December 30, 2007

You don't need no graduation

I got this link from Sidin's blog. Apparently some program goes through your blog in like a few nano-seconds and pops up its impression of what kind of people read the trash you type. For a minute a conspiracy theory floated in my head which suggested that a kutty program somewhere did a random match-the-columns routine. (Entirely possible)

Anyway Pseudoforce did OK. We fall in 'High School' readers category. Which is not bad since the Greatest Common Divisor of education of all my friends who read this is above that level. And those, if any, below that level will not know what a blog is or read it anyway. Which means, to read my thoughts you don't need no graduation.

December 23, 2007

Celebrating India with cognac

Some time last month I had the pleasure of being in the private audience of Prof Ramchandra Guha, noted historical commentator (one of the best we have says abyuthvad) and cricket enthusiast. What struck me apart from the fresh smelling straight-off-the-press, duly authographed tome titled 'India after Gandhi' was the passion of the man and the eloquence with which he presented his case to an audience from different nationalities.

I say he was passionate because I was sitting right in the first row (part reason being that I didnt get a seat at the back, but was grateful later to my twist of fate) and I could literally see the twinkle in the eye and feel the energy with which Prof Guha made his points. I say he was eloquent because he made an assortment of foreigners who had come to celebrate India's economic success realise that they should be instead celebrating India's political success.

Reading his book over the weekend I realised why the man was charged up. It's because India is such an antithesis, its baffling to logic to understand its existence today; and once you get to that line of thought even more baffling to realise that almost a billion people get up every morning and go about their business taking it for granted that India still chugs on regardless of its diversity.

Coming back to the talk at the fabulous Lalitha Mahal in Mysore, Prof Guha went on to explain that inspite of these diversities, and given the odds at any given point in time, its nothing short of a miracle that we have continued to exist as a single democratic sovereign entity. There have been attempts to rule India with an iron fist. Fortunately that hasn't been the case and the secret lies in our diversity. A list of reasons were presented, which according to the Professor is the glue that binds us together. I remember just three. One, our Constitution, which empowers every Indian adult with equal electoral rights. Two, the separation of important guardians of the Constitution like the Judiciary and the Election Commission from the Government and finally the game of cricket. Prof Guha's book also throws light on the horrors of Partition; and the cunning and intrigue on either side of the Border. For someone like me who was born long after Independence, the account made for interesting reading.

Looking back, todays economic boom is largely a byproduct of our political success. Had we broken up after Independence into a clutter of princely states there would not be the large market that drives consumption. Had we not integrated, the resources of the East, the technology of the South, the enterprise of the West and the spirituality of the North would not create the unique dynamite that is India.

I left the lecture feeling extremely patriotic and proud to be Indian. At that moment I just celebrated the concept of India with some vintage cognac (and later on with an assortment of liquor shots!) and forgot all those things about India and Indians that sometimes bugged me, even better, I felt that I could understand why we are the way we are. 'India After Gandhi' is a must read.

October 27, 2007

A $15 billion toy

In a fit of what seems to me to be utter desparation, Microsoft paid top dollar, $240 million to be precise, for 1.6% of a bit of code which enables jobless people who want to pass their time (not being judgemental here, we need to do it at some point of the day!) fill up gigabytes on the web. The entity in question is Facebook which has become a rage for the range of creative ways to network socially. I spend some time on it every now and then too. But if I knew that what I was fooling around with was a $15 billion toy, I would probably treat every word I typed like I was etching on a diamond. Spoilt brats we all are. Even so the techies at Silicon Valley who think that Moore's law applies to valuations as well.

To get a sense of why I'm so worked up lets do a little analysis here. (by the way $15 billion is Rs.60,000 crore). Bharat Petroleum is a respectable Indian company. Not the one always in the news but still walk the length and breadth of India and you will see petrol pumps, oil storage tanks the sizes of stadiums, refineries, trucks at airports ... in short a huge asset base which you and I can see. The market capitalisation of BPCL at the close of trading yesterday was Rs.13,000 odd crore. Ditto Hindustan Petroleum which at yesterday's close was worth Rs.8,000 odd crore. Siemens India, my previous employer, with concrete orders booked with extremely creditworthy clients over the next few years was worth Rs.29,000 odd crore. My point is that with tangible assets, orders, customers and employees these behemoths of Indian industry are collectively worth Rs.50,000 crore, a wee bit short Rs.10,000 crore or $2.5 billion than Facebook. Something tells me that Facebook might be worth more than the GDP of many
African countries.

My valuations based on yesterdays clsoing market price maybe too simplistic. There is a lot more to cover and account for before I put a number to the companies I have mentioned. But even then you can't pay $240 mn for a wee 1.6% for software you cant see anticipating that an 'x' percentage of the world's population will register, see your ads, click on it and make a purchase. There are too many ifs and buts in Facebooks valuation which if you remember correctly was what caused the tech meltdown 7 years ago.

To be fair to Facebook, it could be the case that the deal is structured. Maybe a significant amount of that equity is mezzanine (which is not the same as the shares traded on the market). Part of it could be a corporate loan and it slipped the Microsoft spokesperson. It could be that the guy typing the Press Release missed the decimal point courtesy some-plants-who-shall-not-be-named. ($1.5 billion is also expensive but given that its the tech industry and they have a history of such fallacies, I'll understand.) Maybe the days to come will throw some more light on the transaction.

I never understood tech. Stood far away from it during my engineering days as well. I guess its an industry I'll never understand and this proves it. I'm much better off funding infrastructure projects, things I can see, touch and feel. I wonder what Warren Buffet would say though? It would be nice to hear him wishing Microsoft all the best!

October 15, 2007

Corporate Fraud!

Having spent some time on Marketing in a BSchool and after going through the jargon that marketeers seem to pull out of their hats as frequently as Emran Hashmi's onscreen escapades, I have come to believe that there is no better way to con people into paying more or using more than what they would want than to play some Marketing jazz.

