Wednesday, July 05, 2006

ANA Convention: Reflections

ANA Convention: My Hamro Nepal Speech
ANA Convention: Audio
ANA Convention 2006: Photos

Upendra Mahato was in the air. The idea of meeting him hovered in my mind during the weeks prior to the convention. I had not heard of Jiba Lamichhane until a few days before, and I did not know Aditya Jha will also come: he drove all the way from Toronto. Looks like he and I have something in common: I also have a thing for driving. Aditya Jha is like Sabeer Bhatia, the guy who sold Hotmail to Microsoft for $400 million. Adityaji sold his thing to Sun for $100 million.

My only "image" of Mahato was from this photograph: ANTA Makes Sense On Many Levels. For some reason I had imagined him to be a little on the shy side, a little effacive. Aditya Jha is not in your face, but Mahato is different. He is blunt. He likes to cut to the chase. He is known to lose his temper. He can sound abrupt. He likes to knock a few chairs along the way. He is fond of jokes. Jiba Lamichhane is more like Aditya Jha in temperament.

I pitched my business plan to all three, and a fourth person, Mukesh Singh of Ohio. Mukeshji was the most sympathetic, and we are to talk further: maybe he will be part of round one. Mahato and Jha suggested I was cut for politics not business. Jha suggested to go into services rather than technology. Lamichhane during a private dinner with his family suggested the idea of challenging companies that are well established can be unwise, and related one of his own experiences along those lines.

To their credit, I have not written a full business plan yet. With the IC idea, I am thinking Global South. When about 60% of the human population is finally online, we reach a tipping point. At around 80%, we make geography irrelevant. The "American dream" will be found all across the planet. So, yes, it is about politics. Only you are talking of the Global South as one political unit, and you are talking not traditional politics, but politics at the speed of thought. You are talking of a politics where all those offline are disenfranchised.

Sabeer Bhatia should never have sold off Hotmail. Google did not get bought. And the $100 million fund is a great idea, but I feel the Nepalis in America are not about to pour into the pot. They have a hard time accepting Madhesi leadership. It does not matter that Mahato is the Nepali Mittal on his way. Mahato has not made his biggest money yet. Instead you go on Nasdaq. You can raise more than $100 million there. My message to Mahato would be Think Nasdaq, not Nepali.

Both Mahato and Jha get treated very well by the prominent Pahadis, one on one. And that sure changes the political dynamic. But only to an extent. Ultimately it is about the 13 million Madhesis on the ground. They ask for something politically more blunt than two super rich global citizen Madhesis.

They are among the richest people on earth. Forget Nepal and Nepalis. They are so well off, and so very successful, it is hard to believe I got to spend countless hours with both of them. It is not the rich, it is the self made part that is interesting. They have gone through this mental journey. It is like someone went on a space flight, and they are back, and you want to know.

Bloomberg ran for Mayor of New York City. Being mayor means so much to him. There is this thing that the rich have for those who hold political offices. Both Mahato and Jha harbor some of that fascination.

Jha is from Mahottari where I am from. Mahato and I are related. My phoophera bhai is his sadhoo bhai, Dilip Hathi from Yadukuha. But then everyone is related to everyone around there.

The ANTA dinner in downtown Newark was something special. It was a Homecoming that I can not imagine having at Budhanilkantha or Berea because of my Madhesi and blac status. Adityaji spoke my mind when he said it was "emotionally intense."

Ratanji told me Upendraji likes to "see" things he will invest in, like real estate. He never invested in stocks, for example. I can understand that. You don't want to diversify into areas you don't feel comfortable in, or you lose focus. Me? I am the other way. I like things that don't take space. Like music, internet access, money in the bank, stocks, websites, books at the library, virtual office, free calls over Google Talk. Air does not take up my private space, I like air, also water in the ocean. I am no monk, but my idea of rich is money in the bank, not wasteful furniture.

I think there is a European colonization hangover that many of us still put up with. We can imagine getting big, but not the biggest. If you dream, you can still fail. But if you will not dream at all, you will not get there, guaranteed.

Venture capitalists don't like to dabble in sums smaller than a million, perhaps more. Even for a sum like $100,000, it is the same amount of time and paperwork and meetings, so why bother!

Mahato can be a little intimidating. I finally gave my two and a half page business plan to him at JFK when he walked over to my side of the car. He flew off to Moscow shortly. From the Marriott where he was staying I crossed into Manhattan through the Holland Tunnel, then crossed Brooklyn Bridge. I took the shorter route which goes through Queens. I did not think of the rush hour traffic. It might have been quicker to go the longer route, the Belt Parkway route. But we got there.

It was like taking Gagan Thapa to the Newark airport. We got there barely on time.

I asked for five minutes with Upendra Mahato on the phone with Ratan Jha a few days before the convention. Instead I was with him countless hours. He ended up spending quite some time in my khatara car. On our way to Binod Shah's place for dinner, my car got hit from behind, and the police took almost an hour to show. That was Sunday. Saturday around midnight I got a call from Jay Mandal. Upendra Mahato and a few others were in Mandal's room. Would I like to come? I was on my way to my car. I had offered Chandra Prakash Sharma, Binay Shah, and his wife Tara rides back home to Queens and Brooklyn. And I also knew Upendra Mahato had not slept at all the night before. I did not feel like pulling an all nighter with him. On the other hand, I do have regrets. I should have taken the three to the train station five minutes away, and come back to the hotel room.

