Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sue them first

For once, I side with Prez Bush.  He is most likely to veto  a bill that might allow americans to sue Iran, Iraq and Libya for their suffering due to acts of terrorim perpetrated by these states.  

Justified or not, the US is in a war against many terrorist groups in many nations.  It is an honorable thing to do for world peace.  However, there is bound to be collateral damage and innocent bystanders are being killed by the hundreds if not thousands in the cross fire between US troops and the terrorists.  It is of course very convenient to call this collateral damage in the interest of global peace.  However, will these victims be allowed to sue the US for financial damage caused to property and life? Yes, point well taken that the US army does help in the reconstruction effort (not to forget the millions given away in private contracts), but can lives be brought back?

Is it not justice delivered when an innocent civilian Iraqi victimś family is allowed to sue the US army - the same way a innocent american victimś family is allowed to sue Iran or Libya?  I don see a difference.  In the eyes of the law everyone should be equal.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

watch The Kingdom

I watched the movie "The Kingdom" today. If you abstract away the Schwarzenegger style invincibility of the american FBI team in the movie, it was an excellent movie.  I particularly liked the ending, where they show two sides of the conflict.  My favorite characters were Colonel Hyatham and Colonel Al Gazi... man, did the guys looked stern and intimidating!

The movie does not explore too deep into the relationship between US and Saudi Arabia - understandably, as it is not a political flick like Charlie Wilson's war, but the entire movie made me sit up and wait for the next scene!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The lost art of handwriting

An interesting article on the Times brought back a lot of memories of writing.  I really mean "writing", like with a pen (on paper).  Yes, it might come as a surprise, but I am sure many of us have really stopped writing.  It has been quite a while since I actually wrote a message o someone.  I usually type, as I am sure many of those who read this, when I want to communicate with someone.  yes, I know phones are easier, but often I feel email is a much easier way of communication as it allows us to think and phrase our thoughts and feelings properly. It allows us to correct our mistakes without the receiver knowing the raw material.  In essence the received gets a filtered well said message. 

Well, I think there lies the bigger reason for the downfall of the art of writing.  true, we could discard the piece of paper if what we said made little sense, but more often than not I remember that I used to get my message right, the first time.  It improved my grammar and I use to think before I actually wrote a sentence.  I don't do that very diligently now when I type, and understandably so.  Writing always seemed romantic to me.  I liked to write with a pen and I still fondly look at my collection of fountain pens from my college days.  I still walk along the aisles of expensive writing instruments at shops and just started with a Sheaffer recently.My dream is to own quite a few Mont Blancs and right now being fascinated with Kafka, I have an eye out for this beauty.  You might think I am crazy.  Well, we all have our passions :)

Apart from the snobbery of my self-imagined hobby, a pen, any humble one, is all that is required to really write a message to someone.  This new year, my resolution is to write a few hand-notes to some of my friends.  I think it feels more personal when they see my hand writing, as if a part of me communicates with them.  I hope my feeling is right.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A new definition of marketing!

The American Marketing Association has announced a revised definition of "marketing".  I ma reproducing it here,
 
Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

A couple of important changes from the previous definition are the incorporation of the concept of marketing as an activity rather than just a function and second,  the inclusion of broader stakeholders mainly society.


Does society have a stake in marketing? Or rather does marketing need to take the interests of society into account while conducting its activity? As society in general becomes highly networked and consumption no longer a private activity the implications of the marketing of goods and services are far beyond a particular individual or firm's interests.  Individual consumption now has the potential to shape and influence a whole population's preferences due to the Internet and more importantly social networking sites. 

Thus, the real change is not just marketing operates in a networked world, but the fact that marketing now has the capability to actually measure how such networked structures operate and also gauge the effectiveness of structures to its activities.  A new world of opportunities awaits marketers and I am sure it will be wrought with challenges as well.  On a positive note, life's more exciting when its is uncertain.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Changing Hyderabad

On my recent trip to India I noticed something very important.  It had been silently happening for quite a few years and despite my frequent visits to Hyderabad I had failed to notice it earlier.  Rest of what follows is a discussion of this change.

First, the city's shifting CG

Much of old hyderabad is being pulled down to widen roads for an ever growing city's traffic needs.  Hyderabad is a 400 year old city that grew organically and therefore always lacked a well planned city's architectural blueprint. The CG of this large city lay somewhere near the nallakunta/himayathnaga/chikkadapalli (NHC) area.  These areas are very densely populated but lacked the necessary roads to move a huge population daily.  I bet, many of us remember the bus routes 1, 6, 136 etc. that plies these areas and how nightmarish it was to get to our destinations on time along these routes.  However these areas offered great schools, good commercial establishments, cinema houses and almost formed the heart of the city.  Many would eagerly disagree with me saying that Kothi or Abids woudl be the heart, but I would respond saying those areas were not residential.  The uniqueness of the NHC area was its offering of residences, schools, shopping and culture(read cinema!).

The newer hyderabad - much of the newer municipalities that were subsumed by the metropolis were somewhat better laid out. Although the city experienced a huge population boom on its periphery, the thickly populated central areas experienced a boom in apartments and therefore the CG still remained in the NHC area.

Then came the hi-tech city and the subsequent boom around Madhapur, Kondapur .. whatever (I bet you can smell the spite in my tone).  The CG is no longer in the NHC area, but probably somewhere around the Ameerpet area.  Huge colonies have sprung up all over the place and apartment values have gotten close to a crore.  However, the roads have not kept pace with apartments and as a result, the city is beginning to face the strain of structural imbalance.  The rich are buying Camrys and Accords and are competing for the same road space with the Activas and Pulsars.  The nouveau riche are trading their bikes for Indigos and Vernas.  They are all shopping at Hyderabad Central, watching movies at Prasad's and buying apartments in Madhapur.  The administration's solution to an increasingly demanding populace's traffic needs is road widening. At first glance, it might seem like a good solution.  Let's not jump the gun.  Let's remember one thing - London was not built on great roads. that nicely leads to my second point.

Hyderabad's lack of Mass Transit

The more roads are widened, the more people will upgrade to cars and other private modes of transport.  Thus, greater will be the strain on the existing road network. It was the government's short-sightedness that they did not initiate a much needed massive overhaul of the public transportation system.  Great cities of the developed world are not built on private transport that ply the roads but on public infrastructure - particularly an effective mass transit system such as a metro rail network.  Although the government has now planned something on these lines, I feel it is 5 years too late and the city has grown too fats in the last five years.  From now on, I feel we can only play catch up.  The government is planning to build a couple of main lines as part of the mass transit system and these are going to run through the heart of the city's residential neighborhoods.  A public nightmare, I am sure.
Finally, I am not sure if this will end up like the Bolarum-Falaknuma local trains!  I just hope that whoever is planning this is smarter and has good plans of increasing adoption by the public.

And finally, the water problem

Let's face it, Hyderabad has a severe water problem.  I have always maintained that the city's growth will be limited because of its water problems.  For how long can we all continue to buy apartments and somehow hope that water will be available? Can we sustain as a city by buying water? From where? Have the apartment complexes invested in renewable systems? What about rain water recycling? No builder is even thinking along these lines. If we continue on our path, we will limit our city's growth.

Hyderabad is undergoing a great change. I am not sure if this change will make it a great metropolis that will rival the world's greatest cities or if it will fall flat with its high priced apartments and lack of public infrastructure.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

True capitalism

I guess capitalism has full come circle with this latest piece of news.  Morgan Stanley has agreed to sell almost 10% of its stake to China.  Yes, you read it right.  Now, two of the most prestigious firms on Wall Street (Citi and Morgan), are owned either by a Communist country that faces many human rights violations or by a Islamic state with grandiose plans for its future. A few weeks ago Citibank agreed to sell almost close to 5% of its equity to the emirate of Abu Dhabi. It is also worthy mentioning at this point that the saudi aristocrat Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud already owns about 3.6% of Citibank and is its largest single investor.

I have nothing against sovereign funds or foreign governments being big time investors in firms.  However, I feel it is ironical that the bastions of capitalism had to bow down in their time of need to entities that are often so despised by the common man in America - a communist country and a Islamic emirate.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Shah Jahan's legacy





I just came back from my India trip. 

