Wednesday, December 31, 2008

9...with a 200 behind it...

9..with a 200 behind it..

That's how you tend to look at things when you are down 4 scotchs, 2 tequilas and 2 neat vokdas. But viewing 2009 in this intoxicated state got me thinking. Maybe it isn't such a weird perspective after all.

This morning I read A's blog just before i sat to "pen" this one down. One line quoted by her on her latest post I absolutely loved "We need to change our set of problems". Perfect! Problems persist. Solve them and move on.

Thats what every changing digit after the 200 signifies. The 200 represents problems that will ALWAYS persist. The units digit signifies the changing set of problems.

For everyone, 200-8 had its set of problems and setbacks. Leave them behind and ready yourself to face 200-9. And everything the 9 signifies. Happy New Year!:-)

P.S.: Considering my recent state of mind, this blog gives me a new year resolution i need to act on. Leave 200-8 behind me. And enjoy 200-9..:-)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Cosine Line....

We started of at one,
When I thought we could be one,
And just when i thought you were mine,
The cosine line started to decline.

The times just got rough,
And the line soon hit the trough,
I was lying down in the dump,
I was taken to be a chump.

Then came the time of the rise,
And strong became our ties,
I was convinced were an angel from above,
I knew I was in love.

Our love blossomed,
My life just seemed awesome,
I had stopped looking at all the rest,
The cosine line had just hit the crest.

All that goes up must come down,
Soon my smile turned to a frown,
As the distance between us increased,
I could feel your love for me start to cease.

You became secretive,
And the talk times lessened,
The decline continued,
As the cosine line lengthened.

Soon the calls stopped,
And so did the sweet nothings,
My significance in your life,
Had ground to a nothing.

For you, meeting me had become a formality,
The last month had brought me back to reality,
I had no idea what your problem was all about,
I turns out for you,
I was nothing but an insignificant lout.

So ended the 18 months of romance,
I had been given my chance,
I think i had done alright,
But obviously i wasn't too bright.

We separated cause you thought i was pushing,
And things we were into rushing,
I initially agreed to that line of thought,
Until 8 months later....

You tied the nuptial knot.

More convinced I couldn't be,
You were completely out of line,
The cosine line,
Had completed its final decline.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The "Nice Guy" Continuum

I was taught in Services Marketing about the Goods-Services continuum and how goods and services are intertwined as shown below.

Now this is not a marketing lesson. Just establishing a base for a concept that i think draws a perfect parallel to this.

We have all heard the term "Nice guys finish last" tons of times. Why do you think that is so? If our hindi movies are to be believed, Acchai ki burai par hamesha jeet hoti hai(Being nice always wins over being bad). But still nice guys do finish last right? Ive got reasons for that.

Now the picture above shows the "Nice Guy Continuum". Being nice and being bad involves a very thin line. The only similarity with both of them is that they are at the bottom of the heap in their respective classes.

The Nice guy always has a Nicer guy above him. And the both of them have the Nicest guy above them at the top of the pile. He is the one who gets all the spoils. The best job, the best girl, the best car, the best popularity rankings etc etc. Ofcourse, to climb up this contimuum requires certain peculiar qualities. Intelligence, humlity, respect of other humans are trivial virtues present only in the "Nice" guy. These hold no value. The "Nicest" guy has money, good looks, kick ass attitude, shark - eat - shark instinct, suave mannerisms, ability to handle inflated egos of pretty women, not too much of a conscience etc etc. To move up the continuum these qualities are absolutely necessary and are savagely sought after.

The "Nice" guy is always only nice enough to be a "friend". He always gets lines like.."You are a great friend" or "I respect you (only) as a friend". There is always an only hidden somewhere. Since he is at the bottom of the heap, friend is the only way he can go. Hence he also gets lines like "I dont look at you in that way" etc etc. The "Nice" guy is the one you say you are with when you dont want to get into trouble with your parents for being out late.... He is also the guy with whom the girl's boyfriend trusts her to go out for a cup of coffee with... The "Nice" guy is always "safe" to be with! The nice the guy is the one whom you know you can stand up and still be sure he wont mind or get mad. Hes also the guy who you know wont mind if you forget to invite him for a party. The fact is that he is the guy who is, as John Rambo (In First Blood II) put it, expendable. It doesnt really make a difference whether hes there or not.

