to exchange value using a blockchain.

Micropayments: What if, instead of subscribing to a news site online, you paid only for the articles you read?

As you click through the web, your browser would track the pages and record them for payment. Or what if you could get small payments for doing work — completing surveys, working as a freelance copy editor — for a variety of clients. By reducing the cost of the transaction and verifying the legitimacy of parties on either end, blockchain could make these micropayments, new types of cross-platform subscriptions, and forms of crowdsourcing possible and practical. A company called Brave is already attempting this, with potential ramifications for the digital advertising industry.

Identity and privacy: In October 2013, the arrest of the founder of Silk Road, a deep web marketplace where users paid for illegal goods with bitcoin, showed just how anonymous bitcoin really wasn’t. Nor was it ever intended to be — bitcoin addresses function much as a pseudonym does for a writer, Catalini says. Users can never completely mask their transactions. But others are trying. Zcash promises to be a fully private cryptocurrency.

There are significant downsides to the anonymity a blockchain could offer, such as the ability to fund terrorism or facilitate money laundering. But there are many virtuous applications too — Google’s DeepMind is attempting to use blockchain to layer privacy and security in electronic health care records.

Smart contracts: This application is still in the early stages, Catalini says, but by recording information on a blockchain, contracts could use that information to make themselves self-executing if certain conditions are met. This idea backfired last year when code was exploited to steal $60 million from The DAO, a blockchain-based venture capital firm.

Provenance and ownership: A blockchain could be used to record details about physical products, helping to verify authenticity and prevent fraud and counterfeiting. London-based EverLedger is tracking diamonds and envisions doing the same for fine wines. At the same time, for all these applications, a blockchain is only as useful as the quality of the information recorded on it in the first place.

Internet of things, robotics, and artificial intelligence: Your appliances are already talking to each other — think smart home technologies like Nest thermostats and security systems. What if they could barter or acquire resources? What if a highway could verify the identity of and accept payment from a self-driving car, opening up a pay-per-use fast lane to commuters in a rush? At the outer edge of application, but not outside the realm of possibility, Catalini says.

When will this disruption happen?

Over a period of more than ten years. Catalini is convinced blockchain has internet-level disruption potential, but like the internet it will come over a multi-decade timeline with fits and starts, and occasional setbacks. Some industries, especially finance, will see drastic change soon. Others will take longer.

“A lot of the work in this space is experimental,” Catalini says. “We are at the infrastructure building stage. Bitcoin has a market capitalization of $42 billion, which is nothing compared to the mainstream financial platforms and exchanges that move trillions of dollars every day.

But the technology is maturing and growing. At some point, one of the startups in this space may reveal itself to be the Netscape of cryptocurrencies. What would follow is something we have seen play out many times before in history.”

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Presidential Elections 2017


We have two excellent candidates this time for the position of the President of India. Either of them will make a very good President.

We already know, who is going to win.
Even promotion and campaigning is not needed as the members forming the voters in the electoral college will anyway blindly vote as per their party instructions. I really doubt if these voters know anything about the candidates credibility and credentials other than their being Dalits.

Both the political parties, the Congress and the BJP are projecting their being Dalit as the only qualification for them, which is wrong.

One has been a great lawyer, member of the parliament and a governor.
The other has been a successful career diplomat, a member of the parliament, minister and speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Their cast, which is just incidental, is being promoted and projected as their main virtue. When Pranab Mukerjee was selected as presidential candidate, no one said he is a Brahmin.
Being a 'Chatur Brahmin', it seems a liability to be hidden.

By selecting a Dalit as a candidate, both the political parties are giving an impression as if they giving alms to beggars (if not throwing crumbs.)

Dalits are not beggars.....

In case they are so worried about the Dalits,

Why have they not made Dalit as a Prime Minister????

Are there no Dalits in the elected MPs in both parties, who are capable of handling this position???
The concern of both parties for Dalits is both opportunistic and self serving and it is for display only.