I was lucky enough to manage my second ever trip to the much loved Taj. After much deliberation Rads and I managed to purchase a return ticket from Hyderabad to Delhi on Air Deccan and hired a taxi from the Delhi airport for a two day visit to Agra/Fatehpur Sikri area.

I have to admit that my innate hidden UP instinct (honed during my 2 year stay in Lucknow) took over almost immediately! Well, boasting apart, the journey was almost uneventful except for a brief stop at a dhaba en route to Agra.  A frozen Maaza from an almost wrecked "freedge" later we were on our way to Agra.  Like true firangees we booked a one night reservation at Holiday Inn Agra and managed to check in by about 2 PM.  We had a sumptuous Indian meal inside our room and then got out for our first visit to the Agra fort.  My driver, the humility personofied "Asok", a MPite driving Taxi on that route for the past 2 year was kind enough to find us a guide. And, our adventures began.

This guy turned out to  be piece of work. He looked like a film star, wore designer sun glasses and a suit that looked like it was bought on the streets of Milan (except it must have been bought in Kanpur market).  He told us that he was very buys and that he would request his very good friend to show us around.  A shady looking character then entered our car and greeted us in English.  He told us that the Agra fort was closed and that instead he would show us other monuments.  He then took us to a ramshackle of a building, a hotel that was called the Roof Top Taj view.  We did not like the look the place and the stares of the people at the entrance and decided not to go in there.  we then strictly told him to take us to the river view of the Taj that he promised would be magnificent.  I guess our message got through to him and he took us the what is called the baby Taj : Itmad-Ud-Daulah's tomb.



The place looked worthy enough and after a good round of posing for pictures on its lawns he guided us towards a bridge where we barely caught a glimpse of the evening Taj.  Finally, as the sun set he guided us towards what he called the Mini Taj and we were under the impression that he would take us to another monument.  Instead, he took us to a souvenir shop.  After we were poorer by about 2000 rupees, we paid him 350 rupees for his valuable services and got back to our hotel.  We ordered food to our room and hit the sack.

We checked out early morning and went straight to the Taj. I feel sad to say that the path from the road to the Taj's courtyard was horrible.  Beggars, monkeys and hawkers lined the sides and shady looking characters lurked all around.  There was cow dung all over and the path smelled so bad we almost hated ourselves for not hiring a rickshaw.  we passed through security and finally managed to enter Taj's main courtyard.  As usual, it was crowded, but one more time the Taj proved that the trip was worth every penny.  It looked so magnificent in the early morning mist.  It stood tall and majestic, a crazy man's gift to himself more than his dead wife!  I say that because Shah Jahan is remembered for what he gifted than Begum Mumtaz for what she received in posterity.  We walked around for about an hour, took a few pictures and then made our way to the Agra Fort.  Much of what we saw next does not matter and it would be suffice to say that there were few good building at Fatehpur Sikri (Bulund Darwaza etc.). We then made a mad dash from Sikri to the Delhi airport and thanks to our very good Asok managed to get there at 8.12 PM for a flight that was scheduled to depart at 8.20 PM, all thanks to the New Delhi traffic.  We barely manged to beg our way through the security lines and got on the plane and reached Hyderabad safely.

Many things could have gone wrong.  They didn't.  Somehow, I got a feeling that a trip to the Taj works out.  I came back with a lot of butterflies in my heart.  A crazy lover's gift to the world has lasted over 400 years and left us all richer. 

Something as complicated as the Taj, leaves us all with a very simple emotions.  To think of our own lighter moments in life and to care for and always think of someone we love.  For me, that is the real Taj and Shah Jajan's legacy to the world.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Why this insensitivity?

The only thing that seems to rule in local Telugu news channels is the shock value.  I was watching news today and suddenly the screen showed a man's dead body with a noose around his neck.  This poor man had hung himself to death and the reported was covering the story.  The camera showed vivid images of the aftermath of a hanging.  It was gruesome and shocked me beyond comprehension.  Why this insensitivity to the dead?   Don't the dead deserve some privacy and respect?

Severe competition among the news channels has improved the variety but not the quality of reporting.  I prefer the good old days with DD2 when the news was delayed, but at least the dead got some respect.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Change .. %$^&*$ up NRIs.. For those NRIs who side-step lines in India

Firstly, I have to apologize for the title of my blog post, although I censored it myself.

Now that I have done that I would like to vent out my frustration and anger!  I landed in the hyderabad airport from detroit a few days ago.  I was telling my wife as we entered the terminal that a changing India still does present its ugly face quite often.  Not a moment passed after I said that and we saw a very busy man on his cell phone helped a woman with her child out of the line and usher her through immigration before others.  He kept talking to someone incessantly on his cell phone, someone apparently very important as he was calling him Sir, and telling him that he had his daughter out already.  My anger seethed, but like a wimp I did nothing, because I knew if I objected I would be stopped by the customs guys and harassed so badly that I wish I were not born!  But, in any case most of us who live within a system that does not penalize such atrocious behavior are wimps.  because we seldom object and let such events slip by right under our nose.

I hated the woman who by-passed the counter more than the guy who aided her in doing so.  The bitch (apologies) was coming from the US where she has seen a better system and knows better.  She acted as if she didn't even notice our presence and just went along with the guy speaking the vernacular.  But, I realized that many Indians never change. They just become their old self the moment they get back to India.  There are a lot of good things one can lean in the US.  Discipline while driving, abiding by rules, not side-stepping one's turn etc. etc.

I know that asking those who live in India not to do so might be foolishness, but for those who visit India from the US it is not too much of an ask. Change u as@#$%^&.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Second Coming - what about me ?

I believe I have never caused harm to anyone by malicious intent.  I can safely say that I have done some good to people in need, and have often reached out to help a number of people through various means - money, advice, emotional support included.  I have had my bad days, but through lot of pain and suffering I have redeemed myself put them behind me and managed to get my life in order.

But, through this process I have turned into some sort of an atheist monster who does not believe in god, for the most part. 

I had an interesting conversation with my cousin recently about Jesus and his second coming and how we all will be judged.  I am a born hindu, and so is she.  However, she is a devout Christian by faith and attends service diligently.  She prays for me and sincerely believes that on judgment day, I will be granted a safe way to heaven because of her prayers.  I took offense, almost immediately. 

I don't want to go to heaven.  I don't believe in it.  I am a good person, but I am not a Christian.  How can Jesus send me to heaven, if I am not a believer.  Doesn't the word of God say that all non-believers will be sent to hell? Doesn't Christianity eloquently state that all non-believers are sinners? and that Jesus is the only savior of the masses?  How come?

I am not a Hindu either, as I don't practice that faith.  Does it make me a sinner?  If I do not fall within the stereotypes laid out in any of these religions - then why is it that I would be sent to heaven or hell, as my case might be according to these faiths?

In fact, I would refuse to go to heaven, even if there was one.  I don't believe any one person or one messiah who can deliver us from this smut called our mortal life.  In fact, I don't believe that we are living a life of sins, if we lead a honorable life.  A life that is spent in being truthful, working hard and helping others. I don't need to read holy scriptures to learn that. I don't need to be a Brahmin to be that and neither do I have to pray to do that.  If I have caused harm to anyone in anyway, I deserve direct consequences of my actions and they will be meted out, I am sure. 

Many believers spend countless hours in churches singing the praises of the Lord and, and in temples chanting slokas.  What does it bring us?  Wouldn't this time be well spent if we help an orphanage or a old-age home and volunteer for community service.  And, if one does not have time to do all this, isn't it better to just donate money to charities?  Do we need to sing and pray and read holy scriptures to be true believers? First of all we need to be good humans, and then if there is any time left in our lives, we can probably spend that learning and being a better human, not just waste it attending sermons.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Movie Fans: A group of wimps?

Reading this story on Sanjay Dutt on TOI makes my head spin and I feel disgusted.  This guy was charged under TADA for whatever small role he had to play in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. Granted, maybe he did not plant the bombs, but, he did know who the terrorists were and he had direct contact with them.  He attended their parties, interacted with them and even got guns from them!  He knew Abu Salem, and maybe even Dawood himself!  Still, many are obsessed with him, and I don’t understand the exact reasons.  IS it because he is an actor? Or is it because his dad was an actor? Is it because his mom and dad starred in one the greatest Indian movies ever made?  I just cannot fathom the reason behind this adoration.  Call me crazy, but off late I have begun to get seriously pissed with the way movie fans in India have endowed iconic status on actors.  At the end of the day -  actors are what they are “actors”.