Dilbert feels the same! Marketeers! What do you have to say? ;)
Courtesy: Economic Times

October 12, 2007

SEZ Update

43 days after I made a few suggestions (about people displaced by SEZ land sharing the profits with the developer) to resolve the SEZ controversy in India, it looks like someone is listening. The National Policy on Rehabilitation and Resettlement of 2007, provides for structured solutions to help those displaced by SEZs. Relevant portions of text are reproduced here (Source: rediff)

"The new policy seeks to make those entitled for compensation stakeholders in development by allowing them to take up to 20 per cent of the amount in the form of shares if the acquiring entity is authorised to issue these instruments."

"The policy discourages speculative transactions of land acquired for public purposes. As a relief for developers, 30 per cent land can be compulsorily acquired by states for the promoters while the rest has to be bought by them."

"Reliance Industries which is in process of acquiring land for its mega SEZs welcomed the policy. "The policy will boost the industrial development as it clearly defines the land acquisition rules," a Reliance spokesman said."

Which means that the inhabitants of land notified as SEZ land will be able to share in the upside, if any, from the land. That should make them feel much better, and less jealous (refer to the italiced note at the end of this post) of capitalistic developers.

My only concern being will these inhabitants understand the complex finance behind it all? How is this process made to look fair to all parties? How will the rabble-rousers in political circles, who thrive on conflict, look at their golden goose being neutralised, react? Watch this space ... pour in your thoughts if any.

September 26, 2007

Over Optimism versus Reality

Are we an overly optimistic people? The Sensex is climbing new peaks like a sprightly mountain goat, gaining 1000 points in a week; the rupee trades at 39 to the dollar as we speak and in these merry times if you have a surname which is an anagram for 'infrastructure' you can raise a billion dollars no questions asked. Travel by the local trains (in the First Class ... the conversations in the Second Class are an assortment of desi rugby jokes) and you will hear the sophisticated executive types waxing eloquent on the Indian economy.

Not so says the Planning Commission. In an article which paints a grim picture by describing
the situation as 'pressing panic buttons' we are told that to keep the bubbly flowing we need lots of moolah, $40 bn to be exact, for the current 11th Five Year Plan. Various agencies have made estimates ranging from $350 bn to $500 bn for our infrastructure growth requirements. And with every passing year, prices going northwards, these estimates grow for every project that hasn't taken off yet.

Well there have been deals like this and almost every fund house worth its name has launched an infrastructure focused fund. Private Equity players across the world have also dedicated billions of dollars to the India story; but the action ends right there with the word 'dedicated'. Dedicated does not mean disbursal and disbursal does not happen because it is difficult to find good assets (read: projects) that will give returns which these money czars expect.

Projects that offer high returns like airport modernisation, supply chain logistics, telecoms, etc have been lapped up. What are left are the low return projects like power and roads and virgin territories like renewable fuels. There are a million projects waiting to be launched but investors are searching for the elusive asset that give returns in line with their expectations. Unfortunately, the money chasing these assets will cause valuations to sky-rocket and those who moved in first will make a quick buck. Those who followed and those who will follow may make money. Small investors, as is their wont, will rush in when the floodgates are about to open and will be blown away in the deluge. (Digression: The commies will then blame capitalism for the pains of the common man)

Does that mean the tragic end to our fairy tale economy. Definitely not. Infrastructure projects can be more attractive if they are not politicised. Power for example is more an election issue than an economy issue. Will politicians and bureaucrats ever realise? If they do then maybe the capital kings will loosen their purse strings. Maybe dedication will realise disbursement. Maybe this rant will be inconsequential.

August 30, 2007

All about Gordon DSouza you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

I have been taking arbit quizzes recently. It's a good stress busting / time wasting / see result-snort kinda thing. And its fun too. The culprit for this criminal waste of office time is a certain site called Brainfall. I got it through the news feed on facebook that serruptitiously tells me what my friends are doing.

So here goes ... Probably it might help you know me better ... or better still you'll know what to get me as a birthday present ;)

If I were a character from FRIENDS ... I would be Rachel Greene

"You are Rachel. You're very selfish and pay great attention to image. Spoiled when you were young, you were always the popular and snobbish kid. Although you hang on to your adolescent attributes, you grow more responsible every year."

Don't get me wrong here. I am not into crossdressing and not interested in a sex change. And I wasn't spoiled when I was young. Rather I toiled day and night like 'Opal Mehta' but I didn't get kissed though I got a life. So there ...

And now a look into my future ...

If I were an Action Hero ... I would be Daniel Craig

"You are Daniel Craig. Bond, James Bond. Keep up your suave style but don't forget to remain a bad ass. Money and romance is more your style, so don't get your hands too dirty. "

Now that says something doesn't it ... I confirm that I am completely and totally 101% DC. Except that I don't have fast cars, don't bed women every 10 minutes, hate techie gizmos, don't work for a detective agency, can't run the parkour, am afraid of dangling from overhead cranes, have never handled a gun, ... you get the drift

And speaking of style ...

If I were a drink ... I would be a Fine Glass of Wine

"You are a Fine Glass of Wine. You are sophisticated and refined, but also complicated and hard to deal with. Not everyone loves you, but those who do swear that you're the coolest thing since sliced bread. ..."

Ahem! Yes that I am (said in that sexy baritone voice of mine ... which you will hear if you call me when I'm having a bloody cold) ... Though Scotch on the rocks is my poison ... I'd settle for wine too ... wink wink .. remember the birthday present hint

Now a look into my past.

If I was in Hogwarts ... I would be in Gryffindor

"The Sorting Hat would put you in Gryffindor. You are bold, passionate, and brave. You have a highly-defined sense of right and wrong, and you are not afraid to speak your mind or fight for what you want."


Going on ...

If I were a Harry Potter Character ... I would be ... It's a TIE!!! Part Harry and part Hermoine
"You are part Harry. You're a loyal and courageous friend. You'd do anything to protect the people you love, especially if it'll get you a break from class for a little while"
"You are part Hermione. You're a bookworm always in search of answers. When pressed, however, you can always be counted on to put away the books and help your friends"

Sigh. Those were the glorious school / college days.