It is time people of India create third political dispensation that can treat Dalits as normal human beings and create situation, where the Brahmins do not have to hide their caste, And Dalits do not have to display their caste.

or a political thought process that doesn't promote caste labels.



Quite naturally, your views are required to keep this discussion inflamed.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

China in quantum breakthrough as 'unhackable' experimental satellite sends first message. 06-22

  • Scientists in China used 'quantum satellite' to send entangled photons 1,200 km
  • The satellite produces entangled photon pairs which form an encryption key
  • These photons will theoretically remain linked over great distances
  • This means that any attempts to listen in will be detected on the other side. 
In a major breakthrough for quantum teleportation, scientists in China have successfully transmitted entangled photons farther than ever before, achieving a distance of more than 1,200 km (745 miles) between suborbital space and Earth.

Entangled photons theoretically maintain their link across any distance, and have potential to revolutionize secure communications – but, scientists have previously only managed to maintain the bond for about 100 km (62 miles).

Using the ‘quantum satellite’ Micius, the scientists were able to communicate with three ground stations in China, each more than 1,000 km (621 miles) apart. 

In quantum physics, entangled particles remain connected so that actions performed by one affects the behaviour of the other, even if they are separated by huge distances. This is illustrated in the artist's impression above.

The 1,300 pound craft satellite is equipped with a laser beam, which the scientists subjected to a beam splitter.

This gave the beam two distinct polarized states.

One of these beams was then used to transmit entangled particles, and the other used to receive the photons. 

Pairs of entangled photons fired to ground stations can then form a ‘secret key.’
Theoretically, any attempts to breach this type of communication would be easily detectable. 

The satellite launched from Jiuquan Satellite launch Center last year, and the new findings mark a promising step forward in the two-year mission prove successful, which could be followed by a fleet of others if all goes well, according to Nature.
To overcome the complications of long-distance quantum entanglement, scientists often break the line of transmission up, creating smaller segments that can then repeatedly swap, purify, and store the information along the optical fiber, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

The researchers sought to prove that particles can remain entangled across great distances – in this case, nearly 750 miles.

Earlier efforts to demonstrate quantum communication have shown this can be done up to just over 180 miles, and scientists hope that transmitting the photons through space will push this even farther.

When travelling through air and optical fibres, protons get scattered or absorbed, Nature explains, posing challenges to the preservation of the fragile quantum state.
But, photons can travel more smoothly through space.

Achieving quantum communication at such distances would enable the creation of secure worldwide communications networks, allowing two parties to communicate using a shared encryption key.

In quantum physics, entangled particles remain connected so that actions performed by one affects the behaviour of the other, even if they are separated by huge distances. 

So, if someone were to attempt to listen in on one end, the disruption would be detectable on the other. 

Over the course of the two-year mission, the researchers in China will conduct a Bell test to prove the existence of entanglement at such a great distance.

And, they will attempt to ‘teleport’ quantum states, according to Nature, meaning the quantum state of the photo will be rebuilt in a new location.

Researchers from Canada, Japan, Italy, and Singapore have also revealed plans to conduct quantum experiments in space, including one proposed aboard the International Space Station.

This experiment would attempt to create a reliable and efficient means for teleportation.

By achieving quantum teleportation, the researchers say they could create a telescope with an enormous resolution.

‘You could not just see planets,’ Paul Kwiat, a physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign involved with the Nasa project, ’but in principle read licence plates on Jupiter’s moons.’   

This working heart tissue is made from spinach 06-21

Researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have transformed a spinach leaf into functional heart tissue. The team’s goal was to recreate human organ tissue down to the fragile vascular networks of blood vessels it can’t survive without. Scientists had previously attempted to 3D print intricate vascular networks without success. This breakthrough could mean that the delicate vascular systems of plants are the key.