 

Movie stars cannot be endowed with the qualities that they exhibit on screen. Can they?  Although, many know that it is just cinema, somehow they seem to treat these actors real life persona as something similar to their on screen persona.  MunnaBhai is cute, but Sanjay Dutt is not a real life MunnaBhai.  The so called fans – seem like a group of wimps to me.  I am referring to fans of movie stars across the board, Tamil and Telugu cinema included.  Mindless adoration of cinema stars is just being wimpish about one’s approach to life.  If you are the type of person who feels a change is necessary in society – you get ahead with whatever is necessary to bring about that change.  You don’t look up to a celebrity or garner inspiration from others to do so, let alone looking up to movie stars.

 

I guess movie audience in India, the mass audience, is as movie-crazy as it is cricket crazy!  There is no hope, no future for a refined approach to art in the mainstream as long as this continues!  It is a pity when the media talks about India’s great movie industry when the real truth is so dismal. 

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Scientific Faith

I don't think I could have ever phrased the argument more eloquently! Here's a really good piece on science as faith on NY times. All scientific inquiry assumes that there is an underlying order, and that by using a rational approach to understanding this underlying structure, we as humans can create laws or theories that describe the structure. Math, physics and chemistry try to delve into problems concerning the physical universe, while the science such as economics, sociology and psychology deal with problems with humans. However, is this belief in order, "faith" ? To some extent yes, because, a scientist does begin with the assumption that there is an underlying order/law that governs a phenomenon observed in the real world. Whether, this belief- that there is underlying order is "irrational" is the real question. Many faith based beliefs are rooted in irrationality that ascribes super-human (read divine) characteristics to objects and events. What troubles skeptics such as me is the fact that many religious folks apply the rules of faith to realms of life that are not amenable to such analysis. I am more comfortable when religion and science do the things that they do best, address issues that are within their realm and don't tread on each other's paths. Let there be peace!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nittany Lions to Tarheels

I had spent the first five years of my life in the US rooting for a football team that bordered on being amazing (2005 season) to often mediocre.  Yes, I was referring to the Penn State Nittany Lions.  I always hoped they would beat Michigan, but they never did in my entire five years in happy valley.  I will always watch the big games - Penn State vs. Ohio State and Penn State vs. Michigan, don't get me wrong.  But I have to move on.

Well, I am so glad that my university team is ranked number 1 in the country -  not in football but in basketball. The UNC Tarheels opened this year's season, ranked number one and, as usual are the favorites to win the championship at the end of March madness.  I hope they do.  They came so close to it last year and lost it during the elite eights to Georgetown. I want them to win this year!

Monday, November 19, 2007

On the wall

Says Kafka in his famous novel, "The Metamorphosis",
Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt.
which translates (among a lot of versions) to,
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

Sometimes, you ought to be self-deprecating, self-loathing to get a different perspective of your own world. Like the insignificant insect on the wall, you ought to observe what goes on around you. Devoid of all meaning, in dark, negative thoughts about life, relationships and the self. Just like Gregor Samsa woke up one day and found that he had turned into vermin, I guess you ought to see the your own world as an insignificant person. We are usually caught up in our self-importance, that often borders on narcissism - a view can only be described as an Hitlerian perception of the self.

Kafka'a Samsa gives us the tool to be the desolate loner, one who is shrinking into a shell characterized by loss, loneliness and despair. Gregor slowly shrinks in size, implying the losing importance of one's own self to a seemingly uncaring world. He is in a self-destructive path, seemingly inevitable decline, an unstoppable end. The sad part, he probably had nothing to do with it. Or, maybe he did. One can never be sure.

I can see how Gregor Samsa would have felt.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Vatican: Speak Up now!

The moribund local politicians governing local school boards in the US are just plain ignorant. Do these people really believe that the earth was created a mere 6000 years ago? in a mere seven days and seven nights or whatever time frame the holy scriptures say. Politics should never be allowed to dictate knowledge and the truth!

Ideally there should not be any debate about whether creationism and evolution are even alternatives, because, they are not.  Religion is ignorant in this aspect, and plainly with respect to this context, it should be called a debate between ignorance and evolution and therefore evolution triumphs.  All this nonsense about religious conservatives trying to impose their world-view on us is because of Vatican's silence on this issue.  The problem is that if the Vatican takes a stance saying that they believe in Darwin, then they would be violating the holy books. But, they need to speak up.  Speak up to keep the religious right away from interfering with scientific progress.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Gphone, Open source, Linux...Hurray!

Yes! Google did make the announcement about its intentions to try and get into our pockets!  Through a cell phone, you stupid!  Although, Google will not be making the handsets per se it is going keep its software open so that developers all over the world can build apps onto it.  Such social innovation models are bound to be the future of a new technology revolution shaping up our lives.

The cute little Linux penguin is finding its way from the thousands of powerful linux servers that form Google's backbone to our pocket.  Google obviously wishes to get into our pocket to be able to finally serve up ads to cell-phone users.  Not a bad model, given that in countries like India the number of cell phones is bound to grow exponentially!  More particularly, the service providers in US will be forced to change their ways of keeping cell phone users hostage to their predatory policies. With the advent of the Gphone, we might all be finally free to keep our cell phone as we change carriers!

Rule of the Law

I was more than pleased to see the Delhi Consumer Commission take stern action against ICICI Bank. Credit recovery in India is a nightmare, and understandably so. Often, individuals often abscond after failing to pay back the loans they have taken from banks. Recently, the Supreme Court had passed a ruling strictly prohibiting the use of force during recovery of loans. ICICI, being the premier bank of the nation, should be ashamed of its actions.


 

I have heard stories from friends and relatives alike as to how goons would stand in front of their houses threatening to beat them up because a payment on a car/house loan was delayed. The banks in India have no way of differentiating a missed payment with a delayed payment. Moreover, in spite of all the hype about IT systems, they seem to be oblivious to the difference between loyal good customers and absconders, because their systems do not have the little intelligence required to differentiate the two groups.

Above and beyond the Commission's interference the stock market seemed to have just shrugged off the ruling. Being a public company, ICICI is responsible not just to its shareholders, but to the public in general if it fails to obey the law. I wish the investors realize this and penalize ICICI accordingly.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Networking the poor

New York times reports on a new social networking site (yet another!.. hold on) that connects day laborers in the Indian city of Bangalore with potential employers. I would keep my fingers crossed on the monetization and scalability of this entrepreneurial venture, but do feel that it is an excellent way of bridging the gap between households looking for maids, drivers and gardeners with people who can step into such roles.

Although social networking sites initially seemed like by-products of a connected age, they are increasingly becoming vanguard models of generating value for customers and providers. The hottest wars are no longer between Microsoft and Apple, or between IBM and Sun, they are between Google and FaceBook, Myspace and Facebook, so on and so forth! It is interesting to see that this entire boom is actually being driven not by tangible goods that people consume, but information and content that are no longer in the touchy feely world! What Microsoft did to IBM, Google did to Microsoft and now it increasingly seems like Facebook might pull it off on Google!

Monday, October 29, 2007

“Gap” in implementing laws

There was never an issue with making laws in India. The Indian constitution and our penal code is probably the most comprehensive written legal document in the world. Yet, its magnanimity can only be matched with the monumental failure in implementing these laws. Gap, the major US retailer finds itself amidst reports of using an Indian sub-contractor who apparently has been enslaving children for the job.

Investigative journalism is probably the only way to get such stories out. Given Gap's good record in ensuring that its contractors abide by laws, investors and consumers might consider this on instance as an oversight. However, what needs to be taken note of is the fact that there are perhaps of thousands if not millions of small businesses which get away with such horror due to Indian alacrity in law implementation. If there is any area where money needs to be spent is probably in setting up processes of governance which oversee such issues. Infrastructural issues such as power, roads, and energy get their due attention in any discussion involving India's growth. What is forgotten is the fact that the country lacks proper institutional practices in law-implementation.

Moreover, there is also a chicken and egg situation playing out in the US economy. First, China was embroiled in a controversy involving lead-paint - a direct consequence of lack of quality control processes and adherence to international laws. Now, if the Gap fiasco is any indication there are bound to be hundred of such cases in India, where some major US retailer is involved. India and China provide an excellent backdrop for such fiascos to play out. So is the increasing consumer need in the US for lower prices driving manufacturers in these countries to lax out on their policy implantation? Or, is it the lax policies in such countries that is enabling major US firms and subsequently the consumers to benefit.