Now the Bad guy is also the worse of the lot. He sucks at being bad. He is the one who always get caught, busted, made the fall guy etc etc. He cant even be good at being bad! The Baddest are the ones who are pure evil, but without getting caught. They are the best at being bad! Dawood, Osama - Bin - Laden, Carlos etc etc. Being bad just aint as good as being the Worse!

So as you can see, the Nice guy is actually the loser of the pack. The phrase "Nice guy" is actually an euphemism meant to make the "Nice" guys feel good about themselves.

I think i know where in I lie in that continuum. To be honest, I'd love to be at the top of the pile atleast once. But some of those "qualities" needed to move "up" in life i just dont have! And some i think iam better off without.

"Nice guys finish last".... Ofcourse they do..The are ALREADY last!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Something struck me the other day when I was heading out to do one of my bosses a favour... Here I was working for TCS, sitting in a car made by Tata Motors, wearing Fasttrack shades and a Titan watch, having just had a scrumptious omlette seasoned by Tata salt, heading to a man's house who also works for TCS to move his car which also turned out to be made by Tata Motors...

Being TOO loyal am I?:-P...Or as Paulo Cohelo very succinctly put it: Is the whole universe conspiring to make me loyal?

New Avenue

I have decided to start a blog on a different track as well.. The views of the people who matter...The Common Man..Do check it out..

Monday, October 27, 2008

Never Say Never Again

No..This is not a post about the early 80s Bond flick starring Sean Connery and Kim Bassinger(who looks GREAT btw)... This is about certain situations in my life where i had said.."NEVER!"

There have been many situations in my life where i had said "I am never going to to that".... Lets illustrate a few:

Ever since i was little, the fear of maths was deeply entrenched in my psyche. I used to always fare poorly in the subject once i got beyond 5th standard. Not that i fared very well in other, but maths was one of the worse. And as you can guess from this, i didnt do too well in my 10th standard maths papers either. That firmly confirmed my dislike for the subject. Now having taken admission for science stream, maths was pretty much part and parcel of the whole affair. I did HORRIBLY in 11th standard as well(in maths that is). The conviction deepened. I announced that i HATED maths and i would NEVER like it...EVER! In conjunction i also announced that i would NEVER do engineering..EVER!

Then came along a phase in my life which changed a lot of things in my life. My parents put me in a 12th standard maths tution(EVERYONE who was ANYONE went to NMK..I went to a vitually unknown entity at that time). But that turned out to be a masterstroke. My teacher slowly but surely got rid of my dislike for the subject and in the end i ended up scoring quite well in my boards. And got admission into engineering as well..And now i actually enjoy anything mathematical...

Never right? Well..Engineer forever now!:-)

Sticking with academics, after completing my engineering i had announced that i would NEVER do a post graduation. Would NEVER give the CAT. Well, 2 years hence i was studying for the CAT and 2 years further on i am a qualified MBA....

Never right? Well..Post graduate forever now!:-)

Now, in my family everyone is known for their hair...or rather the lack of it. Hence when i was little(r), i had always said i would NEVER grow my hair.. Well, i grew my hair..Grew them long.. And am now attempting that feat again...

Also, when i was college, these high end coffee places had just started out. CCD, Barista et all. I used to wonder back then why peopl paid 50 bucks for a coffee and i would NEVER spend that kinda money on a coffee when i can buy a whole packet of coffee for half that price. Well, now i gulp atleast 2 of those coffees down every week...

Never right? Well..Coffee lover forever now!:-)

When i was doing my engineering and after i started out working, my mother used to always be after me to get into IT..."They pay well" used to be her argument. I had announced then that i would NEVER be an IT professional and bang away on a keyboard in front computer for 8 hours a day...Well, look at me now. I AM banging away on a keyboard in front of a computer...Not for 8 hours though..For 10 hours a day...

Never right? Well..IT guy for a while atleast now!:-)

After all this, what is the moral of the story? Or stories in this case. Well, never close the door on any option in your life. You never know when you might be walking through that door. Into a better life!

Never say..."Never!" again...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You can't "bank" on these people....

It is uncanny how certain jarring experiences in my life make me restart writing my blog after a long sabbatical. I guess such experiences jolt me out of my slumber and make me want to get off my lazy bum and actually do something.