And continuing to the most accurate guess by Brainfall till now

If I were to major in college ... I would major in Engineering

"Your major should be Engineering. Logic is your friend. With enough work, you can find a solution to anything... Unless it involves dating or parties."

It's true; and I am extremely proud of my engineering days. Grease ki kasam ... I am a true blue mechie boy .. though I did something in management later on I actually studied for my exams and was an exemplary student during VJ days.

For the darker side of me.

If I were a Disney Villain ... I would be Jafar

"You just want to be big and powerful... Is that so much to ask? I mean, you deserve it."

I AM big ... and powerful ... If you know what I mean ;)

And finally .. some kinky stuff ... which you have to live with if I'm around. Brainfall is not responsible for this. It is from another site

My lucky underwear colour is ... BLUE (Cheerio! Bravo bravo!!)

"You are caring and extroverted. You've made relationships your number one focus, and your lucky blue underwear can bring some balance to them.You thrive in one-on-one situations. You are a good listener and a natural born therapist. Sometimes you let the concerns of others become too important in your life, leading to stress and worry.If you want more balance, put on your blue underpants. They'll help you take care of yourself first."

Well Blue is my colour; and yes, ever since I have worn blue undies my life has been on an upswing (no pun intended!)

Hope these very informative metaphors have given you a much more deeper insight into my personality and my reason for being. Take a chance ... see what you actually are ... Its fun, believe me!

August 29, 2007

Special Economics (of) Zamindari

WARNING: Long-ish :)

A lot has been said about the SEZ controversy. Some call it a land grabbing scam while others have been proposing it as the panacea to our structural problems.

Why are SEZs arousing so much interest? Well one, it’s a bonanza for the developer. Business margins in real estate construction are close to 90% in the case of commercial projects like SEZs. (In the residential housing market they are 100-200%. It is lower in SEZs because money is recovered through leases over longer period of time). Running an SEZ involves just the Property Tax and normal Admin expenses.

So what does the developer do? He puts up 20% of the money, borrows 70% and collects 10% in advance bookings. Since land acquisition would be a difficult and costly affair he creates a separate company (also called a special purpose vehicle, SPV) in which he and a Govt. body are partners. The Govt. body’s sole purpose is to acquire contiguous tracts of land; and land is acquired for a song.

It is because of this that the ‘SEZ Policy’ has attracted investors from all walks of business, and primarily from the IT sector. As IT companies expand, they require more and more place to seat their ever increasing workforce (since seats is the primary driver to secure those multi-million/billion dollar outsourcing / software maintenance contracts). Today the IT and BPO industry are accounting for 70% of the real estate demand and more than 60%-70% of the SEZs are meant for the IT / ITeS industry. The rest are distributed among sectors like biotechnology, gems & jewellery, automobiles and the like.

But do we really need SEZs for IT? In reality, the IT chaps derive very little benefit in being part of an SEZ since the tax incentives they already enjoy and those in an SEZ do not vary much. The only industries that will benefit immensely are those that can integrate their process inside an SEZ (i.e. have most of their business partners from raw material to end product). The ease of flow of business and the added incentive of customs waivers and tax benefits will accelerate their growth. China has adopted this model. Shenzen is a massive 50,000 hectares and I don’t think IT companies are housed inside. India’s largest on the other hand, the Reliance promoted Navi Mumbai and Maha Mumbai are collectively 14,000 hectares. Most of our other SEZs are in the sub 500 range catering mainly to the IT sector.

So do we really need so many SEZs? The answer is yes. We require SEZs for small and medium enterprises; lots of them. The software industry is mature enough to fund their own buildings. Which brings us to the next question: Why all this brouhaha in the media? A few points follow.

One, current land owners are not compensated enough: True. Govt. vehicles ensure that the SEZ land is acquired cheap
Two, we are losing agricultural land: False. Land has to be put to its best use. If we (India’s GDP) gain more by setting up an SEZ rather than agriculture, it makes more sense to go for the former. In this age of global linkages we better not be thinking micro.
Three, Farmers lose their livelihood: Partly answered by point one. Farmers should be compensated adequately for their land and for their occupation. Options include training them in a new skill, ensuring a certain percentage employment in the SEZ, or even a share in the SEZ profits.
Also these three points have been magnified by political parties for vested interests.

I am sure that if the powers that be have a more humane look at the issues in an SEZ, all parties can share in the economic boom, farmer and developer alike. Till that happens though we will be transforming IT companies into real estate banks.

(Afterthought: IF the sides of the table were interchanged and farmers were developers and vice versa what would the reaction be? Would capitalism or socialism triumph? Me says capitalism since man is inherently selfish and 100% so in the matters of money. Which of the hardened socialists would not want to get his stuff at a lower price? If so then there is nothing emotional about this issue, it’s just power politics at play!)

August 20, 2007

A blurry topic

I might be having a case of myopia. Not that I have lost 'strategic thinking for the long term' You can't lose that after 24 months at a B-School and espcially if you happened to take the courses I took. I'm talking of my eyes. I seem to pass all optician tests with flying colours but alas I have noticed a slight blurriness in light colours which are more than 15 metres or so away.

Reaction # 1: Terrible. Was the thing that first came to my mind. I have always hated any foreign objects on my person. My mom gave up trying to get me wear gold chains when I was little, the aunts (who are nuns) gave up adorning the scapulor round my neck. I also abhored a certain silver chain around my waist as a toddler and I absolutely absolutely detest spectacles.

