Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Dare not to say: A new twist on old corruption in Andhra

The unfolding case against YSR's son in AP is a great example of how the pols have learnt to beat the system.  In the good old days - corruption was largely local and occurred in small amounts.  And then, if the evidence being presented is indeed true (i think it is), YSR came along.

His family devised an ingenuous plan by combining the principle of raising capital with government business.  The modus operandi was simple, brilliant and seemed iron-clad.  YSR would dole out large government projects or land to private parties that bid for contracts.  In turn, the private parties would not give cash bribes to YSR or his family, but instead would invest in legitimate businesses started by YSR's son.  Now, if Mr. Jagan was a brilliant business man and had the knack to conjure up innovative companies that would generate wealth for their investors genuinely, none of this would have mattered.  Mr. Jagan's credentials are questionable at best, and the only reason he gathered all the fund flows into his companies seems to be his father's CM post and the contracts gained by his investors.

All was good, until YSR passed away.  Now, the central government had to turn a few screws because Mr. Jagan turned rebel.  He was in effect threatening to take the state's MPs with him and make Congress weak at the center.  The best way to get him in line would be to initiate investigations into his assets.  The real question that we need to be asking is why could not CBI do anything when YSR was alive? That is the inconvenient truth of Indian politics.  I am not siding with YSR's kin when I say the Center is on this as well by using CBI as a tool.  I think Jagan deserves to rot in jail forever if the evidence against him holds up in court.  What bothers me is the inaction of the Central government against YSR when he was in power. Sonia, and Congress high command should be ashamed for inaction, something that was justified because YSR brought her total control of the Lok Sabha seats.  

The public is a lot more intelligent now and we all know that acting now does not justify the indifference showed when YSR was looting the taxpayer without any scruples.  It is a shame that the man will probably be not held accountable, if in fact he and his family are found guilty of the alleged crimes.

Media does not talk much about it because they are all scared of the hooligans in the congress party who would never allow anyone to speak up against YSR's regime. That was what it was, a dictatorship that looted the taxpayer for its own benefit. No different from any African regime, except that it probably did not kill innocent civilians to enable the loot.  Better late then never. I hope the CBI does its duty and answers are found to why the government doled out contracts to specific firms and why an ordinary man with no particular skill or talent ended up owning over 10 Billion dollars in assets.  These things could only happen in India!

Monday, July 02, 2012

The worst of telugu cinema

I have very low opinion on telugu cinema.  One of the biggest reasons why I hold it in low regard is its inherent stuck in the rut because the old heroes never go away!  And, when I say it, I mean it.  Old as in really old, not 35, but 65!  

I would not have had a problem if the heroines were meted out the same level of respect and roles that the male heroes get.  However, what irks me is that while the heroes can happily don younger roles and play college student and run around trees with a never ending stream of young actresses, the yesteryear actresses are delegated to playing mothers and aunts.  Often, the same actress who played the leading man's love interest a few years ago will end up playing the aunt of the same actor.  

Further, there is another element of dynastic proportions.  Even if kids (read male kids) born to leading actors of yesteryears have zero talent or the looks to be leading actors, they are unleashed upon the telugu audience who like the nincompoops they are accept and celebrate them.  To add insult o injury, girls from film families are seldom allowed (very rarely) allowed to become actresses!  They become directors may be, but are spared the limelight.  Is there a better group of MCPs ever?

Next, the industry also has a great affection for non-telugu women.  I cannot for the love of god, figure out why!  Maybe i know the reason, but this applies only to women and not to men.  Men from other states can only play villains, or character actors.

There are some signs that cinema is improving. An younger crop of directors and producers have made some creative movies and moved away from formulaic cinema involving dynastic heroes. But, there is room for much improvement.  

I was a big fan of telugu cinema, the golden oldies in particular.  I feel sorry that it has become a circus now and hope it can at least gain some of its past glory.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Graphing the history of philosophy | Drunks&Lampposts

How could you miss reading this?!

