Saturday, November 29, 2008

Understanding the crisis

Excellent link to what you need to watch out for during the current credit crisis here:

The question to ask is what the indicators say? Because the real economy might be different but the indicators have to show it, as in things have to get priced in.

As of now the situation is alarming.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kashmir to Mumbai

The main difference between the hostage/gun battle situations (apart from the scale) between Kashmir & Mumbai terror operations has been the presence of the media. Apart from CNN-Iraq I don't think any counter terrorist operation has been covered in such minute detail on any media in any country.

So there have been pitched media battles between Arnab of Times Now, Rajeep of IBN and Sreenivasan/Barkha/Roy combo of NDTV. The hindi channels like India TV have carried quick comments, throwing caution to the winds and reporting anything that could be seen as san-sani-khez. The English media has been a wee bit more restrained, but since they have been the only source of information I guess people wont grudge them their extra bit of fame or TRPs.

Arnab I guess has won (you can see his enthusiasm in the attached video, yup its grotesque to call it enthusiasm but then its the media) gathering from everybody who has been watching. He is the top reality TV host among the mother of all reality shows. As seen from the phone call with the terrorist that was broadcast live (the police will need to check the veracity - and why was it telecast in the first place unless it was an express demand to keep hostages alive? ) this short war would have been very generous to the TV TRP s, but what about the sensibilities of the larger audience. They can choose to turn off you see.

What was not reported - whatever happened to the rest of the attacks on petrol pumps and taxis etc. While Nariman Point was burning, the trains the miraculous trains were back on schedule (salute to these heroes along with the fallen army/police heroes). People who were fortunate not to be caught in the violence, were surely traumatized at the choked airport (why did that happen?). The other issues were quite simply put, not chilling enough to be continuously telecast. The morality of the media has been widely debated, the debate has been closed with this round, they don't have any except to get to next "breaking news". Representative of the general society? Sure. Is it wrong? Hardly from the success of these shows (not having a choice is not a write metric, you can switch a TV off you know).

Poor army, along with the terrorists they have to deal with the barrage of the media. Brave media who will lay down their lives for our benefit. Such unbridled bravery.

The Final Solution?

Are we heading irrevocably into Hitler's Final Solution being implemented in India against minorities? There is a very strong likelihood of such an event happening.

Consider the odds: The mainstream population just hears that all minorities are not bad rhetoric, but there is bound to be a sinking feeling that invariably most attackers are from a particular community? Na rahega baas, na bajegi baasuri as the old saying goes. The majority can quickly come to a conclusion that they do not really have any other option.

I sincerely hope that we keep our humanistic spirits intact over and above any anger but I am not sure, especially when I look the state of Gujarat. Chilling. What can stop this, quick policy action for inclusive growth. People should have something to lose through the fear of persecution.

Lets keep our fingers crossed.

Terror attacks as a consequence of society?

What is so special about India, that despite repeated terrorist attacks the response of the Indian state seems 'soft' at best and apathetic at its worst? Is the Indian nation state and its heterogeneous society to blame for such a situation? I suspect the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

Even though Indian population is heterogeneous (a point harped on by hordes of commentators) it is still governed by the individual over the society principle. The world might have woken up to the 'its my life' syndrome just now, but we in India can claim to be the rightful owners of the legacy of 'individual'. We are incredibly focused on 'individual' salvation, so anything goes as long as it furthers the causes of the individual. Society be damned. Garbage - not in my house, electricity - i wont pay are just small examples of this behaviour. All the way through the educational system, I can hardly remember a focus to contribute to society. Most modern societies are clearly differentiated by the amount of time their members spend for the common good. We just don't understand that concept. To each, his own. So deep, so deceptive. So even this attack will be quickly forgotten, while the train blasts were targetted a the middle class - the rest did not care. The current attack is an attack on the elite - the rest wont care. So as they say, 'public' memory is very short. That is problem No. 1