Capitalism provides a quick and dirty solution to solving hunger and poverty in India, because the kids working at such sweatshops to at least get a meal a day. If we remove the ability to work from them – who is going to feed them? Gap? US? India ? who? But then, is it morally justified to exploit this need for survival in poor countries to wear fancy clothes?

Friday, October 26, 2007

The need for governance

Many of the fights that I had picked with my arm-chair economist friends who support the extreme form of free market economics was due to their utter disrespect to the role of governance in facilitating market solutions. Some of these folks seem to confuse governance with government and without blinking an eye would oppose the view that markets need to be overseen by regulatory bodies. I guess their peeves are more with the government than with governance per se, but what I fail to comprehend is the fact that they somehow think "governance" would be endogenous to market solutions while history has proved time and again that it is not. The entire scenario has played out so according to scheme in the recent sub-prime mortgage crisis.


 

Banks and mortgage lenders competed with each other in figuring out exotic loan instruments that enabled the poorest to own homes – the American dream being fulfilled. The extremists free-market guys assumed that the market would somehow police itself (the free hand remember) and those firms that went overboard would be punished appropriately. A Krugman points out so eloquently in his column, the powers-be decided that the government should stay away from this, and as a result millions of consumers will end up losing their houses. These millions are the ones who belong to the low-income category, and thus proving once again that without proper oversight – read as lack of governance, consumer surplus would be reduced. However, lessons will not be learnt and such scenarios will be more eloquently played out in developing countries like India where an even bigger real estate bubble is seething to just go "plop" one day. The government fails to oversee housing loans, not due to its free-market inclinations, but due to its inefficiency. Even it did, there would be ineffectiveness in such oversight.


 

The case against government's meddling role in economic growth has been made eloquently. However, considerable evidence exists "for" the role of governance in certain contexts. Its is high-time we all figure out the difference between the two.

Love and Marriage: Horse and Carriage

Frank Sinatra said those words so beautifully!

The general populace (movie-going) of my home state has a lot to learn from that phrase. Somehow, I get a feeling that they are all being very hypocritical about what they think of love and marriage. Do they support the concept of love or do they merely think it is for drama in movies and not to be played out in real life?

Let me give a brief background. Chiranjeevi, one of the most popular movie stars of my home state, is facing a dilemma of his lifetime. His daughter decided to run away from home and marry her sweetheart for four years, against the wishes of her family. She claimed that she had been in love for four years and that her family had kept her under house arrest to avoid the scenario that eventually played out a few weeks ago. Mainstream media reported that Chiranjeevi was deeply hurt by her actions and that he was in a state of shock. Sympathy poured in for the star!

I could not believe what was happening! Wait a minute! Didn't her father play a thousand roles all in which he falls in love with a girl, marries her against the wishes of her father (usually thespian actors such as Allu Ramalingiah or Ravu Gopala Rao). Much of the Chiranjeevi fan base loved him because he played the upright, truth-conscious young man who stood up for beliefs, almost to perfection. When it came down to his own life, the cinematic message did not seem to apply. He was shocked, rather than being supportive of his daughter's love.


If I were to think of this in terms of Arnie's movie – Last Action Hero, then all the on screen villains of Chiranjeevi would be laughing their asses off in their graves. He was the ones who usually buried them under tons of mud or in a bog, at the end of the movie and get married to their daughters. Now, he faces a crisis in his own life. Is he the villain? The father of a daughter who falls in love with a young man he does not approve.

On a different note, I hope he comes out and reconciles with his daughter rather than keep quiet. The problem is with the millions of people who are mindless fanatics and worship him. A message that he sends out does impact how his fans think, although I have to say I feel so sorry that movie starts have a larger than life impact on our movie-crazy society.

Talk of poetic justice.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Massacre at Dell

One of my friends told me today that Dell has been laying off employees by the droves. Some of them have been hired a few weeks ago.

Well, the only thing one can conclude is that various divisions in this "esteemed" firm are operating asynchronously. Just as the HR dept continues to hire freshers from college campuses, the same HR dept. also issues notification of termination of employment. well, it is obvious - not only is the HR messed up, but so is the top management strategy which is totally devoid of any coordinated effort. The CIO decided on a new strategy and goes on a firing spree, to satisfy blood-thirsty fund manager investors who call for cost cutting.

Too much importance is often attributed to the role of the top management teams. Maybe the reality is that top management does have an enormous impact on a firm's fortunes. However, the top management is often acting in self-interest, moving from one firm to another, optimizing on a short time frame while th real benefits actually lie in long-range planning.

It is not enough to cut-costs. Dell has probably efficiently picked up all the low-hanging fruit just too easily in an industry messed up with legacy-system probems. Now, the real growth can only come through good products and a consumer focus. To achieve this, Dell does not have to cust costs. It needs to focus more on R&D and focus on developing consumer-friendly products not shoddy laptops which break down within a year.


Dell has shown its cheap mentality, one that is driven by short term optimization that reflects top management interests and not the real interests of shareholders and employees. It is a shame that the exuberant market even rewards it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Call a spade, a spade

I watch in utter dismay as the White House discourages the Congress in its ’ effort to classify the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.  Let’s for a brief while disregard the moral failure in not calling a massacre of this proportion a genocide.  The, I guess, there are a lot of things going on here.  Let us weigh the pros and cons in the efforts of Congress to label this as a genocide.

 

In Turkey’s defense, firstly, the massacre happened in Turkey’s troubled past -  a time when the now established Turkish republic was a fascist regime that was backward looking and did not respect human rights.  The event occurred almost 90 years ago and seem to have faded from the memory of many of the world’s peoples (although in magnitude it comes close to the Khmer-Rouge atrocities).  However, after Ataturk established the Turkish republic, Turkey has been a bastion of democracy in the middle-east with its largely moderate muslim population and its friendliness to the west.  It also has stable institutions that are necessary for supporting the future of democracy in a largely troubled region of the world.  Its army is modernized, not susceptible to militant religious ideologies and hence might stay an ally in the event of a large-scale war in the middle-east.

 

The arguments against turkey are that it should at some time come to terms with its violent past.  Turkey should probably look up to Germany for having done this really well.  It does not matter who carried out the atrocities, the people of that country are responsible in one way or another.  Germany, maybe has partly redeemed itself by adopting laws that punish people who deny the holocaust.  To a large extent, the people of the world in general might forgiven ( but not forgotten)  Germany for its past atrocities.  However, Germany managed to face its demons and the world knows of the skeletons in the closet.  It takes great courage for a nation to face its violent past and of all the evil powers of the past, Germany deserves credit for doing it well.

 

A resurgent Turkish nationalism somehow places hurdles for the people of Turkey to face their past.  If they want the world to renew their faith in the idea of a strong democratic Turkish republic, they need to redeem themselves and call the massacre, a genocide on their own.  International rules governing what is and what is not a genocide are very clear.  Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of an ethnic, religious or national group.  It is very clear that the Turks carried out irrational massacre of ethnic Armenians. 

 

Given the pros and cons – although it might seem painful for the Turkish and their allies, the right thing to do would be to label this a genocide.  The US would then have acknowledged that Turkey did mess up in the past.  If the US does not, it is sending a message that it has differential rules for friends vs. foes.  This violates the basic sense of fairness that most Americans pride themselves in.  Beyond that, how can the US talk about taking  a morally right stance in Iraq, Vietnam and elsewhere, at the same time failing to label a genocide rightly so.

 

Why is it then the White House warns the Congress of pissing off Turkey?  Isn’t it obvious what Congress should be doing – calling a spade, a spade?  Well, from the executive’s perspective Turkey is a key ally in the so-called war on terror.  Albeit, only as a logistical support as 70% of all cargo into Iraq goes through the Incirlik air force base in Turkey.  Apart from the operational argument, there are other strategic arguments for why Turkey is important.  US needs Turkey to stay quiet on the Iraqi border.  Given that the Iraq war is bound to be a nightmare for the US, it does not need troubles with Turkey on the border. 