A sound business idea does not depend on an investor or another. It flies if it is worth its salt. And Mahato and Jha are people who would rather be brother than banker. I am skeptical of using family terms outside the family, but I meant to suggest the Madhesi bond is quite strong. Identity never goes away. You can not unbecome Madhesi.

I took close to 800 pictures. They are all at this blog by now. I have 60 audio clips from the convention. All this will help as we work towards the April Convention in Queens next year.

I wish I had had more time to spend at the SEBS reunion. There was an event clash, and I had to leave.

Pukar Malla did a great job with his Youth Forum. The format was excellent. It was egalitarian, and participatory. For a guy I did not know before 1999, for a guy I did not know in Nepal, we are on quite good terms. I was in Philadelphia for a dot com for summer 1999, and that is where I met him through Siddhu, another great guy.

You arrange chairs in a circle for each theme, you do about six of them. And you get everybody talking. And the moderator gives a summary presentation at the end.

It would have been better if more of the moderators had participated in the preparatory meeting. The summary presentations were a little too long and disorganized. And I wonder what happened to the conclusion event. I had to leave. I had a speech of my own to give at another forum. (ANA Convention: My Hamro Nepal Speech)

What Pukar did in one room over a period of two afternoons I think should happen online 24/7/365, and it should involve many more Nepalis, from America, elsewhere in the world, and also in Nepal.

Pukar was one of the first people I met when I showed up Saturday morning. We talked chips, as in Intel chips. He is damn smart, damn popular. He is really nice. And I saw two overlaps. His forum, and my online think tank idea. His current work for Intel, and my IC idea. We could talk business.

Karishma Basnyat was the most visible of all the organizers. She was running around all over the place. Like at the NRN Forum, she came next to my chair in the front row out of nowhere and whispered, "You have five minutes." I felt like suddenly I owned the Forum, and then I panicked and walked over and relayed the message verbatim to the forum moderator. I think she is corporate.

Meeting the ANTA crowd for the first time in Ratanji's room 1026 Saturday afternoon was intense. Voices I had heard, but faces I was seeing for the first time.

I wish more blue collar local Nepalis showed up. That was my number one gripe. It should be a Nepali convention, not a rich Nepali convention. Some of the events were pricey. I was expecting the crowd to be 10,000. That did not happen, although it was as large as any these past few years.

I would come home at the end of each day. To download pictures and audio clips, to recharge batteries, including of my own body. To eat some simple food.

People like Mahato and Jha and Lamichhane must get many business plans. Like many many. Only mine is a paradigm shift idea. None of them have taken their company public yet. It is a whole different ballgame at that level. Never say never. Perhaps I should raise 10K through an alternate source to write a detailed business plan and prototype of the machine. There is always the September convention in Chicago.

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In The News

The Tunnel of Fear Rolling Stone
Terror Plot to Bomb Holland Tunnel Was Disrupted, US Says Bloomberg
US foils 'New York tunnel plot' BBC News
NY tunnel plot uncovered CNN
Holland Tunnel Vision: Fighting the Terrorists Where?
Village Voice, NY
Reporting and Responsibility: Holland Tunnel Story in a Security ...
FBI Foils Tunnel Terror Plot
Another Day, Another Terror Plot Gawker
Exclusive: Terrorist Plot to Bomb New York's Holland Tunnel ...
Magic City Morning Star, ME
Good plan, experts say, except it wouldn't work
New York Daily News, NY
News Roundup Monsters and
Officials: NYC Tunnel Terror Plot Disrupted WKRC 12
Sources say no serious plot for NYC, just hate chatter
Raw Story, MA
NY Daily News reporter says tunnel plot 'not imminent threat'
Raw Story, MA
Terror Plot Foiled Despite NY Times
'Men (not) at work'
The Jersey Journal, NJ

On The Web

Mittal Steel the world’s most global steel company Forbes World's Richest People 2005
Lakshmi Mittal's $19 Billion Year -
Lakshmi Mittal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia a London-based Indian billionaire industrialist ...... He spent his first years in Sadulpur, living with his extended family on bare concrete floors and rope beds in a house built by his grandfather....... In 1994, due to differences with his father and brothers, he branched out on his own, taking over the international operations of the Mittal steel business, which was already owned by the family...... steel assets in Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, South Africa, Poland, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, the United States, Ukraine and other countries. He was the Fortune European Businessman of the Year for 2004. ..... In 2002 he was embroiled in a political scandal dubbed Mittalgate with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Many suspected that a donation by Mittal to the British Labour Party had led to Blair's intervention (a letter to the Romanian Prime Minister) in a business deal favouring Mittal. On July 13, 2005 it was announced that he had donated £2 million to the Labour Party....... In March 2006, he was reported to be the third wealthiest person in the world by Forbes Magazine (Up from 63rd richest in 2004). ...... His residence ... the highest price ever paid for a house ..... Formerly, this house was the residence of Paul Reuter, the founder of the Reuters news service...... He paid over £30 million/$65 million to host his daughter Vanisha's wedding celebration in Vaux le Vicomte on June 22, 2004 and an engagement ceremony at the Palace of Versailles on June 20, 2004, the most expensive wedding in world history. His son Aditya is a director of Mittal Steel.
BBC News | BUSINESS | Lakshmi Mittal, steel mill millionaire
BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Mittal to build India steel plant
Mittal returns to India with plan for new steel plant - Business ...

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