Now, me being part of a respectable organisation in India, have been provided with a salary account with ICICI bank. This account has numerous "special" benefits, unlimited use of interbank ATMs all across India being one of them. This, on the face of it, looks like a great benefit. But in reality, it turned out anything but that for me.
On that fateful day, 30/08/2008, I had stepped out to make a high value purchase for myself. After I was done buying the said item, the shopkeeper announced that I would be charged a 1.5% surcharge on purchase by a debit card. Now people of my caste are often said to be extremely "careful" with money.(Misers would be a better way to put it right?;-)) I am no different. In order to save that 1.5%, i ventured into the nearest ATM in order to withdraw the requisite amount in cash.

Now the ATM was a HDFC machine. Since I had the so called priviledge of free interbanking, I didn’t even think twice before entering my card in the machine. After punching in my code and the 5 digit amount required, I waited for quite a few uneasy seconds till the machine did its thing. In the end, all I got was a message on the screen saying "Sorry! Transaction timed out" I didn’t get any cash in my hand. Now, just on a hunch, I checked my balance, I checked my balance and it showed the said amount debited to my account even though I had received no cash in my hand. In horror, I rushed out and told the guard there that such an incident had occurred. He assured me saying that "Happens. It’s a machine. It will get reversed" With not much choice left, I left the ATM.

After arranging for cash to purchase the item I had selected, I rushed to my neighbourhood ICICI bank branch and told them what had transpired. Very cooly, I was told to call the customer care number as the branch was only meant for CASA (current account and savings account). No customer complaints could be handled there. They didnt even have authority to call the customer service from their own telephones!!!I huffed and puffed and called the said number. There my complaint was noted down and I was told very nicely that it would take 8 working days for me to get my money back. I thanked the guy, grunted and cut the call.
Couple of days later, on my mother's insistence, I read the various papers ICICI had given me after opening the account. There, in very small print, was written that the bank cannot be held responsible for any discrepancies involving interbanking transactions.

Which brings me to the question that do all these private banks provide customers with so called “priviledge” services only to shake their hands off any trouble that comes their way? Their system is designed in such a robust way that once a discrepancy occurs, the customer is completely at the bank’s mercy for getting his compliant resolved. That’s not what I was taught in marketing under CRM i.e. Customer Relationship Marketing. CRM looks to keep the customer delighted with the service and make sure he remains your customer. Well, I am on the verge of closing one of my accounts with ICICI. So their CRM has resulted in making me a disgruntled and visibly angry customer. Quite the opposite of what they set out to do.

Now what if someone was in dire need of money and the machine had acted the same way with him? What would that poor chap have done? Account would have no money and no money in hand as well. NO CRM in the world would have got him to do business with the said bank again! You simply cant' "bank" on any bank anymore is what I feel.

I feel, the more we shift towards machines, the more complex our lives and errors in them are going to become.
But as they say all is well that ends well. I got my money back after about 8 days. But the moral of the story remains; I shall never use my card for an interbank transaction again. And the best part is, I wrote this entire blog on the very item I had stepped out to purchase when this whole rigmarole happened. My spanking new Nokia E71. But then that, is a subject of another post….

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One flew out of a "Cocooned" nest...

All through my life, in junior college, during engineering, during work and during my MBA I have interacted with numerous people and have made some great friends in the process. Out of all those people there have been many who had come from different parts of the country to my hometown to study/work/straggle/struggle etc etc. And I have always wondered and been amazed at how well people cope up with and adjust to being away from home. I have always admired that!

I stand at a point in my life when I need to move out of my sheltered, cozy, protected life and face a world alien and unknown to me. I have never lived away from home for any extended period of time and that idea, while not scary, is still a little hard to imagine for me. But, that situations has dawned upon me now. And there is no way out this time!:-)

Me being a complete mamma's boy will find it hard to adjust to not having her around. Home cooked food, a washing machine to wash clothes, friends to talk to, family for support, broadband internet, a computer to fall back on, TV and most of all...a comfort zone is what I'll have to do without!

But I think flying out of this cocooned nest WILL open my mind to different horizons and maybe change my "duck in the pond" outlook.

To end this blog I would like to say.."We may sleep in a thousand golden beds, but the one at home, even if it is of straw, is the one where you can sleep the calmest"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"First Mover Advantage"...Really?