 

I maybe wrong in my judgment.  Maybe, I don’t the facts too well.  Somehow, it does not seem to me that the massacre is no different from other well-document genocides in world history.  If it looks like a spade, feels like a spade, most probably it is a spade.

 

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I wish I could go back in time

Some of my friends have given me rave reviews about a telugu movie called 'Happy Days'.  This movie made by Shekhar Kammula is a reflection of engineering college life in hyderabad.  I guess Shekhar pulled off a winner with his uncanny ability to catch the nuances of engineering college life. I agree that it might seem exactly identical to the stories of many of us while we were in college, but, we have to also remember that it is a reflection on generality.  All engineering colleges in hyderabad look alike feel alike and similar people pass through these institutions year on year.  I guess, that is why so many have started to feel nostalgic about this movie.  Well, Shekhar deserves credit for his effort.

On a different note, reading the reviews of this movie not only brought back happy memories but also sad ones. Particularly memories of being ragged so badly that I could not fall sleep when I went back home.  The utter disgust that raged in me when I was stopped from entering the college, because a few bastards did not want to write exams.  There was another time when a guy almost hit me for reasons that were entirely not clear to me.  I mean, college campuses have ample anti-social elements that create havoc in the lives of hard-working students.  Without taking names, my batch at Vasavi had its fair share of a$$holes, who now pass off as good citizens.  You should have seen these bastards in action a decade ago, and you would have never imagined they would get through college.  Somehow, they do and that aches me a lot.  The system is not supposed to let such individuals get by by almost doing nothing but damage others' interests.

Well, all said and done my peeves about my undergraduate life are no so big so as to make me feel bad about my alma mater. If there is anything that I would change if I had a chance to go back in time is that I would stand-up to guys who try tried to intimidate me.  Slap the senior who threatened me with physical violence if I did not buy him the cigarettes he wanted. Well, I am sure they will all rot somewhere, for their behavior.

Mostly, I fondly think of all the good days.  Maybe I will watch the movie.

Toyota: The pains of growing big

Toyota is growing bigger and there are no questions about that.  However, what is questionable is Toyota's ability to maintain the quality and reliability standards that have been a hallmark of its iconic status.  Consumer reports indicates that it is no longer true.  I had written earlier about how relaiability is bound to be correlated with volumes and a multi-product focus.  Toyota cannot hope to solve the world's commuting problems with just the Camry, Corolla and the Prius.  the heterogeneity among consumers is much bigger than what these cars have to offer. The ings are already evident - the 2007 Camry looks more like the Lexus than the family sedan it is supposed to represent.  What would become of the Lexus if the Camry looks like th Lexus?  These are troubled times - it is apparent that Toyota is not very adet at being a multi=product firm.  Myabe GM's bugaboo will be its strength at the end of the day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My life long love

I guess I love cars.  If you tell me which car you drive, I can pretty accurately tell you the size of the engine and its horsepower.  It is also likely that I will be able to tell you if you have paid th right price for what you have got.  Let's cut the bullshit.  You pay for horsepower and nothing more.  I measure the value of a car by the fraction of HP divided by value.  The greater the fraction the better the value.  Have you never felt the urge to beat the guy/gal in the car beside you to the next light? If you di not, then don;t rad this further.

My advise: buy a car that makes you happy.  I mean "Happy".  Not just resale value, mileage and what others buy. Buy something tat you look forward to drive.  It is something that you own, interact with and brag about - don;t you want a car that personifies who you are?

I love cars.  It will always be that way,

India: Nation is bigger than politics

The Indian government failed yet again.  The Congress party failed to convince the Left on the merits of the US-India nuclear deal and as a result the deal now stands nullified.  The Left has shown its true colors - paranoia is one word that describes their approach to western powers.  I cannot fathom what is it they are afraid of ? Do they still believe in self-sufficiency?  Don't they realize that it is a golden opportunity for India to step-up its relationships with the world's most progressive and pwerful democracy?

Agreed, the US' newfound interest in India might be due its fear of the rise of China as an economic power.  India, with its stable social and market institutions offers a counterweight to communist dominance in the region.  However, that does not merit suspicion towards US' attitudes towards helping India.  Particularly, in domains such as nuclear power.  Nuclear power is essential to sustain India's continued growth into this century.  Any help concerning technology and nuclear material is more than welcome.  Does the Left believe that they can somehow solve India's impending power crisis by digging up more coal mines in their beloved state - West Bengal?  I have nothing against Bengalis as such - except that they all seemed to be rooted in  their past, forever.  It is time they wake-up and leverage on their cultural legacy to lead the way forward by voting out the Left.

What the Left has done is unforgivable. The Left has placed their political fortunes ahead of the nation's interests.  I hope the public and the Bengalis in particular realize this and penalize them in the upcoming elections.  They need to realize that a pure communist approach that is anti-capitalistic does not bode-well for a resurgent India. 

Monday, October 15, 2007

India travel?

 I am was glad that Airbus was able to finally deliver its first plane to Singapore Airlines last week.  The maiden flight is scheduled for Oct 25th and I am holding my breath for one of the American or European majors to fly it to Hyderabad.  I have heard rumors about British airways flying direct to Hyderabad by end of next year and I hope it will be in one of the A 380s.  Air traffic from India to US is bound to increase in leaps and bounds in the near future.  The upward trend is already quite evident as anyone flying to Hyderabad can tell based on the completely booked Northwest and Lufthansa flights. However, to me it seems that European airlines are at an economic advantage over their american counterparts in serving asian markets.  Although airlines like Continental and Delta have started direct flights to New Delhi, I don't think they will have major traffic to other Indian cities such as Hyderabad and Bangalore.  European carriers such as KLM and Lufthansa on the other hand will be able to combine traffic from various american destinations at their european hubs and then launch direct flights to Indian cities.  My logic applies to chinese cities as well.  Thrown in a major middle-east carrier such as Air Emirates or Qatar Airways, and then you are also looking at more options with a different flight-time configuration.  If you fly via Europe you are looking at 8-10 hours to a european city such as Amsterdam and then 8-9 hours to Hyderabad from there.  If you fly via Dubai, then you are looking at 14-15 hours to Dubai from the US and then another 4 hour trip to Hyderabad.  No matter which route you take you can get to Hyderabad in about 18 hours of flight time.  Air India is screwed, soon, if not immediately. 

Friday, October 12, 2007

justified

As a follow-up to my post on faith and irrationality - are religious movements justified in their faith ideals as long as they help th needy ? More particularly given that many of us often don't care or have little time to worry about any one else's problems except our own.

instruments of guilt

A few things that trouble me in today's world:
  1. Do we need fear of god to help the needy?
  2. Do we need to look upto personality cults to understand who we are - this includes Christianity and all other sects and religions which gain their ideals from one person's revelation.
  3. Do we have to feel guilt that we have something that others don't? And if so, should the be the reason to give.
  4. Haven't great philanthropists been world's major capitalists?
  5. Are people who are involved in religious groups - satya sai baba's movement, amma's movement, SRi's movement - irrational and guilty of their blind faith to an idea or belief?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Dr. Hambrick on New York Times

Not many times do you see one of your teacher’s research being discussed in an outlet like New York Times.  I had taken a course on Corporate Strategy offered by Dr. Hambrick when I was in the PhD program at Penn State.  He has written some of the seminal papers on top management teams and their effects on corporate performance. 

aggressiveness and discipline

There has been an ongoing argument in Indian cricket as to how a resurgent Indian team is being aggressive (in antics) and unnerving the mighty Australians.  Some wise men have already pointed out that it should be aggressiveness in the game not on field antics.  The message I guess never got to the team so far, but now I am sure that given the 9 wicket loss, the Indian team and overzealous jingoist fans will at last realize the truth.  Australians do not win matches by throwing arrogant glances at bowlers alone; they also combine those arrogant glances with a nonchalant toying of the bowling attack, literally decimating the morale of bowlers with their superb strokeplay.  Indians, on the other hand seem to revel in their ability to take off shirts and merely throw glances, but not solid balls at the Australian batsmen.  Gilchrist is successful not because he is arrogant but because he is talented and arrogance is just correlated with his talent.  To the statistically challenged Indian cricket team and of course its advisors – the concept of causality is obviously out of reach.  To them the logic is that Australians are successful, they are also arrogant, so arrogance leads to success.  Well, as I always maintained the Indian team never had any priors on it – in terms of the fans’ expectations of how they would perform.  I have revise the view and also add that not only do they not have priors on them they also do not have any rational way of making decisions.