Reaction # 2: Am I getting old? I can see my once thick black hair thinning out. The hairline has gone half a centimeter or so backwards. And this thought about spectacles being inevitable is scaring me. How bad can it get? And to make matters worse I'm still single

However every dark cloud has a silver lining. A quick search on wikipedia (search: myopia, see: education, intelligence and IQ) says that "The prevalence of myopia increases with level of education and many studies have shown a relationship between myopia and IQ." One psycho (okay psychologist) also reports that myopes have 7-8 IQ points higher than non-myopes. Disclaimers warn that correlation does not imply causation. Point taken. And further the article on Arther Jensen, the good chap who quantified the 7-8 points, has its neutrality and factual accuracy disputed. POOF! Mr Silver Lining. It looks like its gonna rain real heavy

Get ready to see a bespectacled me. Ladies, I know you've always loved those big brown eyes :D. All the more reason for you to now come one step closer ;)

August 9, 2007

The lighter side of work

Half a day is spent at work. And if you start at the age of say 23, and hang your boots by 58, you will have logged in 25 years of service and that translates to 12.5 years of contiguous work (at 12 hours on an average). So offices take up a substantial part of our waking hours (not counting colleagues who manage to catch forty winks in creative positions to avoid being caught!) and I decided to blog something on office life. Below is the cumulative experience of self and many other friends, most of whom are in investment banking circles ...

Offices are beeping places. From the start of the day to the end the entire friggin place beeps. There are telephone beeps, callback beeps, computers beep, doors beep. Thank goodness that people don't. (Or did I just hear someone beep .. rather buurrp). It rings in my head all the way home. Beep ... Arrrgghhh!

Bankers are a uniform lot. Light plain shirts, dark pinstripe trousers, neatly combed hair parted at the side in an oh-so-immaculate parting. Round rimmed glasses. The sophisticated accent ... Shit! Is this my future?

Microsoft Excel is a gift. The more I court it the more it shows me different things. But life has become complicated after excel showed up. People demand fancy graphs, creative tables, single line logic formulae ... Sometimes I feel more of a programmer than a banker. And the hard part is I had divorced computer logic the first time we met.

PowerPoint's are no longer the 'five points on a slide in font size 20' routine from college. Bankers love to pack data on a slide like sardines in a can. Sometimes using font size 9??!! Damn. Animations (even the subtle professional ones) are a big no-no. Takes the fun outta life.

Lunches and dinners are a quite, serious affair with perfectly co-ordinated hand and mouth movements. If you end up eating with bosses you end up stiff rather than full. I have always eaten with my (clean) hands. The cutlery put up at formal dinners looks like a kit on a post-mortem table. Last time I tried eating chicken with a knife and fork, the chicken resurrected and flew off the table. Whatever happened to good old hands???

I have always squeezed the teabag with my fingers. Now I use an elaborate mechanism which involves using a spoon and wrapping the teabag around it, winding the string and squeezing the teabag in the process! I want freshly brewed piping hot tea. Middle finger to you teabags!!!

Finally, I have a grouse with the air-conditioning. I think they mistook me for an Eskimo during hiring. Or did they think I was cold blooded? Maybe its to chill down the heartbeat racing treasury chaps? I don't know but after encountering Mumbai's rains on the way to office you don't want to sit in an AC. Brrr ...

So this is it, until I come across a fresh set of experiences ...

Disclaimer: None of the above is to suggest that I do not enjoy my work. This was just an attempt to see the lighter side at work.

July 13, 2007

Poetic Injustice

So much to say ... but not a moment to spare
The Net connection at home is too dead to care
While I'm in office in a fit of despair
Finding time to post is like fighting with a bear
Lest I end up a lunatic by pulling out my hair
Let me post this crappy poem without much fanfare

June 12, 2007

MDI in expansion mode

I got this from Ankur Jain's blog. Apparently my college is planning to double its intake for the flagship PGPM programme. It also plans to expand in the Middle East. As of now they are thinking of Doha, Qatar.

It seems much better than the earlier plan of vertical integration into a full fledged university.

Those interested can read more here.

June 7, 2007

Dil Dehelani Wali News

A bearded man with slicked back hair ending in a ponytail stands in front of a screen that looks like a cheap rendition of a Powerpoint template. It has an inset where you will constantly see people beaten up, morchas and chaos. (Given the mans appearance you would have reason to believe that he was part of the chaos going on behind him!). He then paces right to left and proceeds to tell you a 'Dil Dehelani wali khahani' in which a doctor is beaten up by a bunch of local goons for allegedly attempting to flirt with a nurse in a local hospital.

The story drags on. There are numerous repeated shots of the man being beaten up. Then there are stills that are again in powerpoint effect style flown in from every corner of the screen with that dil dehelani wali audio effect. The bearded man throws a few questions to ponder on. The local moral police (read publicity seeker) is bang in the middle of your screen. His henchmen try to peek into the camera to get their 15 seconds of fame.

This happens at prime time when most of the population of working India is back from a tiring day at work and looks forward to entertainment / being well informed. Only in this case, the doctor is from a nondescript suburb of Mumbai, the allegation was not proved true, possibly a hundred such 'flirty' encounters took place everyday and there are more pressing issues facing the nation that its citizens need to be informed about. Welcome to the world of Indian News Reporting

Indian news reporting has hit new lows with the addition of competition. The arrival of the private sector to broadcasting promised a lot but today I stay away from any Indian news channel. The reasons are pretty obvious. Practically everything is 'Breaking News'. I can barely see the broadcasts due to a stock market ticker, a weather ticker, the odd cricket score ticker, the ad marquee, the 'Breaking News' marquee, the logo, etc. As each and every news channel jostles for content it doesnt push up the standards but hits a new low every time. And every time they try to shock my sensibilities by broadcasting shocking content I am indifferent, because I have been repeatedly shocked and my brain has adjusted to the madness of some obscure madman.

Does anybody watch this stupidity? (I can only think of people who are a lil' high and cant reach the remote and so resign themselves to enduring the torture) What happened to the good old days when that Tandon guy (yes! the same bearded chap with the excellent collection of ties) on Doordarshan read the News that people in my family stopped their lives for 10 minutes and sat down in front of the TV to listen to him? Isn't there some form of benchmarking with other international news channels?

Whatever it is I have switched to online media, blogs for my news. The newspaper adds a bit here and there, but Indian TV? sorry boss I cant take it. And I hope for the good of the nation they stop the 'Dil Dehelani wali' stories

June 1, 2007

Weight can make you unemployed!

