December 10, 2008

United Holdings of America Capital Partners???

Came across this interesting copy on the auto bailouts. At the pace at which things are going the US should change its name from 'United States of America' to 'United Holdings of America Capital Partners LLC' or something of that sort

Whats in a name ...

... A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. Maybe not. (Scroll to the bottom of the page)

December 6, 2008

... and politicians across the Board put their foot in their mouth

One of the positives in the gloom of last week is the mass public outrage at anyone of political ilk. I was at a public rally on Wednesday to show solidarity and for the first time in my life I saw Indian civilians with blood in their eyes. More than 100,000 people thronged the streets of South Mumbai shouting slogans against Pakistan and vilifying politicians.

It has not just been inaction of the government machinery that has stoked public anger but the foot-in-mouth statements made by politicians in the wake of the terror attacks, which spanned from inept to rude and from insensitive to shocking. Some creative minds have channelized this energy into some interesting posters which have been photographed by an anonymous person and which found their way to my inbox.

The Communists fell first. Comrade Achutanandan, the Kerala Chief Minister, was asked by slain soldier Maj. Unnikrishnan’s father to vacate his premises. Clearly not used to such snubs, our Comrade challenged a dog to visit the martyrs house had it not been for his sacrifice. To which our friends at the rally had this to say –
For my non-Hindi speaking / reading / understanding friends reading this blog, the breaking up of some of the syllables in the Comrades name, especially the part in between the two ‘a’s refers to a certain part of the female anatomy. Comrade still refused to apologise despite being criticised from all quarters. Finally Prakash Karat, the CPI supremo did the apologising.
Others (below) indicated that they prefer the canine.
Next caught with his pants down was Maharashtra Chief Minister, the Hon. Vilasrao Deshmukh, who invited Ram Gopal Verma (RGV), a Bollywood film-maker and his actor son, Ritiesh Deshmukh in his official entourage to survey the damage done to the Taj. RGV has in the past made movies like RGV ki Aag which you can review here. (Note - RGV ki Aag flopped at the Box Office). The move surprised even Bollywood. That resulted in this response –

And then from a respectable name, the meaning of which is analogous to ‘landlord’ his name was adapted, with a few nifty changes, and captured in the font of RGV’s previous movie posters, a name that means ‘a national fool!’

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the BJP Vice-President, had probably never interacted with the urban, educated and presentable woman before. When he saw some of them in media coverage deriding politicians he ejaculated (pun intended) ‘Some women wearing powder and lipstick have taken to the streets of Mumbai …” No specific interesting poster on this, but the remark drew the ire of women parliamentarians, some even from his own party.
The poster above summaries most of the blunders made by Indian politicians in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. It includes RR Patil, the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra saying that such things happen in big cities. In bizarre logic he justified the statement by indirectly saying that he had saved 4,800 people (They came to kill 5,000 we contained the damage to 200).
And this man was conspicuous by his absence – Raj Thakeray of the MNS did not mind as the NSG, which had North Indian representation, including the slain Gajendra Singh - who lost his life in the operation - protected our nation. But then stooping low as their wont, the MNS put up a poster outside Malad railway station clearly mentioning that three ‘Marathi’ top cops, Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar had gave up their life to protect outsiders and foreigners.
All the gentlemen above are however left far behind by the Hon. Shivraj Patil, who has been in stellar form, wearing his incompetence on his sleeve. In what can only be described as shocking, the Home Minister gaily announced the size and time of arrival of the assault team. Later, in an interview after his visit to Mumbai, Mr Patil told the media that the terrorists had left Cama Hospital and the railway station (both terror targets) before he had reached the site. Dear Shivraj, what were you smoking? Did you expect to have tea with the terrorists? Maybe you wanted meaningful intercourse as you indicated when you took charge of the Home Ministry.

December 4, 2008

Of root causes and a change of perception ...

It was 10 pm on 26th November. I was at my office, working on the business plan of an opportunity we are currently evaluating. For some reason the financials were not stacking up. Frustrated I decided to call it a day. I was to travel early next morning and had to pack. I plugged my earphones and listening to some of my favorite tracks, made my way to Churchgate station.

Minutes earlier, not too far away CST, Leopold Café and the Taj Hotel were attacked. For a good five minutes I was on one of the two roads that connect these locations to the Oberoi-Trident. A few minutes later the Oberoi was under siege. In hindsight, there was a good probability of the terrorists using the road since it has relatively less traffic. It gives me shivers to think that the walk could have been my last. I was of course, oblivious to the developments.

