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Thursday, January 28, 2010


As a generalist, I have often enjoyed when specialists from two tangentially divergent fields exchange their awes. In one of the recent gatherings, I happened to witness the spectacle of two specialists discussing their professional experience – one a seasoned seafarer and the other a professional investment banker. I was acquainted with both of them, thanks to my past experiences and common friends.

While the seafarer was exploring the thrills of his profession, the investment banker was busy reflecting his enlightening experience of multi-million dollar deals. While the seafarer was talking about his exploits in Brazil and Mexico, the investment banker was mentioning his late night office hours in London and New York devising winning strategies. While the seafarer emphasized his expertise with operations of pipelines and engines, the investment banker was proud of his ultra sophisticated financial models. While casual comfort marked the nature of the seafarer, conscious sophistication defined the attitude of the investment banker. But the question remained unsettled…which of these professions is associated with more glamour and money?

The talks continued….the comparisons gradually waned...and after the initial extravaganza, they soon resorted to a new topic…somewhat pensive but relatively practical….about their families….about their personal lives…The seafarer’s life oscillates between the sea and the land with an allocation of six months for the respective stays. The investment banker mostly spends his time in offices and travelling with occasional visits to home. Every time the seafarer gets back home, his people are older by six months. Every time the investment banker gets back home, he finds his people lost in deep sleep. The dream of the seafarer is to earn enough so that he can stay with his family…in his hometown...and can live his dreams. The investment banker aspires to earn enough wealth in the next decade that will enable him to retire and live his dreams with his family for the rest of his life.

Especially when I come across such discussions (the frequency of which keeps on increasing), I feel most of us are in the same boat. Residing within a colorful fa├žade, we so successfully pursue our aspirations. We aspire to be successful….success makes us strive for more. We identify ourselves with this ever widening scope of success and all the recognitions it’s associated with.

But is this success potent enough to stir that little thing which sits within us and continually requests nourishment...the fulfillment of which provides individual contentment…without any further extension of the boundaries.

Are aspirations and dreams two different entities in the present day context? More I look into, the more I sense so. And the divergence seems to be widening.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Buffett’s ratio: (Total market cap of all companies listed in an economy)/(economy’s GNP)

According to Warren Buffett, this ratio is amongst the best indicators of where valuations stand in an economy. He has used this ratio very frequently (and ofcourse successfully) for predicting successful movements of markets.

The GNP of a country is a measure of the revenues of the business and the market cap is the value investors are ready to assign to the businesses. Ideally, under reasonable situations, both the market cap and the GNP should grow at a similar rate. But that’s not what happens.

As per Buffett, an astute investor buys stocks if the ratio falls below 70-80% for long term investments as markets are fairly valued. If the ratio exceeds 115%, the markets are overvalued where odds of investing are not in the favor of investor from a long-term perspective.

Came across an interesting article analyzing the Buffett’s ratio in the context of the current Indian market, where the ratio stands at 1.04.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Landscapes can change in a matter of months. Just a year back, my neighborhood was relatively silent with long stretches of lands defining the spaciousness of this place. With hills all around, this place looked like everything but typical Mumbai.

Now, on this vast stretch of open land sits one of the most hyped parks of India, the Central Park. Crowds of all ages throng this half constructed park to witness the creation of the most striking landmark of Navi Mumbai. The story does not end with the Central Park. Just opposite to the park, some of the hills were sacrificed and are being currently leveled to form a sprawling golf court. India’s largest ISKON temple and a Gurudwara are just waiting for construction activities to commence. Malls and towering apartments are getting added at a very brisk rate.

The whole area now wears a colorful and festive look. Very different from what it was when I made it my home. I loved it then too…without the parks, malls, golf courts …..just huge, open, green space and hills separating them. Now it’s different….this place has completely taken a new look….an outspoken and bubbly look….distinct from the earlier charming reclusion.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


We (as in human beings) are a scientific lot, or shall I say “logical” is the right word. We tend to look out for a reason for everything…. a cause for every effect.

Why do we so relentlessly keep on stressing ourselves so much to find “why” something happens? And we keep on pursuing it until we manage to allocate the “right” cause to the effect.

Effect: Company did reasonably well last quarter
Cause: The CEO was replaced last quarter

Effect: Recession seems to be evaporating
Cause: The policies of our government are clicking

Effect: Inflation continues to menace with close to double digit growth
Cause: Government is not taking adequate measures

Effect: My friend is relocating to US
Cause: He was fed up in India

Effect: Our new business is rocking
Cause: We have an excellent PR team

Effect: India is growing at 7% per annum
Cause: Thanks to budgetary, monetary and fiscal policies of our Government.

Think anything…and we have this unique ability to fix a cause to the effect.

