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.