 

If the team first develops a little discipline and realizes that success comes not just by talent, but also through perseverance and not letting Coke and Pepsi dollars get into their heads.

 

This is a plea from a past cricket fan!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Culture and Telugu Cinema

Great classics were made in the sixties and seventies in Telugu Cinema. During its golden age, telugu cinema was a great medium to inform and educated the masses on social evils. Often, it offered sensible solutions to omnipresent problems in andhra society. However, with the eighties, such solutions evolved into violence against the perpetrators, and thus resulted in little or no value to society at large.

With large swaths of Andhra still in poverty, and illiterate, dowry deaths and other social evils are still present. Clearly, telugu cinema has failed miserably as a medium of social change. Many disagree with me on this issue, reminding me that cinema is more about entertainment and less about social change. I agree to some extent, but still feel that given the influence that cinema has on the masses, there has to be a sense of responsibility when solutions are being offered to social evils. It is very easy to provide a good description of the problems prevalent in society but a lot more difficult to offer sensible solutions. Cinema can be a rich descriptive medium but a poor prescriptive medium. If we look upto stalwarts such as Satyajit Ray, we realize that he possessed an uncanny ability to reflect on the life of his times. However, solutions to social evils was not his cup of tea, and rightly so.

Maybe, mass media does not possess the intellect to offer solutions to social evils. It should, therefore, stay away from doing this. Fortunately, movie-makers have stayed away from sensitive social issues - for understandable reasons. Often, parallel cinema is commercially not very successful and maybe it is for our own good that it stays that way. However, mainstream cinema should probably stick to its fantasy descriptions of things that have zero probability of happening in the real world. The status-quo seems acceptable. I appeal to the few idiots in telugu cinema who show implausible solutions to problems they really don't care about, but have only included in their movies for dramatic effect.

To me telugu cinema is a mere reflection of some aspects of andhra culture - specially that belonging to certain castes (I hate to use that word, but that IS the truth). For various reasons, historical or otherwise, popular cinema's view of andhra life is a reflection of certain communities and nothing beyond. It is a shame that andhra culture stands marginalized due to the inability of movie-makers to think beyond the obvious and imagine great possibilities.

lola kutty's words

Most of this video seems stupid - but I thought she made a very good point which gets repeated at the ending -

"Experience is something that you get when you don't get somethign that you want". Defnitely, words of wisdom.

Why India is important to World Cicket

Apart from being the game’s largest audience – and thereby attractive to marketers, Indian cricket is very attractive for another reason. Our team are world-beaters one day and street urchins the other. Not just a fortnight passed, the team is back at its lowest, proving yet again that what we severely lack in consistency, not talent. Great teams are made through discipline combined with perseverance and talent. India has produced some of the finest cricketers that ever walked the pitch, however, as a team we have always been miserable. We are buoyed by the fleeting glory begotten through mercurial performances once in a while, matched only by the magnificent failures in key matches. I always maintain, we should not have priors on the Indian team, and that is what makes our team special, the inconsistency. I guess there is not much fluttering of hearts when the national team plays consistently, therefore, our team has figured out a way to keep us on the edge of our seats, losing mostly, but winning once in a while – thereby keeping us forever interested in the game and relevant to the fortunes of marketers.

Where Google lags Facebook leads

I am very happy when something exciting happens in social networking sphere.  My research is on online communities, albeit of a different kind.  Online communities have risen to become the new age "technology".  Just like Microsoft missed the boat on the internet and became the silent bystander as Google redefined technology, Facebook seems to be bypassing Google in a new race to dominance in social networking.  Google has languished terribly in engaging users - not in consumption but in its production. facebook has been more engaging and clever in developing tools for its users - something which similar sites such as MySpace have also missed out on.

Google has an amazing ability to figure ot things that are very useful to users - its finance tool, search tool etc.  Obviously, when you invest millions of dollars in hiring scientists to cook up practical stuff - you ought to be good.  However, Google's social networking app - Orkut lags the leader Facebook.  It is very easy to dismiss social networking apps saying they are a bunch of useless internet getaways for teens.  Silently, however, these online communities have grown tremendously and marketers are salivating at the prospects of advertising to 200 million teens on a social community.  The new applications that are popping up on Facebook enhance its utility and endow users with an ability to communicate more efficiently and interact with richer media content.  VC's are clamoring to fund application developers that are focussed on Facebook.

All this still needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.  Microsoft is still formidable, Google is still nimble and intelligent, and Facebook is still young.  It will take time, and as the "liability of newness" goes organizations are more likely to perish in the first few years of their life.  If Facebook can outsmart others, survive the initial rough period, I am sure there is going to be a goldmine for its founder and early investors at the end of the rainbow.  I for once will make it sure that I don't miss out on an investing opportunity, something that I foolishly did when Google went public.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

EPA report - Aura Azera Camry and options

The Environmental protection agency.  What is so funny is that after all the hype about Camry being the unbeatable car on a lot of issues, particularly mileage, the numbers are not very different from Chevy Malibu or Saturn Aura.  Aura came in with number of 27.2 mpg in real settings while Camry came in at about 29, for highway driving.  The point I am trying to make is not that I took the best call and got an Aura, but that people should probably look out for options b4 they go in with mere perceptions and little intelligence into buying a Camry or an Accord.  For almost no extras, the Camry charges 11,000 dollars more than a well-equipped Aura or Azera.  All in the name or reliability –something that buyers cannot even gauge properly, given that they have no clue what a DOHC means in an engine.  The blame for stupidity lies not just with consumers but also with the car companies who have failed, miserably I must add, in communicating to consumers that they have made reliable improvements to their cars and that  reality is very different from consumer perceptions about superior Japanese cars.

 

Till then, I shall bask in glory that I paid 11000 dollars less for the same value, and that earns 6% in a 12 month CD. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Don't waste your life on Quixtar

After considerable deliberation, I posted en email on a mailing list of my alma-mater.  I am reproducing it in the post below:

 

Folks,

Friends, Vasavians and countrymen! Lend me not just your ears, but your minds!

This mail is intended more towards people who have recently come to the US or who are about to graduate from college.  I apologize to everyone else who does not care about this issue.

I have noticed a disturbing trend among Vasavians who are coming to the US for pursuing their Master's.  Given my inherent propensity to give advice on matters relating to career choice, I decided to send out this email. My objective is to do two things: 1) forewarn you about some of the actual truths involved in joining such schemes and 2) inform you that there are better ways of achieving success in life.

The trend that I am referring to is individuals joining Multi-level marketing schemes such as those run by Quixtar.  I am using Quixtar as an example as this is the most popular and widely known organization among MLM fans.  I have come across many Vasavi graduates who have fallen prey to the false promises of Quixtar proponents in the US. It seems to be a more widely present problem in students who have just come to the US.  Universities are favorite hunting grounds for Quixtar people and students without funding are more susceptible to their marketing propaganda.

The way the whole Quixtar thing works is that someone in your neighborhood or your grad school invites you to attend some sort of a large meeting where very successful people in the MLM business tell you stories about how they have made millions and how they live in mansions and how they have achieved financial freedom.  The people who give you these invites act as if they are doing you a great favor by showing you the path towards enlightenment.  The largeness of crowds at these events, and the mass hysteria that goes with it is very infectious and is very successful in recruiting new individuals as new IBOs (independent business owners).  As a new recruit you sign up as a IBO (a distributor) whose objective is to sign up more people.  thus, you not only act as a distributor to Quixtar's products but also as a consumer.  As more people signed up by you use Quixtar's products you make money, and you also get rewarded for signing up people. 

However, the catch is that you make more money when you sign up people than when you use Quixtar's products.  thus, the incentive for newcomers is to just try and sign up rather than consume or use the products.  However, the top guys who already have hundreds, perhaps thousands signed up under them stand to gain more.  So the distribution of money coming from Quixtar as incentive is highly skewed towards the top of the pyramid.

Why does all this matter - students who come to the US without funding are being lured into this scheme with promises of quick riches. Fortunately, many are wise to see through the false promises and instead focus on their studies and their career.  Unfortunately, I have lost many of my friends to this scheme - they end up conning themselves into believing that one day they will make millions and retire.  In the process, they have lost all their friends, well wishers and people who wish them well.  Instead, they are surrounded by nepotistic individuals whose attitude can only be best described as self-serving.