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Girish Mallapragada
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7 equations to build a secure retirement

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Living with microbes

An interesting article on the symbiotic evolution of humans and microbes - 

Immunity is an interesting and confusing topic, particularly to many parents including me. At one level, we want the kids to be healthy and away from viruses and bacteria and while doing so we also weaken their immunity.  I understand that when they are infants they are probably better off not being exposed to any, but once they are toddlers I prefer a runny nose once in a while just to make sure they are friends with those microbes :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kloutscore - A Consultant's Speel on Social Network Measures

I did not pay much attention to Kloutscore because I always knew it was a based on a bunch of consultant speak.  Eventually, I went to their website and looked at their measures for network influence and I ROTFL :)

Their measure of reach - is simply called degree centrality in network parlance and was first proposed back in 1973.  Similarly, the measure they say is network-centric is a modified measure of eigenvector centrality used in network analysis. I am sure the founders will tout their scores around as if they came up with it, but again, what else can you expect ? Academia is often blamed for nto making the extra effort to connect with the real world, but hey,  that is not academia's only role!  

Researchers in Social Network Analysis have been using and testing these measures and their limitations in a variety of contexts for decades.  But, when a company just knocks of these concepts from a research paper and fashionably uses them to convince clients without telling them the basis for when these scores work and when they don't we have media salivating over Klout :)

At the end of the day, I am happy that at least some academic findings have found their way to real application and for that, Klout deserves to get credit!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Revisiting INFY's growth again …

One of my favorite things to do is to revisit Infosys' growth trajectory once every 2-3 years :).  Don't ask me why, but having seen how Infy operates during my stint at Pramati I always felt that Infy's HR driven model will hit a ceiling at some time or the other.

My first look at Infy's prospects goes back to January 2007.  My argument was that Infy seems to only grow by adding more professionals to its workforce and at some point it will have to break up its businesses.

My second look was in October 2008 and I have updated my table after 3.5 years :

                  Year            revenues          employees                       profits
1998 0.771 0.445 0.52
1999 0.674 0.43 2.47
2000 1.003 0.824 0.987
2001 0.314 0.092 0.604
2002 0.413 0.434 0.398
2003 0.409 0.668 0.597
2004 0.498 0.431 0.213
2005 0.351 0.432 0.46
2006 0.425 0.339 0.383
2007 0.19 0.228 0.174
2008 0.201 0.262 0.165
2009 0.300 0.150 0.351
2010 0.048 0.085 0.056
2011 0.209 0.150 0.169

As of 2011, Infosys has over 140,000 employees and makes about 45,000 USD in revenue per employee and about 20,000 USD in profits per employee.  The profits number has been stagnant for over 4 years now while its revenues per employee number has grown by about 10%.  So, Infosys makes more per employee but due to the rising salaries in India, it has not been able to improve its bottom line.

For a company that continues to add about 10-12% to its workforce every year to make the same profits, this should be a time to reorganize.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mamata and the failed state of West bengal

I have been reading how Mamata Banerjee is pressurizing the Indian central government on West Bengal's fiscal status.  The state is in huge debt because it runs programs that are a drain on the taxpayer.  These policies are put in place by politicians who promise what they cannot deliver.  I cannot for the love of life figure out how such nonsense is being tolerated.  Clearly, the state has messed up and has no one else to blame but its own politicians, their failed policies and the stupidity of its own electorate that does not realize how much they have damaged themselves.  States such as West Bengal are a drain on the country's resources and just make it difficult for India to bootstrap itself out of poverty.  I have seen how the weak central government penalizes states with good economic policies and growth trajectories (e.g., Andhra Pradesh, Karanataka and Gujarat) while subsidizing the failed states (e.g., Bihar, WB and MP).

If the Centre continues to bow to such pressures India will continue on a path where states will start mistrusting each other and the Centre.  We need a stronger stance from the Centre on this issue and Mamata must be forced to adopt strict subsidy curtailing policies before she gets any of the other states to bail her out.