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.