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:



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

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.