A lot has changed for me when I reached home and took in the full impact of the attacks. I have never been prejudiced towards Pakistan and have always attributed the misgivings between India and Pakistan to a narrow minded leadership way back in 1947-48. When two men who both wanted to become Prime Minister of a young republic resorted to religion to resolve their issues. Events, however strong, in other parts of the country did not change that. OK, Kargil veered me a bit to the other side but I was optimistic that things could be worked out. But last week was the last straw. The scale and impact of the attack has been horrific. The thought that I could have been a target has been unnerving. And the heap of evidence against Pak has been too hard to ignore.

In a thought that surprised me as well, I don’t think war is a bad option. It is a sad day when the educated and the objective crowd start thinking of war. It means that solutions are extremely limited and that the inevitable is necessary. Apart from just plain evidence, this time a long time Pakistan ally, the US has made statements like ‘India has the sovereign right to protect itself’ and ‘Pakistan is an international migraine’. Strong statements if you look at the past US-Pak relations.

It also makes me wonder why does most of world terror have an Islamic face? What makes Islam a favorite exploitation ground for religious extremists? Why is this religion repeatedly and consistently used out of context compared to other religions? I have Muslim friends and they are good and righteous people. If their faith had conflicting ideas with them being good human beings they would not be Muslim; which says that it’s definitely not the religion. Is it the method of delivery? Are there too many middle men subverting the message of the Prophet and mixing it with economic and political themes? Other causes do not seem to fit in – Education? There are poorly educated nations in South America and Africa as well. Resourcefulness? Prominent sponsors of the Middle East are so wealthy it stinks. Economic well-being? Ditto.

Which brings us back to political agendas. Though it seems the most plausible, it will be interesting to know.

August 21, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

For the past week I have been living at Mumbai Airport. In my spare time I am rushing for meetings across the length and breadth of India, drinking coffee to stay awake, rushing back to airports, visiting a place I used to call home for a quick shuteye and meeting the Nose of India.

If things described above aren’t bad enough to screw with your body clock there is nothing more jarring to the senses than a young bald man in a ghoulish wig. The man at security in front of me was puny, short, nondescript and was sulking. Maybe he’s not a morning person and thankfully there wasn’t a mike, cap or vest in sight.

As if to make up for the disturbing imagery earlier, God presented me a seat in the business section with a seat in the same row as Meow! Well I don’t know what you think of Jaane Tu … and frankly I thought the movie sucked. But this young damsel is attractive and I was just warming up to tell her that we shared something deep (We apparently share the same surname) and that such things are obviously indicative of long term synergies. Alas a matronly woman filled the empty seat that separated us – could have been Mommie, Chaperone or bodyguard – I don’t know.

Ms D’Souza, all of 21 years, curled up and slept well whilst I analyzed financial models … my head turning ever so often to check if a different kind of model a seat away would wake up and observe her surroundings with some interest. I toyed with the Handsome-Prince-with-a-kiss-that-brings-back-maidens-from-comatose-states fantasy a bit when the plane hit the tarmac. In minutes we were separated and I found myself at yet another airport.

Things in life balance out. High pitched nasal tones balance pretty upcoming actresses. The beast balances beauty. Maybe I should become a beast.

August 15, 2008


Are we born intelligent or can genius be created? How do people achieve Nirvana? What is that sixth sense? I had a chat with a colleague sometime back and we agreed to the following conclusion - 'THAT genius is Thought that has travelled extensively, created gazillions of permutations, evaluated the results and wired one's brain to think along these terms'

In simpler terms, it's all about pattern recognition. Most people I consider genius' have devoted considerable time to this pursuit. When they spent all their time on stuff they liked to do they were, at some subconcious level, storing patterns and creating natural software to evaluate them. Of course, passion and strong grasping power helps a bit and also limits us - one can't be passionate about multiple things.

So with all this gyaan that I am freely disbursing why am I not a genius? Well efforts are on and progress is slow, but frankly I'm just plain lazy to educate myself. I am too busy working that I am cheating myself of intellectual energy. Aren't we all?