Next in line, the standard comparison between Indian and western societies. Why does India not have a response mechanism? Counter-intuitive but the answer is to go slow. We as a nation have gone through change at such a mind boggling pace that different parts of the social fabric have been stretched in different directions. There is an urgent need to bring every one to the same page. You need leaders for that, and leaders will come. It will just take time. As we moved from a purely agrarian economy to a post-industrial information driven economy, large portion of the working class has been left behind. Industrialization was mandatory, because it would created a class of hard working blue collar workers whose children would have passed into the information stream on merit. Instead what we have is a few top class educational institutions, and vast tracts of the country still hit by partial employment (agriculture) and large scale unemployment. This problem is exacerbated by growth which has not trickled down across different streams. Very few Muslims make it to the main stream, they just don't have leaders who are willing to lead them to progress. We are a democracy which gives opportunities, but you need leaders who will lead the masses into progress (Martin Luther for example), else the democracy will not reach everybody. Muslims as a whole (who occupy 15+% of the population) surely don't occupy that much of the general workforce and hence are not included in the development. The rest of the country including the BIMARU states and the north-east have not been able to keep pace, but these states are characterised by hope at least. This can be clearly seen by the hordes of people who come to Mumbai to make a living. When you see everybody other than you growing, there is a tendency to blame someone (disagree, think of the last time you blamed someone in office?) and the majority is easy to blame. The minority could have been anyone, by here unfortunately the Muslims have been cornered into such a response. Kuch nahi to qaum hi sahi.
We need to urgently step back and think of how to provide inclusive growth. Thats problem No 2

Till we as a nation come around to facing these issues (of course my analysis here is purely touching upon a few issues and could be entirely wrong, the job is best left to sociologists) we are bound to be the victims of more terror attacks. In God we trust.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Terror in Mumbai - Open attacks

Indians will need to brace themselves for a new kind of terror. The terrorist has no face, no ideology, except for a pure burning hatred - and the open desire to kill, as many as possible.

This round of almost videogameque terror (indiscriminate shooting at public places) is the most horrific (if there could be a comparison) of the series of terrorist attacks that have happened across India over the last year. News TV reality shows has had its TRP's, everyone has condemned the attacks (including a rare show of solidarity between the Congress and the BJP), over 100 are dead including some of India's best police officers and still there are no answers.

I spent yesterday night in office. There was no option to travel home, every mode of transport was quickly covered ensuring a state of maximum panic. The city of Mumbai came to standstill today (even at 5 p.m) in the evening the roads were mostly empty. The hotels are symbols of India's business, all expats mostly stay there and I myself have attended innumerable meetings in the now infamous lobby of the Taj & the Trident. The attacks will shake people like never before, especially for foreigners who will first be aghast at the atrocity of the attacks and then over the fact that the ordeal has still not ended as I write.

Can the police be blamed? Police policy sure, but actual ground personnel? Not really. Well armed, well trained (? not sure about this) terrorists against local police who just about are doing their jobs holding a rifle in hand. No chance. NSG was brought in only in the morning, there was no crack Mumbai team after the top cops were killed. How were the top cops congregated at Cama Hospital and how did the AK 47 bullets pierce through the bullet-proof vests?

If it is true that the attackers came through the sea, what was the coast guard doing. Having been indicted in helping arms flow through for the 1993 mumbai blasts, this is other unforgivable mistake. There are a lot of questions which needs answers. Hopefully we shall see the end of this by the end of the day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Movies - Break, multiplex ticket fares ridiculous!!

I have pretty much stopped (ok, cut down significantly is the right phrase) watching movies for the last couple of months. Movies are a general source of entertainment for me and the thrill mostly is seeing the movie in its first weekend. Good movies, bad movies (and all the rest which fall in between and are way more difficult to categorize) - but movies have been my lifeblood for a long long time now.

I used to watch a lot of them at JNTU, alone or with a group of friends. In Indore, one always had the LAN to look forward for any sort of interests in movies. At Morgan, we all shared the same love for movies (or atleast the popcorn), so we gobbled up those movies - as they came in .

But now, I have a problem, any decent release at most theatres costs 240+ on an opening weekend. Now with the weight of promotions & the economics I understand that the producers/distributors want to recover money ASAP, but I for one find the prices ridiculous. I think the producers are taking the low cost airlines route, keep increasing prices irrespective of the serivce on offer, hoping that new clientele will drop in where existing ones have dropped out.

Movie ticket prices have seen a 100% (or more ) run up in the last 2 yrs. What justifies this hike? Should the revenue patterns of muliplex es be seen as viable? At 240+ bucks, defnitely not me. I think more people will start realizing that its not worth it very soon.

What do you think?

I was on TV !!!

That's definitely a first for me. I would have loved the topic to be something that I am interested in currently, but a few minutes on live TV on "Perspectives beyond CAT" in the A-List B school series is good enough for me.

Trutec, Raghav Aggarwal is one awesome chap. He and his kid bro (Raghav is 21!!) run a education startup solution that helps s get across question papers/projects etc online. Once this is done, its only a matter of time before you start using the hosted data for a host of applications. The interesting part is that, they run India based servers and are able to sell the pay-per-use concept. These concepts were not gaining traction I thought. Clearly proves that I am possibly out of touch on this.