The Delhi HC recently told a group of overweight airhostesses to shape up or ship out

Some of the arguments put forward by Justice Rekha Sharma make no sense, especially something like this -

"Observing that planes nowadays fly at 'very high altitude' and are prone to mid-air technical snags, the court said the safety of passengers depended on the cabin crew’s alacrity and presence of mind."

In the event of a technical snag I doubt anybody will trust an air-hostess to rectify the situation given the high risk involved. Such matters are best left to those who are trained in such work. Secondly there is no relation between a persons weight and the ability to solve a problem. At least I don't think so.

However the cabin crew profession is one where looks and personality matter, both for flight pursers and air-hostesses, it makes sense to see that those attending to you give you that in flight experience. You feel bad when the cabin crew in some airlines (which shall not be named) look like your grandparents, worse still when they huff and puff pushing the trolleys bringing you food, etc. Contrast this with airlines like KF where right from check-in you are greeted by smart looking men and women (mostly women) to the in-flight experience and the post flight baggage claim. You want to travel by KF again and again.

And the counter claim that weight control is an insult to womanhood. Sorry ma'am I think you are in the wrong profession

May 30, 2007

Behenji Strategy

When all political parties in India are trying to establish themselves in various capacities as the saviour of the downtrodden, the middleclass, the unemployed, backward classes, etc the Bahujan Samaj Party led by the firebrand Mayawati seems to have cracked the winning formula.

In the last decade or so, most of the leadership in all almost all political parties in India is purely reactive. After winning an election there is desperate clamouring for alliances and coalitions. Then there is the integration time for getting to know each other and accommodating each other. One third of the tenure is now lost. And before long the powers that be go on a drive to recover their election expenses. You will suddenly see grand schemes being launched and it is but obvious that most of the grants to these schemes are channeled through 'friends' who 'helped' them secure their election victory. Soon its time for the next elections and who know whether you will make it again given that nothing was done for the people so there is a period where everyone maximises the investment they made to get to power. End result? Another run after elections to form the government. If the people who 'helped' you were not happy with their returns you are out and a new Charlie is in the drivers seat. And the story goes on ...

However Behenji as Mayawati is called by her supporters has over the past two years being quitely working behind the scenes to exploit the weakness of her competitors and the environment (UP politics) to her advantage. Given the absence of strong leadership in the state from any national party (read INC and BJP) the only person left was Mulayam. Mayawati set out to put her candidates in place well in advance to make sure the people know who represents which party and to avoid confusion at the end. She then threw the BSP's caste agenda aside and positioned it as the 'sarva samaj' party including Brahmins, Muslims and OBCs under one wing. The new mantra seems to be the welfare of the sarva samaj.

Over two years the idea seeped in, took ground and needless to say the people of Uttar Pradesh tired with the soft Hindutva and caste based politics decided to give the BSP a chance. The result? A thumping victory for the BSP on its own steam. As usual parties have 'reacted' in a bid to woo Dalit voters. The national parties are taking special efforts to see that Dalits dont feel alienated.

What does this mean for Indian politics? Will this (termed 'Brahmin-Dalit bhaichara') be the new mantra? Its too early to say. For one, UP politics has in recent years seen the demise of the INC and the BJP and its more a tug of war between the SP and the BSP. Though the model can be replicated in select states where there is a so called power vacuum. However Im pretty sure that the larger parties will not sit quitely. Another important point is that Mayawati seems to have no idea what to do ahead. i.e. with respect to the development of UP, aligning the various interests of the many factions which make the new fabric of the BSP, etc. Was she expecting a victory? or has the result stunned her as well?

Whatever it is, India has got a new formula to pursue. Whether it will work or not only time will tell. If it works, Indian politics will move from caste based politics to the integration of economically backward classes, hopefully without caste, which is a good thing. If it doesnt work we not be worse off. There is no downside. Welcome Mayawati! Hope you change Indian politics for the better.

May 12, 2007

Power hungry

The power crisis in the country needs no elaboration. Reams and reams have been written about how to secure funding to bridge the gap between demand and supply. And with investment in the sector people are looking to build more and more plants. After building them they will scurry to ensure that there is a constant supply of fuel to run these plants. NTPC is already to trade its power plant building expertise for a guaranteed supply of fuel from Nigeria. Thus after the mad rush to get investment, there will be another race to get fuel. Then there will be another race to ensure that we are best in the world and it will go on and on.

Rather I'm thinking why nobody has looked at the option to reduce Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Losses which at present hover at 40-50%. Are these because of old equipment? Or are these losses due to pilferage? If the reason is due to the former I would like to see investment going into the upgradation of existing infrastructure which will almost double our current power supply. Even if it is due to pilferage, investments to reduce it will result in transmission companies significantly increasing their revenues and consequently profits which would then enable them to fund new projects themselves.

Either ways there are huge gains to be made by upgrading the current infrastructure rather than diverting investment to new projects. I hope that somebody sees the merit in it.

April 15, 2007

Updates on the Andamans & Bangalore

Many friends have been inquiring about my experiences in the Andamans. I apologise for the delay in uploading the pics and posting. But I'm not completely at fault since I am the mercy of those who own the digicams (BTW this is a must-buy gadget for people like me with huge wanderlust)

But take heart me hearties ... Downloads are in progress and I've got the machinery rolling. Hopefully in a few weeks :( I will have all the pics; and the posts will follow. Till then you have to be satisfied with my random ramblings!

April 12, 2007


Formula One is becoming a win win game for me. Till last year there were very few moments when the race result would leave me satisfied. That was because ever since I started following the sport in 2001 I have had my favorite driver in my favorite team. Mika Hakkinen and later Kimi Raikonnen were both McLaren drivers. This year hence with Schumi finally vacating his Ferrari seat (realising that F1 will br much more exciting without him) to Kimi and Alonso at McLaren the race result always keeps me in good spirits. Past two races have sure been so. Lets hope it continues for the rest of the season.

April 11, 2007

Another one bites the dust

As the West Indies crashed out of this edition of the World Cup I once again felt remorse and sad. Many years ago (1994) is was the West Indies that lured me to become their biggest fan. That was the series against India which the Windies levelled in Mumbai after being one down in nagpur. It was the summer and I was at my uncles house and since I had nothing better to do was watching (grudgingly!) a Test match!