June 1, 2008

Gloomy May

May has finally ended. It was a bad month bringing bad news with amazing regularity that at one point I was expecting bad news when the cycle said it was due.
Two tragic accidents and passing away of young people my age ... A middle aged heart attack case ... A little girl losing her mother ... News of a friend with a disease that is in advanced stages ... A celeb classmate who drowned during a picnic ... An old lady who is related in a longish sort of way ... And a freak accident on my way to work when four unfortunate people fell in between bogies while boarding the 8:08 am Malad local ... (Thankfully they were saved in time)

It's a gloomy feeling to know that the same could happen to you. The kind of lives we lead these days - stressing our bodies in the name of competition, eating junk and when we eat healthy food we eat at wrong times; liberally using chemicals and intaking toxins in pesticide 'cleaned' food, pollution and wot not - I won't be surprised if my generation burns out when they reach forty, maybe thirty five.

On a philosophical note, I got a quote which was made by George Costanza of Sienfeld. It goes like this -
"The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean life is tough , it takes up a lot of your time and what do you get at the end of it ? A death. What's that, A Bonus?!? I think the life cycle is all back wards. You should die first , get it out of the way. Then you go live in an old age home and get kicked out for being too healthy.Go collect your pension, then, when you start work. You get a gold watch on your first day. You work for forty years before you are young enough to enjoy your retirement..You drink alcohol , you party, and get ready for high school. You go to primary school ,you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities. You become a little baby, go back ,spend your last 9 months floating with luxuries like central heating, spa, room service on tap, then you finish off as an orgasm!! Amen"

RIP dear friends. I may have not known you very well but I'm sure you enriched the lives of everyone around you. Shine on you crazy diamonds

22nd June 2008:

PS: Systematic Confusion has more time and energy now that his exams are over. He has a much better take on the same subject here

May 6, 2008

Investing in the IPL: Whom would you go with?

The IPL is not about cricket, big sixes or cheerleaders. Instead its about more mundane things like TRP ratings, media spends and a big bet on the regulations in the broadcasting sector. But I could be wrong.

Because Mr. Reliable thinks its project execution by one key man with loads of serfs (precisely the way he runs his businesses) Unfortunately his key man was injured and Mumbai looks more confused than sheep without a shepherd. Mr. Raja Fisher thinks its entertainment and ended up selecting the cheerleaders leaving Dravid to select a T(est)20 team. King Khan's Lal Mirch Manoranjan thinks its the movies ... which is why he's paid each of his players deserving (Ishant, Gayle, McCullum) or underserving (Saurav, Ponting, Akhtar, Agarkar) like movie stars. The wage bill of the Knight Riders is the highest of the eight at $6.2 million. The Deccan Chronicle thinks its all about big sixes which is why they packed their side with so many pinchhitters like Gilchrist, Symonds, Afridi, Sharma, Gibbs and Styris that they forgot to select bowlers. To their credit Delhi and Chennai have a well balanced side. But then they have also overpaid for their respective licenses. Given that all the above teams have superstar players they will also have to increase the player fees significantly next year which will put more strain on the team finances.

But the man who has got it all right is the man who understands TRP ratings, media spends and maybe has a sneak preview of what may unfold in Indian broadcasting. That is Lachlan Murdoch of Emerging Media and son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch who owns the Jaipur franchise - A man who understands that break even is more important than glam dolls. He went shopping for decent players with a budget of $3.3 million, half of what Mohali and Kolkata paid; a license that was available cheap since nobody wanted the relatively small Sawai Mansingh Stadium where gate revenues would hardly amount to anything and one star player whom all the boys would look up to as captain, coach and master. The sole blemish being Kaif who I guess would have had a better career in athletics than cricket.

My gut feel, and I again say I may be wrong, is that Murdoch has bet on two things - one that the IPL opens more franchisees - which means more matches to be played but more importantly that broadcasting regulations in India are at an inflection point. Today, 10-15% of subscribers of cable TV networks are reported which means that 85% of people who watch the IPL fund the mafia (which owns the cable networks). If somehow in the future regulations were to change, these monies would flow to the broadcaster, which after Lalit Modi and his BCCI friends take their cut, would flow down equally to all franchisees. There is a performance bonus too! A portion of what flows down to the franchisees (20%) is proportional to the points scored. Now the more matches you play the more people watch (given that we are a cricket crazy country), the more TRP ratings are, the more media spends are (considering that there is 60% less advertising time than a one-day match hence more premium), the more broadcasters make and if Murdoch gets the regulatory call right, he breaks-even faster than anyone in the league irrespective of whether his team wins or loses considering his threadbare budget. Which then allows him to be the first one to make decent transfers since he would have recovered his investment.