But yaay I came on TV.

Rajiv Gandhi International Airport - Redux

Visited Hyderabad after a long time. While the facilities at the new airport remain excellent and the structure can be on par with global airports, the transaction cost is going to screw customers significantly over the coming quarters.

First, the shuttle service has moved from 100 to 150 into the city (maybe the earlier rates were teaser rates), roads are definitely better but really 50% escalation in 6 months? The user development fee (UDF) of 375 that one pays on entry to domestic airlines will increase the transaction cost some more.

When the passenger growth was going up up & away, this was not a problem. But a cost structure of an additional 500 bucks/head might make most families to choose trains instead.

Train time: To station: 0.5 hour, hyd-mumbai: 14.5 hrs, mumbai local travel: 1 hr: Total 16 hrs

Flight (assuming someone is flying strip down airlines (for lack of better terminology): To airport :2 hrs, check in hyd check out mumbai: 3 hrs, mumbai local travel 1 hr: Total 6 hrs

So, even though there is a clear 10 hr saving, for a decent size family (4) burden could be too much. Maybe some thought needs to go from the GMR guys to ensure that the UDF is not a simple number. Else they will end up hurting more during these troubled times.

How much did the udf have to contribute to the viability of the project? Whats the experience been globally? Need to look those up.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Saurav "Dada" Ganguly, say what you like about the man, but he should single handedly take credit for what Indian cricket has been for the last few years. Of course the man has his idiosyncrasies, but then this is India - every nitwit and his father have gone to self-trips in course of power mongering.

But "The Prince of Kolkata" was different, he was a break from the tradition. His batting relied on hand eye coordination and in his return tour to England after a prolonged hiatus he was spectacular, his batting would rank next only to those Azzu bhai innings against the poms. When he is on the pitch, you will be forced to focus on what he is doing. Maybe thats the difference between Azhar and Ganguly. Ganguly knew where the focus would be and made sure that he made a positive difference there.

Just look at the current stars that we have, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Irfan, Kaif etc were all picked, groomed, defended by Ganguly. And the 'boys' delivered for their 'dada' with a bang, that fired Ganguly into doing what he does best, ungli. Ask Waugh or Flintoff how the proverbial finger feels. Meanwhile Ganguly went on scoring runs, piles of them. He dominated the famous Sachin-Saurav combo, but for having a handicap against short-pitched bowling he would have been better at tests too.

He created a huge mess in the Chappell saga, but you cannot count him out. He planned his entrance, all the way down to the pr strategy (remember the ad?) and made a spectacular (and successful to boot) entry into the Indian cricket circus. He played the elder statesman to the hilt, Dada still lights up Yuvraj and Sehwag if you ask me. And his 300+ runs in this series buried his greatest nemesis, Waugh would be proud of him.

The best known proponent of sport mind games in India, cocksure, arrogant, the prince, the god of offside, one who played favoritism, did not play the game in the right spirit, the naghma scandal... pick your memories of him, but one thing you definitely cannot say about him, that he was an unknown fighter for an uncompetitive team. Credit to Ganguly, he has changed that forever.

For me, his ability to rally the team around him and those lofted shots over the infield shall remain enduring images.

Tradition? my foot.

Circuit city closing ... not good, not good at all

Have not posted in quite sometime, but things are getting bleaker by the day. Circuit City is down,
GM share is quickly moving to zero (in fact the price target from the Barclays analyst was reported as zero in an earlier report, maybe an error) and Roubini is till shouting hoarse that things will be bad all the way into 2010 now.

Back home, the steel sector is beginning the first of the large scale job cuts/forced holidays/pay cuts, not long before it starts creeping across industries. Recruitment at campuses is down, from what I can glean from the HR junta.

IT surprisingly seems to be holding out, infact folks at CTS and TCS are talking about more projects coming through, quite counter intuitive tho'.

What to make of it: Circuit City is from what I have read is good business, but lack of availability of credit can prohibit the company form putting up new goods in stores and since electronic goods depreciate very fast, the existing inventory would get repriced and costly to hold even with a small fall in sales.

For the India story there is only one option, go full stream Keynes, no better time to put money into those infrastructure projects. Will stabilize economy and provide jobs across the sector. China has taken the lead here too and that too made a big scene about it.

Brace yourself for more. One of my analyst friends wants to remove all references to the word downturn from the dictionary, I tend to agree with her.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Holographic images from CNN rocking

A crazy crazy CNN election gimmick. But gimme some more anyday, i definitely did not know we were so advanced on this

Click for explanation