As I have mentioned in one of my previous blogs, I am a student of Marketing and tend to think about most things through that perspective. We have a concept in Marketing Strategy called a First Mover Advantage. Before going on to the core subject of this blog, let me elaborate a bit on this concept.

In marketing strategy, a First Mover Advantage is when an organisation is the first to introduce a product in a market. It has relatively no competition(other than a few substitutes) and can enjoy good return on investment for some time by keeping prices high. The also get and advantage in a sense that they build up brand awareness and brand loyalty by the time some significant competition arrives.

Now this marketing analogy is what I would like to use to ponder on something in our normal lives. In the dynamic world of dating(much like the dynamic business enviornment today), everything is "globalised". The world has definitely become flat(no pun intended). Traditionalists(mainly women) would argue that it is always the man who should make the first move. Ask for the phone number, ask for a date, hold hands, kiss etc etc. Now on the face of it, if the same marketing stragey scenario is recreated in this situation, the man should have the traditional First Mover Advantage right? In my opinion...Not quite!

The first move is associated with various pitfalls and brickbats. Rejection(prime problem), loss of "friendship", awkwardness while meeting post the "ask out" etc etc. The only advantage is, you GET a date. Ever ask a girl out and shes not sure(girls seem perpetually unsure and confused nowadays), she will withdraw or on the extreme, freak out(grow up...Your not 13 anymore!!) But she will leave you dangling, wont say no..wont agree. I guess its a way of wielding proxy power over a person. And i am writing this from a male perspective. Hence the reference of girls. Iam sure there are a LOT of guys out there who act in the same way. Since Iam not gay and havent ever asked a guy out, I cant comment on that.:-)

Me, being a simple soul, dont understand the point of all these games. You dont want to go out, say no. If you want to, say yes. How difficult is that?? The guy, by asking the girl out, has compromised his position and is most likely to lose out. So where is the First Mover Advantage?

To end this blog, heres an insight to a lot of people out there...Guys like girls to make the first move sometimes. Try it......

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bravo Dr. Singh!

The economist in our beloved PM has finally spoken..And acted too!! The Prime Minister's Office recently issued a circular to all cabinet ministers to cut down on expencses..Especially on fuel for official cars! The PMO also refused to approve Mani Shankar Iyer's recent trip abroad terming it as un-necessary. Dr. Singh has himself has reduced the size of his entourage for his foriegn visit next week. I think the PM should be commended for this step and for leading by example. Something all his ministers should follow. Bravo Dr. Singh!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Blog Clog?

Writing blogs is suddenly the "IN" thing nowadays. Anyone who is anyone is writing something or the other. Which is good! The more people learn to express themselves the better for them. But along with this has come the resident evil of Media Attention. People filing defamation cases against each other and all kinds of scrutiny and regulation being proposed for bloggers.

A year back, the Indian government had restricted access to several blog hosting sites in India due to alleged sensitive information realated to terrorist propaganda being displayed on certain blogs. This, in my opinion, IS a genuine concern. But lets get it into perspective. How many people do you think can a blog sensitise? Is the reach of this medium of communication as powerful as say mainstream media? Our mainstream media in itself is not the best regulated in content. So how can we control content on blogs? Is self regulation the answer? In my opinion not completely because this is a medium controlled by polarised individuals and not a collective entity.

Celebrity blogs have also suddenly become a hot topic of discussion for everyone. What did Aamir Khan say about SRK or what did Big B say about someone else being a dog is what hogs news limelight. To be very blunt and frank, WHO THE HELL CARES!!! Why do we give such stupid controversies so much credence? They can call each other by any names that they want. How does it affect you and me? Celebrities use blogs to take pot shots at one another and also as a fundamental right to express their opinion. Which is fair enough. I stiil dont get what all the hullabaloo is about.

Being a student of Marketing, I tend to look at everything from that perspective. Blogs are the new medium of marketing communication being used by many oganisations to promote their products/services at cost which are a fraction of mainstream media. The blogs with the most hits gets the most advertisements. This earns the host blogger a certain amount of money from these companies. Thus it is but natural for him/her to creat good/bad publicity of his/her blog in order to get more hits and thus more revenue. Simple economics right?

Blogs, in my opinion, should be used as a medium for people to express themselves freely. Some things which cannot be said/discussed in person are easier to write. This activity in itself can be very liberating. I have done it myself and can vouch for it So lets treat blogs for what they are...Online versions of what most people call a "Personal Diary"...Maybe we will soon get a movie called "Bridget Jones' Blog"...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

(C)rude Shock!!!