I am not against analyzing effects. But the fact that we can successfully assign an effect its cause is just beyond my understanding and endorsement….because I feel that its just not possible for something to have a precise cause. We just have the tendency to assign the most visible contextual fact/(s) as the cause to an effect/(s)….forget the blurred ones….and more so the nonvisible ones.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Do people make situations more complex and decision making more painstaking by investing too much time and thoughts into them? Gathering information and using them as pointers in decision making is fine …but isn’t it that too much information normally acts as deterrent towards decision making and execution? What is the optimum research one should do before commencing something?

Imagine….someone keeps himself immersed in a sea of information, spends immense time analyzing all possibilities, potential problems, likely scenarios, risk analysis etc….based on assumptions (wild ones) and finally becomes overburdened with data, exhausted by (mis)/information….takes every step too cautiously (based on some illusion that some problem might happen)….and finally turns out defensive….and lacking the guts to embark....justifies lack of action to all the problems (none of which might actually happen) which he foresees….

Now consider….someone well versed with the basics….shifts gear to the action mode…faces hurdles on the way….devises ways and modes to resolve the hurdles….either he succeeds in clearing the hurdles or learns the hard way at some cost…either way his course is dynamic…sometimes success, sometimes failure….with the success rate getting better with time.

Now extending this logic to companies, should companies invest so much resources and time in gathering data and analyzing them? Does it really matter in the end? How many MBA jobs will be crucified if companies put a brake on too much data analysis.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


(Caller knows only the phone number from God knows where)

Caller (with relentless ease): Congratulations, Sir!!! You are the winner of a silver coin from our bank xxx
Receiver (wondering, what he did to deserve a silver coin): Ohhh…k
Caller (even sweeter): And along with it, we are glad to select you as a proud recipient of 8L limit credit card of our bank xxx
Receiver (now realizing that its one of those credit card callers.. throws): I don’t need credit cards. Don’t call me again!!!
Caller: Sir, Do you have a credit card with credit limit of 8 L. No other bank will give credit limit of 8 L
Receiver (realizing that the maximum credit card limit he has from existing card is only 1 L): ok, tell me the details..

(Long conversation follows. Receiver dreams that he is going to be a proud owner of a 8 L credit card)

Caller: OK sir, my executive will visit you to receive the relevant documents
Receiver: No problem. I will be ready with all the documents
Caller : Sir, just to confirm, where do you work?
Receiver (thinks…how can some bank offer credit card without knowing where he works, anyways): xxx company
Caller: Sir, if I may ask, whats your monthly salary?
Receiver (now thinks hard…how can bank offer 8L credit card without having prior salary information, anyways): xxxx/ per month
Caller: One, last question, sir, Whats your name?
Receiver (thinks even harder…silver coin, 8 L credit card etc without knowing name, salary and work, anyways): My name is xxxxx
Caller: Thank you very much Mr xxxx. My executive will meet you tomorrow evening and collect all the relevant documents

Next day: Executive collects all relevant documents
After one month: Caller receives credit card from xxxx bank

Some of the contractual points mentioned in credit card
1. Credit limit: less than 1 L ( That’s like 1/10 of 8 L)
2. Reward if you secure xxx points a month : 1 silver coin (which is possible if someone utilizes the whole credit card limit during the month)


(Caller does all kind of background check, gets to know the name, designation, salary, and even the take home salary…God knows from where. Also calculates the maximum credit limit that she can offer to her potential client. Then she decides to give a call)

Caller (as courteous as anyone can be): Am I speaking with Mr.xxxxx?
Receiver (almost getting a hint... responds impatiently): Yes!!!
Caller (even more courteous than before): Sir, This is xxx and I am very glad to say that my bank yyy is offering credit cards of maximum credit card limit. I have gathered something….(suddenly hears a sharp noise and realizes that the phone has been disconnected from the other end.

Story ends

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Over the years, so much has changed. Present day toddlers are so different from those of the past, thanks to their parents and society.
My neighbor’s daughter is not even two years old. But the search for play school has already started. Why so early? Because, the kid has to be groomed for the pre KG interviews. If a kid does not clear her/his interviews, s/he will not get admission into a good school. And the best route to be an eligible candidate is by joining playschool.

The cost of such play school starts at Rs 70,000 per year…no upward limits.

Isn’t this an example of exploitation and commercialization in the name of education? More than that, its forcing a tiny kid to forego his/her early freedom and get into the “processes” and “systems” of education provided in our country…the education which is so successful in transforming human beings into some vague creature, which knows only to run a race and move ahead of others, without knowing why s/he is running.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


Amongst other things, smart people are often good at the following –

1. They don’t take life too seriously
2. They know whom/what to ignore and at what time
3. They know when not to follow what they generally preach


Highlights of New Years Day:

My Name is Red
Three Idiots
10 km walk
A late night drive
Phone calls and emails
Lost and found a gold bracelet
(Overall a very happening day)