There could also be more than just numbers here. My guess is that Murdoch thinks the IPL is a much safer bet to get evening prime-time in Indian households than the content on Star TV. Why go through the hassles of creating content, making directors, producers, actors and spot boys rush through the rigamarole of soap operas and reality shows when you have the biggest reality show all served on a platter. Where people have overpaid (Mumbai and Bangalore licenses were bought for a staggering $111 million. Players fees another $6 million) Murdoch has made a $70 million investment everything included. The synergies he gets far outrival all other teams. The great perfornance of the team is just an icing on the cake - Kicker as is called in the investing world.

Jaipur was the most financially viable side before the tournament started primarily because they didn't play the auction like it was played; rather they made an investment. As my Finance Prof in MDI said, 'The only guy who makes money in an auction is the auctioneer.' My money is firmly behind Jaipur. But don't listen to me. As I have said umpteen times - I could be wrong ;)

PS: I do not doubt Mr. Reliable's and Mr. Raja Fisher's business acumen. However, in an interesting twist to my hypotheses above is the fact that came to light when I was discussing soccer clubs. It seems that businessmen with loads of unaccounted cash indulge themselves in club ownerships. Not to suggest that the two gentlemen above are enagaged in such activity. I do not care if they do or not. But an interesting thought nonetheless.

PPS: Names have been changed on request!

February 12, 2008

The Coarse Fabric

This doesn't seem like Mumbai. A city which has always been in a fixed temperature range since as long as I remember, has suddenly become cold in more ways than one. Mercury apart, it has also lost its heart. It's sad to see people in a secular, free country run for their lives, rushing to take the first train North of the Vindhyas. Their only mistake being that they were 30 years late in life. Can you blame them?

Mumbai is what it is because it is the melting pot of India. People come here with dreams in their eyes and with hard work, perseverance and a stubborn belief usually achieve it. The city is entrepreneurial because of migrants who came here many years ago. Gujaratis, Marwaris, South Indians, Punjabis, Sindhis, all of them have shaped Mumbai. My grandfather came here two generations ago and set up a paan-beedi shop at Lower Parel. He stayed above the shop with his wife and five children. He was a migrant. My uncles came here some 50 years ago and worked in kitchens and workshops. My family is just one drop in the ocean of Mumbai. Almost everybody I know has come here and has made Mumbai their home. And Mumbai in return has welcomed them and added different colours to her personality.

Which makes me come to the next point of the rabblerousers that migrants don't enrich Mumbai. Enrichment is a long process. It is not fast food. It took two generations for a betel leaf trader to get the first engineer and consequently the first MBA in his family. What if he was evicted when the Tiger came singing 'Lungi hatao, Pungi bajao'? I guess we would all lose.

Then the entire episode is inconsistent. On one hand unemployed North Indians are forced out. The salaried class against which Maharashtra's New Construction Army actually has an issue with; since they have caused the manoos his job loss; is left alone. Probably because the manoos and the bayka causing the havoc is permanently employed as cook, bai or driver with the Verma, the Singh and the Thakur. If that lacked consistency, then there are expats who are left alone. Well these guys spend dollars at pubs where the manoos is the bouncer or at the gym where the manoos trains him. You Northie. Where do you spend your last rupee? It goes to your village where your family can now have a pukka roof. But since I don't get any of that New Construction pie I'm pissed.

Mumbai creaks under loads it wasn't designed for because the design is outdated. It needs to grow and for that it needs better infrastructure and more planned townships and central business districts. (BKC is a start, I hope Navi Mumbai takes off). Lets leave the betel leaf traders, bhel-puri wallas and the majdoors alone. They make up the coarse fabric that balances the silk. Maybe their grandsons will one day be a part of a team that finances the very infrastructure we need.

January 24, 2008

Points to ponder

The man in the pic alongside is smiling. And why not? The first ever IPO from his fold has managed to mobilise $200 bn. If that number makes you shrug, think about it this way - Thats 20% or 1/5th of the value of all the goods and services provided by our nation (in other words the GDP) this year. And all this in 4 working days. Staggering no?

People haggle like crazy when they buy Rs.50 worth of groceries in the market. They will consult experts in person when they buy electronics worth Rs.5,000. They will make sacrifies and carefully calculate monthly budgets when they pay Rs.500,000 for their childrens education. They will save for years to buy a house worth Rs.5,000,000. Yet when it comes to buying a piece of some company worth some Rs.50,000 crore they rely on stock tips, brokers and speculation. Amazing no?