There is no quick wealth in Quixtar - you have to probably spend many years before you see reasonable money. even that is questionable from many investigations and websites - there is not enough money to be made by everyone in a MLM scheme. The reason is simple - there are more distributors than consumers. Moreover, Quixtar is being investigated by IRS (tax dept.) and FTC for bad marketing practices in how they sign up new IBO's.  Moreover, as a student on F-1 you are not legally permitted to earn money off campus in the US.

I agree I am not the wisest, but, I do know that success comes with hard work. We are all different from each other - therefore, what motivates me might not motivate others.  I wanted to become a professor, period.  That was my objective.  My objective in life was not solely to achieve financial freedom.  Financial freedom will come automatically, when you figure out what you like and keep doing it well - and I am sure many will agree with me.  Avenues will open up and you will see success come.  It need not come by following some Quixtar guys' formula alone.  Resist the temptation, focus on why you came to the US for.  Do you want to be a contended process engineer at Dow Chemical who loves his/her work or you want to be someone who deceived himself/herself into happiness by deceiving others?  The choice is yours.

Success comes through a focused and disciplined approach to life and being process oriented. In loving what you do and enjoying life as it comes.  Although money is important, it is not the end of everything, particularly, if in achieving it you have lost all your friends and well-wishers.

America revels in its free speech principle. By writing this email, I am not slandering anyone, but merely expressing my opinions on a forum I thought was relevant.  If anyone has objections please feel free to have a dialogue with me.  More importantly, if any of you has been hounded in the past or are bing hounded by Quixtar guys, please feel free to write to me for advice.

 

Girish Mallapragada

Assistant Professor of Marketing

Kenan-Flagler Business School

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

http://girishmallapragada.blogspot.com

Ph: 919 962 2149

 

Monday, October 01, 2007

A silent world

Yet another country's attempt to shake-off its tyranny is falling flat.  The junta in Myanmar has succeeded in killing a revolt started by Buddhist monks, as the world stood silently.  The moral righteousness so wantingly claimed by a democracy friendly developed west is no where to be seen.  While it works with clock-precision when oil is involved, the morally concerned do not seem to be concerned with Myanmar's problems. 

A rejuvenated France seems to be worried more about a theocratic democracy's nuclear ambitions than it is worried about a military dictatorship.  My disillusionment with the West's stance that it champions democracy and human rights increases further as Sudan, Myanmar and Ethiopia continue to suffer.  As US and its allies struggle to keep their footing in a much denounced war, more serious things have caused millions to suffer in these regions. 

Myanmar's neighbors such as India, Thailand and China are to be blamed as well.  They have kept their mouths shut, as their own economic interests are tied to Myanmar's fall.  It might be true that these countries really do not care as long as they get their share of Myanmar's resources, however, they lose their stance on the world stage by staking such a stance.

As the presidential elections draw close in the US, I am sure that revolutions such as Myanmar's will remain nothing more than an issue in political debates.  except, for that little noise, it is a silent world out there - except for the muted cries of Myanmar's masses.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Something to look forward to


The CTS 2008 was revealed recently, and it surely is an eye-catcher! Above and beyond all the razzle-dazzle, the car comes with a 40 GB hard drive, one that you can use for storing songs, videos, well whatever! With a 304 HP engine, the most powerful that was ever put on a 6 cyclinder Cadillac engine, the CTS will surely give its competitors something to think about. You are looking at a price tag of about 36,000 USD, so be ready to part with some serious money!

cts1.jpg

Bankruptcy Looms for Michigan

These are tough times for Michigan.  The state government is facing an unprecedented budget crisis as it continues to face a looming bankruptcy, joining the ranks of some of the world’s worst governed states.  Michigan was a leading industrial state in the US, till a few decades ago shining in the glory of Detroit’s Big Three.  However, just as the Big Three have continued to lose market share to better competitors, the state has lost its glory to more progressive states.  In many ways, obviously, the fortunes of the state were always tied to Big Three.  Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the real estate market, government efficiency have both suffered just as the Big Three have continued their slide.

 

Fiscal conservatism is an easy thing to say, but a tough thing to achieve.  The Michigan government apparently has no clue of what the word means.  Maybe they borrowed a thing or two from the federal government, which is facing a 5.5 trillion dollar debt.  That apart, maybe this is the time for the state government to take a hard look at its own future. Else, it will not be long before some Chinese or middle eastern company vying to run the state.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Obama replied!

I had written in an earlier post that I had replied to a question from the Obama campaign on the Linkedin network.

A few days ago, I got a response in my Linkedin mailbox from the campaign. Just to keep the record straight, I wish that Obama becomes the Prez. However, I think it will be Hillary who will get the ticket and she will choose Obama as her running mate.

Here's the entire sequence in the reverse order:

Barack Obama wrote:

Hi Girish,

Thanks for participating in Barack's question on LinkedIn Answers – we
apologize for the delay in response. We received an incredible number
of thoughtful answers, and our campaign will continue to review all of
these answers in the days ahead.


Barack is committed to helping small businesses and believes they are
at the heart of the American economy. He is committed to expanding
opportunities and easing the everyday pressures so many businesses
face by cutting their health care costs, improving access to capital,
and investing in innovation and development.


He plans to fix our health care crisis and enable more small
businesses to provide affordable care to their employees. He will
expand loan programs for small businesses and create a national
network of public-private business incubators. He also will invest in
women-owned businesses, increase minority access to capital, increase
supports for businesses in rural areas, and work to close the digital
divide that limits the growth potential of many urban and rural small
businesses.


We appreciate immensely your willingness to share your insights and
suggestions on these issues and your help in achieving these goals.

For more information on Barack's ideas for improving America visit:
www.barackobama.com/issues

Thanks,
Scott & Becky @ Obama HQ
On 9/12/07 8:10 PM, Girish Mallapragada wrote:
--------------------
It is very easy to say that the wave of globalization needs to be stalled for small businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive. However, the tougher, yet, appropriate path to improvement involves embracing competition and not shunning it. The future president should realize that globalization is a two-way street and allow a greater integration of small industry sector with developing countries. The resulting strategy dynamic would benefit US small firms and entrepreneurs benefit from access to world markets and make them better through competition on their own homefront.

Private Note:
Wish you the best!

Question Details:
--------------------
How can the next president better help small business and entrepreneurs thrive?

on averageness

I found an old post of mine at another blog – and here it is. This was in response to a post on averageness by one of my friends, Vamshi.

Vamshi says:

Welcome Gate to Morons

===============
Its the mere hate I rejoice having, or for your averageness, that makes me write on the manners you morons excel in flaunting. The sonnet and the four lines do not mean anything to you but I wisely have used them because it escapes your crass minds. Phelgmatic are your views because you cannot face action and stand by the storm. Squabbling souls of yours make up the sum total of all choas in the universe. You are the prefects of all confused places of the world.

Firstly, you are not a distinct individual - not that you don't take over the reins of some hapless pygmies. You are residing parasitically in every creation called, lovingly, as humans. You tamper, finger, screw with the base ethics of an evolving mind and make it mediocre. You mother the mothers of mothers who make mothers for the wannabe mothers. You are a disease called paralytic somnambulism which divulges nothing but morphs the character to restrained ethos.

Hey human, breathe easy. For you do having some saving grace. You can evolve and rise from the ashes......

Thoughts of the writer are personal and to be taken as his view of things


Although, sometimes my own thoughts tend to agree with him, I have to admit that, it would hugely egoistic to admit so. What probably demarcates a genius from an average Joe is not just intelligence, but genuine humility in knowing that there is much more to be known. Such an approach, forced me to respond in the following manner:

However, my general thought is that the world is full of averageness by definition - humans, as narcissistic as they might be, are only defined by their averageness.
Although great men are known for being outliers, they do not exist without the averageness of the commons.

I feel your anger against mediocrity in this world, and I can associate with it. However, I want to remind you of what once an old man, who is no more, said a long time ago when we were in LFJC, and I quote ," If everyone becomes an IITan who will drive my car".