They say childhood influences last a lifetime. In that series I saw Walsh, Kenneth Benjamin, Anderson Cummins and a coupla other quicks. Lara, Chanderpaul, Hooper, Keith Artherton and Simmons as batsmen and a wickety called Junior Murray. I fell in love with their style and their flamboyance. I made it a point to learn more about them. Soon I was mesmerised by the bowling of Curtly Ambrose and the batsmanship of Brian Lara. Till today my favorite all time players are Ambrose and Lara. And I really wished that the semifinals against Australia went differently in 1996 when they lost by 4 runs. It would have given these two great players the highest honour due to them.

Over the latter half of the 90s they have gone through their lowest with a poor domestic structure and a lack of unity. The former has seen dirty linen being washed in public and the latter has seen players revolt on salaries and contracts. Combine that with a lack of one person to bring different islands together and you have a recipe for disaster. Clive Loyd was perhaps the last great unifier of West Indian cricket. Viv Richards to some extent but Lara is just not there as a people person.

But I am not completely disheartened because there is potential. The last two editions of the ICC Champions trophy has given proof though its not exactly a revival of fortunes they are capable of coming up with good cricket. It is also a fact that every dog his day. The Aussies were the whipping boys of cricket int he days of Merv Hughes and then came along Border who changed Aussie cricket. Similar is the story of what Cronje did after Kepler Wessels handed him the South African captaincy. What West Indies cricket needs is one person who can see ahead and build a team that will be world class a few years down the line. Till that time we will have to see the Windies whipped around.

Buck up dudes!

April 7, 2007

That scam called Religion - Part III

Good or Bad?
They way I have potrayed religion you must be wondering whether anything good has ever come out of it. Well nothing is entirely bad or entirely good. Ditto here. In the example of Christianity (I hope you will forgive my lack of knowledge about other religions!) education has assumed significant importance among those priests with a missionary bent of mind. The large number of centres of excellence in education in India run by the Church is a testimony to that fact. I am not aware about missionary activity in other religions but I am sure something must exist.

If it had not been for the reforms under the Vatican II in the year 1962-65 Christianity would have been a dying religion. There would have been a mass exodus of its members. It is to the credit of the Church that they were proactive in recognising an era of knowledge and intense inquiry into matters of religion. They plugged most of the holes that had been left by the fighting of their predecessors. More than anything the Church changed its stance from a rigid patriachal system to one which signigficant control was handed down to the people who constitute the Church. Though people are satisfied the scam continues. Christianity is still restricted by symbolism like the Mass, the Cross and certain rituals called sacraments. It will be a long time before the old mindset of blindly accepting something handed down by authority changes.

Not all religious leaders are rabble rousers. While most of them have blindly accepted what has come down the ages as the truth. Few have stopped to inquire and those few have been persecuted, burnt at the stakes, excommunicated and killed. A few have managed to survive though.

Which is why yesterday's Good Friday Homily by Fr Nigel Barett came like a refreshing breeze on a humid summers day. Fr Nigel challenged old concepts like suffering and sacrifice and gave it new meaning. It was a welcome change and for the first time in months I was excited. Suddenly religion looked like an 'applied' theme; from which you can actually do something. God and religion seemed one for a brief fleeting instant.

Convergence will take place the day everyone practices his/her religion in its truest and purest form and we will stop scamming ourselves.

That scam called Religion - Part II

In my previous post there I have shown how the original message of an extraordinary being gets corrupted over the years into rituals which lose relevance and meaning with respect to the original message.

For me the concepts of 'God' and 'organised religion' are two very different things; the latter being a creation of man to control and exert his power. In the example of Christianity, there were clearly two power centres; that of Constantinople and Rome which subsequently came to be known as the Eastern and Western versions respectively. The Nicene Creed (popularly known as the 'I Believe') is a credo that was the outcome of the Council of Nicea, organised by the Emperor Constantine somewhere around the 4th century AD to unite the Western and Eastern theories. The fallout was that a good many texts which would have been windows to our original doctrines were destroyed by Constantine to ensure success of the Council and the Nicene Creed was made the standard. The common Creed lasted till about 1000 AD when power struggles that ensued between the Bishops of important cities at that time, namely Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, Jerusalem and Antioch; split the Church in two permanently and have ensured that what we have today is more a result of a patronising Emperor and less of our original doctrines.

Today the Nicene Creed occupies an enviable position in the Catholic Church and is also part of the Holy Mass. Most of what we know about religion is a product of the power struggle between kings, bishops and other rulers and administrators. People who propogated what they wanted to and destroyed evidence that would undermine their authority and status.

Hence religion is all about power. Political, Economical and Social. How does it sustain itself? It builds a culture around itself. People are born into the culture and it becomes a part of their lives. When they grow up and (if) they begin to question their religion they literally have no choice. They will have to renounce a culture that is so much part of them they can't seem to fit outside. Thats the Social ringfence. Economically it collects tithes from its members; those with higher collections getting more attention than others ultimately creating in the minds of such members a feeling of superiority. (Talk to some old parishoners in areas like Orlem, Bandra and IC Colony to get a better understanding) The influence of the Church in Catholic countries / areas like Philipinnes, Spain, Mexico and parts of Latin America are well known. Even in India in the days following the death of missionary Graham Staines the Catholic Church openly encouraged its members to vote for 'secular' parties (read: the Indian National Congress)

I call it a scam because for the most part of it we have allowed rituals and symbolism to rule us. The Christian equivalent of 'jihaad' also known as 'Crusades', killings of women from different cultures in the form of burning at the stakes, selling of Indulgences (absolution in exchange for money), corruption and an attitude of arrogance and superiority characterised the Church. Symbols (eg. the Cross, statues, trinkets and other paraphernalia) are used by religious leaders to rouse public sentiments when these things should not matter. And again the story will not be very different across religions.