To create the heart tissue, the scientists at WPI revealed the leaf’s cellulose frame by stripping away the plant cells. Then, they “seeded” the frame with human cells, causing tissue growth on the frame. Finally, they were able to pump microbeads and fluids through the veins to illustrate the functioning concept.

Repairing Damage, Creating Replacements

Although other scientists have been able to create small-scale artificial samples of human tissue, those samples required integration with existing blood vessels. The large-scale creation of working tissue infused with the vascular vessels critical to tissue health had proven impossible.

Because the technique could help people grow layers of stronger, healthier heart muscle, the team suggests that it could eventually be used to treat heart attack patients or others whose hearts have difficulty contracting. The researchers have also experimented with parsley, peanut hairy roots, and sweet wormwood as they believe the technique could make use of different kinds of plants to repair other types of tissues. For example, wood cellulose frames could one day help us repair human bones.

“We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising,” Glenn Gaudette, a professor of biomedical engineering at WPI, told The Telegraph. “Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field.”

How HIV-1 puts itself to sleep 06-21

Read about the antisense ASP RNA acting as viral latency factor.

Image credit : Shyam's Imagination Library

Upon infection of a new cell, the HIV-1 genome integrates into the genome of the host cell, and in this form HIV-1 is known as a provirus. Under proper cellular conditions, the HIV-1 provirus produces the transactivator Tat that drives efficient expression of the viral genome, leading to the production of new viral particles.

Alternatively, the provirus remains silent in a status known as latency. In our study, we demonstrated that HIV-1 encodes an antisense transcript (ASP) that recruits the cellular Polycomb Repressor Complex 2 (PRC2) to the proviral 5’LTR. PRC2 promotes nucleosome assembly at the 5’LTR, leading to transcription silencing and proviral latency.

While active regulation of proviral expression by Tat has long been known, latency was thought to be a passive event caused primarily by the absence of key cellular and viral transcription factors. Our study demonstrated that – on the contrary – HIV-1 also regulates the establishment and maintenance of latency through ASP, and therefore it controls all aspects of its destiny.

The impetus for this study happened – as often is the case – very serendipitously. Our lab became interested in the presence of antisense transcription in human retroviruses, HTLV-1 and HIV-1 – a research area that was relatively unexplored. There was some evidence in the literature that these antisense transcripts play a role in viral expression, but the mechanism was yet to be described. During an informal discussion, a friend and colleague – Dr. Rosa Bernardi – brought to our attention that many cellular antisense transcripts suppress the expression of their cognate sense transcript by tethering chromatin modifying protein complexes to their promoter regions, and by inducing nucleosome formation and transcriptional silencing.

This inspired us to use RNA immunoprecipitation (RIP) assays to test whether the HIV-1 antisense RNA (ASP) interacts with members of the PRC2 complex. However, our initial efforts were repeatedly unsuccessful. Discouraged by these negative results, we decided to focus on other projects in the lab. After a few months we revisited these experiments, and we realized that there was a problem in the design of the RT-PCR portion of the RIP assay. After making the necessary modifications to the RT-PCR assay, we were finally able to demonstrate specific interaction between the ASP RNA and two components of the PRC2 complex. This important result encouraged us to further pursue this line of studies.

The “eureka” moment came shortly after that when functional studies showed that over-expression of the ASP RNA in vivo suppresses acute viral replication and promotes the establishment and maintenance of latency.

Our current efforts are focused on defining the structural and functional determinants of the ASP RNA. Since this transcript contains an open reading frame, we are also investigating the expression and function of the ASP protein.

Figure legend

The HIV-1 ASP RNA acts as a viral latency gene: it interacts with the cellular Polycomb Repressor Complex 2 (PRC2), and recruits it to the HIV-1 5’LTR. There, PRC2 catalyzes trimethylation (Me3) of lysine 27 (K27) on histone H3. The deposition of this repressing epigenetic mark leads to the assembly of the nucleosome Nuc-1, turning off transcription from the HIV-1 5’LTR, and promoting viral latency.

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