On a different note:

The old man that I refer to was Mr. Subba Rao, and some of you might recognize him as the author of a high-school physics text book. Mostly people despised him, but, he did make sense to me once in a while. He taught us all the Occam's razor in his own words. The latin version of the Occam's razor is something like this,

entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem

in english it means,

entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity

Stated in other ways, the razor calls for accepting the simplest explanation to a phenomenon. I remember answering a question in his class, the long way, and he said, "you should not try to point out your nose by putting your hand behind your head". Maybe, he knew the Occam's razor and reframed it so that we understood or maybe they were words coming from a genuinely sensible man. Whatever maybe the case, I will always fondly look back at my two years at LFJC when I met some of the brightest people I would have ever interacted with in my life.

one of my favorite quotes

"The heights by great men reached and kept Were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upward in the night." – H.W. Longfellow

 

 

 

BANZAI!

GM gets a breather – and maybe will go BANZAI!

 Yes, today reports poured in about the deal between GM and UAW and the consequent strike call-off.  The top management at GM must have sighed with relief, now that the possibility of a long strike by UAW has been evaded.  Surely, this event does seem like the harbinger of the much awaited conducive environment for GM.  The creation of a trust for managing retiree health benefits would straight away cut about 1500 USD per vehicle sold from GM’s costs.  Hopefully, GM would make the right decisions and divert that money in creating that much more value for customers rather than keep the quality constant, and lower costs further.  A lower costs structure is desirable but is not the “thing” for delivering superior products.  GM can never compete with Kia, Hyundai and Cherry Auto on costs.  They have the engineering muscle to focus on building good products that lure back consumers form the Japanese.  I hope it will be war – BANZAI!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

response to Academia and Free Marketers: Garland in the hands of a monkey

I had posted a response on a blog - Krish's Politics a while ago. When I went back to read it recently, I was very impresed with my own argument that i decided to repost it on my own blog. What a self-loving individual am i? well, who is not...

Krish,

You make a good point when you say,
“There is another aspect of academia, which these free market fundamentalists can never comprehend. As the kid portrays in his post, we cannot just buy a paper and make a product out of it. Thatz not the way academia works. Scientists are not shopkeepers waiting with papers so that consumers (read business people) can come and buy it”.

Your point also highlights something more deeper in research and incentives. A scientist needs to be truly “objective” and in that sense detached from the phenomenon and the findings. Research that is closely tied to output that can be monetized severely taints the objectives of the true scientific enterprise.

The tenure system in good universities exists so as to enable such researchers to pursue issues that might lack immediate monetary potential but have long range implications for the benefits of a broader audience.

Sure, academia has to collaborate with the industry - but monetizing research output should not be the only criterion for this collaboration. Industry can provide the necessary real world context for the theoretical models that academia develops and the academia can provide a deeper “causal” understanding of the real world that industry desperately needs.

Research has a much broader purpose that is beyond a few innovative ideas and a few researchers making money. It is to develop a deeper understanding of the real world and advance our understanding about ourselves in such a way that it increases social welfare in general.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Privatized War

I am against the Iraq War – for that matter, any war.  I believe we have evolved considerably as a civil society to sort out our problems amicably.  Nothing can change my opinion on this.  I do not believe in the eye for an eye adage, although at times I have felt that the US invasion of Afghanistan was justified.  What troubles me more is the fact that many have come to profit from a war that has brought nothing but misery and death to thousands in the middle east.  A nice article on MSN Money specifies the numbers here

As the article rightly points out the last five years have brought a windfall to some of these firms and I am sure to all the “institutional investors” in these firms.  The mutual funds and pension funds that hold the defense stocks and the banks, and all the small investors who have bought these funds.  In a way, many of us have financed the war and are profiting from it.  That troubles me the most.  In an increasingly networked business world, it is not very clear what is being financed by whom.

 

 

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The tailless "Fox"

Fox news has gotten into a very bad habit of censoring speeches.  Apparently, they censored Sally Field's acceptance speech when she was accepting an award at the Emmy Awards show last sunday.  The words that were censored included "goddamn war".  I guess, Fox mistakenly censored its own tail and has grown into a channel that is not only conservative right wing - that resonates with people who read Ann Coulter and listen to Bill O'Reilly. I cannot fathom the reason behind what is so offensive about the words "goddamn war". Guess, the religious types at Fox, did not like the word goddamn and the conservative political folks did not like the war being damned. 


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Killing people is bad, period

Killing an individual is a bad act, period.  Does an eye, substitute an eye ? I am not sure.  Was the US invasion of Afghanistan justified - yes, definitely.  Was the invasion of Iraq justified - it sure did in 2003, now it seems more tenuous. Increasingly, collateral damages seems unjustifiable, in any conflict.  Not matter how good the intentions of an occupying army are towards civilians, collateral damage does occur and manifests itself in the deaths of thousands of innocent people - kids and women included. Maybe mankind should revert to the ancient war tactics that are described in great detail in the Indian epics.

Huge armies faced each other in large battlefields and fought to death.  Children and women were not involved, crops would not be destroyed, cities would not be burned down - effectively, there would be no collateral damage.  The world would probably be a happy place.

Google takes on NASA

The recent announcement from Google is very interesting.  In essence, Google is creating competition to government-funded NASA, with respect to moon exploration. This could also be a new trend towards private enterprises taking greater interest in inventing on scientific projects which were only in the realm of governments. 

I have mixed emotions about this - on one side, I feel that there is lot more to be done on Earth before we start focusing on the moon.  For instance, health in Africa and poverty in the developing world, need quick effective solutions.  I am not suggesting that Google should solve these issues, but, maybe it can create some sort of an economic model that incentivizes innovation that solves third-world problems.  On the other hand, I am glad that Google is continuously innovating and destabilizing the accepted world-order on many facets of our daily lives.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bam Bam Obama!

I logged into my linkedin account today and was very surprised to see a question from Mr.Obama's campaign! It was a question relating to small businesses and entrepreneurs and how the future president might help these sectors. About 1100 professionals had already answered the question, and of course, I posted an answer as well.

I was very impressed with the smartness with which Mr. Obama's campaign has reached out to a large network of professionals. They essentially took the youtube.com idea a step forward and reached out to the linked community and their effort needs an appreciation. Mrs. Clinton in my opinion is just a front to Mr. Clinton's bid for another 8 years at office. Whether, the Democrats acknowledge it or not, that is the uncomfortable truth. even if she does show intelligence, she is cold, unwarm and seems very unapproachable - dinosaur rooted in the past. Mr. Obama is warm, genuine, honest and has new ideas about the world and US' place in it. I wish, he becomes the Prez.

Noah, Manu, Gilgamesh and Atra-Hasis

I draw a parallel between the story of Noah , the story of Manu , the flood myth from the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh, and finally the lesser know flood myth from the Akkadian epic Atra-Hasis. Noah's story is from the Book of Genesis, Manu's story is from Bhagavat Purana, one of the eighteen puranas from hindu mythology The uncanny similarity between these stories, makes me wonder if they all began from the same source. I shall not make any assertions about which of these might be the closest to the source, suffice to say that the origins of all these seems to be one single flood story, thus obliterating the uniqueness of any one single claim.

Interestingly, Christians believe that the great flood that is described in the book of Genesis forced Noah's Ark to eventually come to rest at Mount Ararat. Hindus, who also believe in a great flood - seem to have a less scientific explanation, as Manu took only seven old men and the four vedas with him on a boat that was navigated by Lord Vishnu who had taken the form of a giant fish. The epic of Gilgamesh shamelessly borrowed from the Akkadian epic of Atra-Hasis. To me, they all seem like cock and bull stories of some fantasy-obsessed story-teller, really good at marketing and who succeeded in selling his story well to thousands of his age.

I don't understand why the creationists in the US have taken the Book of Genesis so seriously, when they do know that the story seems more like popular folklore with so many variants of it widely prevalent in countries all over the world. Are conservative Christians really saying that life started after the great flood ? I just can't digest this and of course a number of other things that the hindu myths say. You take these with a pinch of salt and walk away. You do not seriously make your kids believe that God created everything in seven days. You should probably take them to the new application Google Sky and show them the stars and teach them that stars are born in the Eagle Nebula.


To stop myself from being incoherent - I think it would be reasonable to say that, much wisdom is needed in today's world. Wisdom that needs to stop the percolation of blind faith in the epics, myths and legends of the past, and to look forward to the future and how we as a species can lead much better, longer and healthier lives.