That is how Religion and God are vastly different. Two very different concepts often paraded together, sold to us in a packaged deal. Its a pity many of us blindly accept it without question. The Church had a brilliant way of dealing with the problem. A line in the Bible says "Blessed are ye who do not see and yet believe" The line I believe is deliberately inserted to quell any questions and make you feel good. Christ was a man full of wisdom, I doubt He would have said a line like that.

(To be continued)

That scam called Religion - Part I

I have been thinking about religion since some time. And in the following post I will pen (rather type) my thoughts. I have been looking closely at religion and it looks to be one of the best scams ever. One person or a group of persons have built a set of rules and guiding principles that have to be followed by the multitudes. Mostly these were based on what the founders thought to be right. I don't mean the technical founder but the guys who took over after the new philosophy was propounded. I am not an authority on the various religions of the world but I know a bit about Christianity. Lets start there.

Contrary to popular belief Christ was not the founder of Christianity. His disciples were. Christ did not write the New Testament in the Bible. His disciples (mainly fisherfolk and possibly illiterate with the exception of Matthew who was a tax collector) did. Most of the accounts were also written down when the disciples were old somwehere around 80 AD. Point being that Christianity was shaped by what the First Believers penned, the rules they enforced and the tradition they established. Todays Christian doctrine has also been hugely influenced by famous patrons, most notably Emperor Constantine. Over the years the Christian religious leadership has assimilated what these influences have borne, the Nicene Creed (popularly known as the 'I believe') being the most famous. Are there deviations from Jesus' original philosophy? Were the non-controversial Gospels chosen? Were controversial Gospels discarded? What has been hidden under the carpet? We will never know.

These interventions by power hungry administrators have manisfested themselves in small disparities in our Holy Texts. For all His divineness and humility Christ seems to have been a little vain as chronicled by the line at the last supper, "Do this in memory of Me". Do what? Follow your teaching (i.e. 'Break yourself for others') or just break bread symbolically? The former would make sense, unfortunately the Church has chosen the latter and over the centuries we have forgotten the former giving us a ritual which does not go with the character of a person who has a high degree of moral goodness.

Herein, I feel, lie the first seeds of control as sown by the authors or interveners. The setting up of systems, processes and rituals that the rest should follow. The Church then comes up with a verdict (possibly to get errant Christians on track) saying that missing Sunday Mass (the re-enactment of the Last Supper) is sin. Somewhere along the line they also classify sin as venial (smaller transgressions) and mortal (larger transgressions). Obviously missing Sunday service is classified mortal. Why was Sunday chosen? Apparently that is the day God rested i.e. the Sabbath. Ironically Christ Himself has attacked the concept of the Sabbath in the very same Gospels where His disciples propound it.

Religion is based on fear. Bertrand Russell calls it the fear of the unknown. Over centuries religious leaders have capitalised on this fear by setting the rules. Those who deviate or 'sin' will be punished on a deferred basis i.e. in later life or after death in places called Purgatory (another fancy creation, a tool of fear and power). There is no mention of Purgatory in the Scriptures. Yes there is something mentioned about 'weeping and gnashing of teeth' but then I doubt neither weeping nor gnashing a method of spiritual cleansing. And i am sure Someone who is omniscient will agree. Fear. Thats what it is all built on. And since nobody has come back from the netherworld the fear is all the more credible.

So who decides what is sin? As per the old cathecism pre-Vatican II (A conclave where the Church decided to move with the times) of the Catholic Church there are seven capital sins (Small digression: There is also a movie starring Kevin Spacey called 'Se7en' where he murders people who commit these sins). If God gave us freedom then he surely has no right to punish us. The concept of Hell is also something I do not agree with. Everlasting punishment goes against the very nature of a forgiving God that we learn during Cathecism.

I have taken the example of Christianity since I have been educated about it. Looking at the disillusionment all around me I can sense that a similar malaise exists in other religions. The core of the message / philosophy has been lost over time and has been replaced with rituals which concentrate power in the hands of a few.

(To be continued ... )

April 1, 2007

And God made woman ... (or did he???)

An observation: All the women I am interested / attracted to are married, betrothed, about to get married, into a relationship, in cities far away, don't have the time since they are busy with college or professional life, lesbian or have societal & communal constraints ... Where are all the women gone????!!!!

March 2, 2007

Organisations & Politics

The power of the press and media got me thinking about corporations and organisations. The more I have been thinking about them, the more they seem like completely political entities; which is something Prof. Subir used to constantly tell us in Organisational Design. Whatever one might think, organisations exist to control resources, people and outputs. During the budget analysis the ideas and opinions of a select few so easily imposed (in a controlled maner) on the public at large who lapped up the verdict without understanding most of the matter. Or for simplicity let us assume that most organisation have a fixed set of values. Even if they are not, the beliefs of the top management are imposed on the lower rung of employees (read: control). Given the diversity I'm sure there are exceptions who do not subscribe to these values or beliefs. Will they blindly accept and follow. Yes they do, almost everytime for management seduces. They twist an apple, call it an orange and get their work done. (Frankly thats most of what I learnt at BSchool apart from the jargon).

You might say that such corporations are doomed. Well they will be if they were non-political. Because there the management was just, fair and moral. Hence they backtracked, withdrew and a new set of people took over. The ones that exist today are those that have been successful in their propaganda, call it by better names like market-share, profits, growth, customers, whatever ... But the fact remains that they have come this far by controlling people, imposing their ideas on them and seducing them to work for their benefit.

What is our role here? MBA's all over the world will be hired to seduce and secure what top management wants. Some years later we'll be doing the 'goal-setting', the 'targets'; brainwashing those below us (fresh MBA's) to seduce while we control. In short, organisations whether you like it or not are political entities.

Now the big question. Why would anyone do it? I'd answer as Nick Naylor does in 'Thank you for smoking' ..."It's for the mortgage!"

