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Review By Pallavi Bhattacharya

TO WHERE IS THE INDIAN IT INDUSTRY HEADING?
Rating: ****

Release 2.0: The Bangalore Imperative
ISBN: 978-0-9798116-3-0
250 pages
Fiction
By Anil Goel
Publisher: Undercover Utopia

Spanning from January 2005 to December 2008 and set in the continents of Asia, America, Africa and Europe, Release 2.0 is an interesting science fiction novel and thriller concerning the Indian IT industry. This futuristic novel explores two possible outcomes of the Indian IT industry- both utopian and dystopian. From another perspective, it also chronicles the rise of the IT industry in India and its expected future.

The current contribution of the Indian IT industry sadly for most purposes pertains to the services sector. The ultimate contribution of the IT industry to India as a nation is almost nothing apart from the minor revenue earned. IT work is outsourced to India because of the cheap labour the country provides. India however faces competition from Hungary, Iceland, Morocco, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand as far as outsourcing is concerned.

Release 2.0 prophesises that if India’s IT industry relies heavily on services not only will it stagnate but bears a risk of actually being wiped out. The author has drawn a wonderful parallel with the mills in Mumbai that relied on cheap labour. In the 1850s India had a booming export business of yarn. The Japanese mills however improved in productivity by investing in new technology. Soon the Japanese mills superseded the Indian mills and took away the Chinese market. The author paints a grim image of the carcasses of the defunct textile mills in central Mumbai waiting to be sold for their land value. IT firms will face the same consequences if they don’t innovate. This is the dystopian outcome of the Indian IT industry.

A major part of Release 2.0 is set on the tiny isle of Mauritius. Mauritius, which is known as a tourist and leisure destination actually houses a backup centre for the software development centres in mainland India. It stacks seventeen and a half tonnes of back up batteries and its diesel generators has four thousand gallons of fuel to provide fifteen days of power supply in case of power failure in India. A mysterious figure called Mr.Mauritius heads the operations out there. His real identity is kept under wraps and is only revealed at the end of the novel.

A special feature of Release 2.0 is that it is very grand in its technological vision. The author goes into intricate detail to lucidly describe these new innovative technologies.

Release 2.0 suggests that the Indian IT industry should follow the steps analyzing, designing, building and testing to innovate. The characters of the novel create a computerized hair cutting machine which creates a data base of every strand of hair. An electronic pair of scissors clips hair. An identical scalp is created bearing the desired haircut which was replicated on the human scalp. The customer is given the privilege to review the progress of the haircut by checking out its image display on the computer screen. This technology is furthered into the collection of data from across the world through wireless means using secure data-channels which itself is the most beautiful ramification of a seemingly simplistic technology. A concept as easy as putting ‘individual’ tags has been given an entirely new dimension in the wireless future.

The characters use RFID technology (radio frequency identification by electromagnetic and electrostatic coupling) to precisely identify any object or person any where in the world. This system bears a striking similarity to the futuristic technological system of global tracking shown in critically acclaimed motion picture Minority Report.

The inflowing information is stored in a mammoth data base. A brick wall astonishingly lights up to form a gigantic plasma screen. After all to exhibit mammoth data a screen which is the size of a wall is needed.

A normal ball point pen turns out to be a digital pen. It’s activated by removing the cap. It’s deactivated by replacing the cap. The pen has an inbuilt modem which is the size of a hairpin. The pen has an invisible digital camera. Its optical sensor captures any work done with the pen and duly registers the pen’s movements. A processor digitizes the words and images. The data thus collected is then transferred to the ‘wall’ through the hairpin modem thus enabling the building of a huge database at the backend.

The book suggests an amazing networking strategy to help in the innovation. Like minded people who want to see India’s IT industry innovatively flourishing are encouraged to be a member of the South Asians’ Network for Research and Development. The members may actively participate in the research or help by financing the projects. They must be well-coordinated like the Al Qaeda not in promoting terrorism but in evolving a sophisticated and secure system for information dissemination. Though the members of this network are not directly connected to the head person the IT related information that they send are reaching the headquarters. The back-end data may be available to the front end whenever required simultaneously maintaining top secrecy. This is only possible by the way of an emerging telecom provider. Banks and the President of India are also involved in the networking.

Beauty contests are eyed for choosing beautiful women who have in depth IT knowledge. It is a refreshing change to see IT companies sponsoring a beauty pageant instead of cosmetic companies. Instead of asking clichéd questions on world peace, IT related questions are asked.

Release 2.0 suggests that new overseas markets like France need to be tapped by the Indian IT industry. If through innovation India seems to be a lucrative IT hub, the brain drain trend may be reversed. Indeed eminent IT personalities may be motivated to pack their bags and return to their mother land India.

utopian future that the book envisages is IT people making a beeline for Bangalore, leading Indian IT companies merging thereby forming one of the world’s largest companies, villages being digitalized and the IT industry providing a major share of the GDP. The key to India being an IT powerhouse according to the book is through innovation and meticulous networking.

Besides its visionary ideology, the book stands out for the way it has chronicled and caricatured some of the chief architects of the IT industry.

this book is set in the IT industry it is not meant for just IT professionals. Any person who enjoys thrillers should find it an enjoyable read.

Review By Rohit Alimchandani (Jan 6, 2008 at 3:01 PM)

London, Received via the Release 2.0 Group on Facebook
Rating: *****

I am unable, for a plethora of reasons, to write a review on amazon or indiaplaza, which really leaves me no choice but to review the book here. Anyway, here are some of my thoughts on the book:

I will begin by this epithet for Release 2.0 (or R2 as everyone has started referring to it):

Fiercely cool, I'd say.

I'll apologise in advance for the ensuing cliche but the book not only pleasantly surprised me but exceeded several of my expectations. The plot linking specific aspects of the Indian IT sector, predictive terrorist tracking technology and the emergence of India as a powerhouse of conceptual innovation was robust and intelligently constructed to reach it's ultimately pleasing climax. I would go so far as to say that it's something I have never come across it in my kind of fiction but corporate espionage (especially IP theft) is commonplace in today's commoditised IT industry- a reality that we are ruthlessly exposed to throughout the book.

Driving the plot are some excellently developed characters, both heroes and anti-heroes. The characters are believable not just because of the consistency of their portrayal but because of their inherent flaws. People make mistakes and miscalculations, antagonists and protagonists are usually well matched and moreover, it's group ingenuity or team intuition that usually resolves conflicts as opposed singular heroism, adding more than just a flavour of reality (consulting style of course) to proceedings. My personal favourite character was good old William Gates- the big daddy himself- with his care a fuck attitude and general godliness.

My only criticism of the book would be that some of the IT specific explanations are a little too basic- give the readers a little more credit. I, on occasion, was led on the road of reminiscence about my university days as soon as definitions of IT terms cropped up. A little more subtlety wouldn't have gone amiss here but it wasn't a major enough of issue to take away any enjoyment of the book.

On the other hand, I loved the ambition of the young and confident underwear-clad (La Perla I hope..) female protagonist- quite an apt rendition of today's brash and forthcoming India. We are a more open society today than we have ever been in the last 500 years and this book is an accurate reflection of some of the social and attitude changes foreign investment and affluence has brought into middle-class India.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the book- the writing was crisp and concise without no page-consuming descriptions, the pacing and tone were appropriate to their context and the climax, as all climaxes in all aspects of life should be ;), was sufficiently satisfying. Read it, you won't regret it!

Review By Darpana Athale (Via Facebook)

Rating: ***

  • The book, especially towards the end of it,gives an overall 'feel good' feeling- a major factor especially because of the passion for the subject that comes out.
  • Truly a book by an Indian for Indians and India.
  • As an Indian, I could relate to it a lot, especially the characters.
  • Great concept.
  • Good experimentation.
  • Some wonderful ideas for gizmos, products and strategy.
  • Definitely readable

Review By Asheeth Manu (his blog Bookspeak on Blogspot)

Rating: *****

Title: Release 2.0 - The Bangalore Imperative
Author: Anil Goel
Edition: First Edition, 2007
Publisher: Undercover Utopia
Price: Rs.299.00

What do you get when you put together an interesting plot, that is set against the largest growing sector of the country, a brisk pace, crisp editing, smooth flowing words that take you from one page to the next without letting go of your interest? Well, what you get is an imminently un-putdownable book. What you get is Release 2.0.

Set against the Indian software industry, the similarities between the characters and the leading visionaries of the Indian software dream are unmistakable. Half-truth, half-fiction plot is extremely plausible. At times, while reading, one is almost forced to pause and say, "What if this were really to happen?".

Anil has drawn on his experience of over 12 yrs in the industry spanning continents to give an insider's look into the workings of an industry which can truly claim to have single-handedly brought the country on the world map.

A smooth collection of 250-odd pages that once started is difficult to leave half-way. Due to constraints on time, I was forced to abandon it in parts. However, I remember wanting to get back to the book asap. I guess that, to me, is the mark of a good book.

This may not be a classic, but Anil certainly can pat himself on the back for his maiden venture.

A must read, if only for the fact that it forces one to think about the larger responsibility of the corporate than making money.

Enjoyed this offerring...and waiting for the next, which I hope shall be soon.

The verdict: Get your wallet out, go to the nearest bookstore and pick up a copy now !

News


The First Ever IT Thriller from India: the country that shifted the paradigm of the use of Information Technology

Zipping from Silicon Valley to London & Waldorf in Germany to the sprawling campuses of Bangalore INC, & then to uncharted territory in Mauritius, Anil Goel takes you on a journey inside the machinations of the biggest IT companies of the world with an ease that comes from his experience within the cream of the InfoTech revolution for the past 12 turbulent years. He has seen it all – from the mad rush of venture capital and then the demise of the dotcoms, to the outsourcing revolution and the surge of Bangalore to replace Silicon Valley as the IT Capital of the new Flat World.