March 1, 2007

Budget Blues

We need to grow at 100% (mentally)
Over the last few days I have almost shred the newspaper and gobbled up all the news collectively available on any business magazine or media channel. Such has been the level of boredom that I have been reading trash and seeing trash. This is Budget week in India and more than intellectually stimulating it seemed like the Great Indian Laughter Challenge. Lets start with the Rail Budget. I won't delve into the pros and cons since all our mailboxes have had some kind soul filling it with Budget docs, pdfs and in one case an excel too! Anyways what I want to focus on is the sorry state of Parliament that I witnessed on TV. I am not a Congress / UPA supporter but the way in which the opposition disrupted proceedings spoke of a 'bajrangi' attitude; the type that is endorsed by village bumkins. If that was not enough, we had another village bumkin who went on and on amid the chaos. A complete Child-Child transaction if Prof. Kalra of the Organisational Behaviour Dept. at MDI were to analyse it.

We may be growing at 8+% but I wonder when will we grow mentally.

I wannabe ...
Such has been the impact of the budget that even the aam aadmi seems to have an opinion; irrespective of whether he has fully understood it or not. Reminds me of a Prof in MDI who (obviously will not be named) said "When I look at the balance sheet of *** (company which will not be named!) I don't get confidence to think that this deal will go through"The financials of this company were not available on any database; and when questioned about the source, the Prof retreated saying that he had read extensively some analyst reports in the pink press!

People all over the country are reacting to bits and pieces news that they hear when politicians scream hoarse. Again, I'd like to state that I haven't seen the Budget document, the pdf, doc or hard copy, hence I'm on neutral gear right now! But the point I want to make is that this closely resembles the 'Madness of Crowds' that Prof Bakshi used to talk about in his BFBV class. Most of the people out there are wannabes, selective hearing being their weapon of choice. I would love to hear opinions but only after the the new policy is understood, assimilated and analysed. It is just not possible that within minutes of the Finance Minister releasing a policy document some good number of pages thick that you say with passion how grave the situation is, How dissapointed you are, How growth will slow down, etc, etc.

Still there will always be an 'I wannabe heard' ... Tch!

February 20, 2007


Its more or less two years since I jumped up in glee when I received a final admit to MDI; and to be frank they have possibly been the best years of my life. From a confused term one where I just didn't know what was happening around me to the absolutely 'vela' term six, life has been pretty decent, academics stable and fun exponential. But probably the best takeaway from MDI (apart from employment) has been a bunch of wonderful friends in the form of seniors, batchmates, juniors and professors; and this is the reason I leave Gurgaon with a heavy heart. I will miss the morning lectures, the rushed up assignments, the oh-so-wonderful-gyaan cases, the coffee breaks, the bad food, the greens, the red bricks and the cold weather, not to forget the dirty loos of the ground floor. I will also miss the random 'Lets grab a bite / movie' by my friends of SouthEx (I will probably post another time about the denizens of SouthEx), the arbitness of my Corridor, the completely-wasted parties and the stupidity of some officebearers in the Student Council and faculty.

As for the academics n gyaan, management has proved to be complete common sense and considering the cost it has been bloody expensive, the saving grace being the fact since people don't know about it, it helps you climb the corporate ladder much faster and earn even faster. But it seems like a good investment in self. Lets just hope that it pays huge dividends!

At the end of it all, it has been an enjoyable experience, almost like a two year vacation and a great place to build lasting friendships. Thank you MDI! Here's to the ManDevIans!!! You guys rock!!!!!

January 23, 2007

Gyaan Sessions

Its that time of the year when you know that any efort will just not matter. It is the sixth term here at MDI and I couldnt have been more callous towards acads in my entire life. The days begin at 10am, sometimes at 12 noon. Lunch, classes (if there are any), eating out, booze, movies and other random assorted crap. I have almost lost the drive to gym, jog, whatever (It doesn't help that the weather is perfect for hibernation) It is in the midst of this that I have been thinking about the past two years over here and all that has come and gone. So this is the perfect time to give gyaan. Over the next few weeks till I get employed, take off on a vacation or do something productive I will rattle on gyaan on various subjects, opinions and philosophies. Mind you this has not come without any cost. It has cost me roughly six lakhs in rents and another six in opportunities. But nonetheless they are things that one is supposed to ponder on. Some may be applicable to you and some may be not. Don't come after me, argue, debate. This is gyan; you read at your own risk!

Session One.

People (including me) come to BSchools with a grand idea of learning business. Let reality bite. You don't learn much here. Don't tell me that an academic bhelpuri for two years makes you that valuable that an organisation throws a million bucks (Average compensation has touched 10L+ levels) at you to 'add value' to their business. At the end of two years an organisation sees a person in the interview room and sees an ability to work crazy hours, meet tight deadlines, follow ridiculous schedules, sweet talk (faff) its customers. This is the pure unadulterated meaning of 'adding value'. A blue collared worker would take 17L in overtime. (Read this - especially the comment section) You my friend are given 10L. Value added indeed!

The only takeways one has from a BSchool are contacts and reputation. You are working with a group of over ambitious, highly competitive people who has been selected from among the cream of India's population. It is but natural that most of them will end up in very very senior management positions within a short span of time. Which is why BSchool gives you a shitload of contacts (read increasing your bargaining power in some tight situation somewhere down the line).Which brings me to my next point; the importance of ones reputation. Granted that people are immature even when they come this far, still things like overcharging foreigners, manhandling women, cost allocation to the second decimal after a group dinner, living off others, etc. should be well avoided. In case one still has to do it, do it with style; atleast you will be remembered positively ;)

People run business. Not models. Not theories. Not fancy ppts. They are derivatives. The underlying in all this is the human factor. The person who ignores 'human behaviour' is doomed in business. I know the HR subjects are filled with flowery terms and jargon everyone loathes but still if you strip away the jazz, you get a somewhat basic understanding of how people behave. My obsession with people skills began at Siemens. It has helped me give a lot of importance to the HR courses here. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that if you dont understand HR you wont be successful. Just learn to strip the jazz and get to the core of the matter.

This is probably the end of the first of a series of gyaan sessions. I'll get back to my movie and rum now (a neccessity if your MBA stretches over winters in North India). Watch this space for more gyaan!