Its Out...Finally!....After weeks of deliberation and pussyfooting around, the Ministry of Finance and the Petroleum Ministry have got together and reached a consensus on the fuel price hike. The announcements today include:

Hike in Petrol - Rs. 5/ Litre

Hike in Diesel - Rs. 3/ Litre

Hike in LPG - Rs. 50/ cylinder

NO Hike in Kerosene

Customs Duty on Crude - Down to 0% from 5% (Ad Valorem)

Customs Duty on Petrol and Diesel - Down to 2.5% from 7.5%

Customs Duty on Other petroleum products(including ATF) - Down to 5% from 10%

So after doing all these permutations and combinations, balancing everyone's interests and keeping their own face, the government has anounced this move. Predictably, politically, they are being stoned. BJP calls it "Economic Terrorism" and CPM cals it Unacceptable. But the fact of the matter is that the so called aam aadmi seems to think that the government is walking a tight rope. World Crude oil prices have gone up by 100% in teh past one year and it is NOT possibe for the government to insulate the final consumer from this. Which is fair enough. I couldnt agree more. But this is where my agreement with this situation ends.

For every litre of petrol/diesel sold, the government gets 50% in the form of some or the other tax/duty. That means in Pune, against every litre of petrol sold, the government gets Rs. 25(before the hike) in their kitty. Thus for every increase, half of that is going to back to the exchequer anyways. Highway robbery?

Also, why should the oil marketing companies be profit oriented units? Why should they be listed on the stock exchange and their performance be monitored? Petrol/Diesel is the one of those rare commodities whose demand is inelastic..It doesnt follow the standard demand curve. So whatever the enviornmental factors, the market for these oil companies (PSUs) is going to to remain static at the least. But looking at the data of the number of vehicles being put out on the road every year, there is only one way the demand is going..UP!! So they have no performance pressures. They are bound to attain a Year on Year growth and sustain themselves.

If you want to treat these companies like any other company, then there should be no sops handed out to them. If they are running losses, they have to look at ways in means to resurrect themselves. And iam sure they can. Otherwise, delist these companies off the stock exchange, make them into non profit organisations and then see the difference.

Reducing the amoount the government gets from the sale of these products will ensure that everyone(except the fat cats in the government) are happy. The oil companies get a just price and so does the consumer. But then how will each MP go on a foriegn trip each year? No sir..The taxes stay!

The Prime Minister today felt the need to address the nation regarding the fuel price hike. Seeing that address made me feel like I was sitting for a infomercial of the UPA government. The honourable PM went on rambling about all the successful missions/programs that this government has put out in its tenure. This was like trying to soften the public up before he dealt the blow of the fuel price hike. Also, he appealled to the public to "co-operate" with the government and reduce our consumption of fuel. Well Dr. Singh, I think giving two bit MLAs a convoy of 15 cars is THE way of conserving fuel. Bravo!!

To conclude, as i mentioned in my previous blog, the classical economic equation is not being followed by our great economists. The government is increasing expenditure and then looking for ways to generate additional income. Doesnt the quation work in reverse? Ateast, thats what i was taught..Pity, theory never gets applied in practice!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Inflated" Worries?

"Oil Nymex USD 135 per barrel"

"Inflation touches 8% for week ended May 10"

"Prices of essentials like Edible Oil, Pulses, vegetables rise by 30%-60%"

These are the kind of headlines that we have been seeing for the past few weeks in the papers, on TV news channels and in panel discussions throughout India. The world is witnessing a slowdown and India is no exception. Increased supply pressures are pushing up costs and companies are finding it difficult to sustain in a price sensitive global market.

India, and the world, is witnessing a recession to a certain degree. This has mainly been fuelled by the sub-prime crisis in the USA. As they say, when the US sneezes, the world catches a cold. Well, India has caught this cold to a certain extent and is running around for a tissue to wipe its running nose!

The sub-prime crisis took force in the USA in the early part of August 2007. At that point, it freed up a lot of liquidity in the foreign market as people did not want to invest in USA and turned to emerging markets like India. This in turn brought in a lot of money through FDIs and FIIs. As a result, the stock market sky rocketed to 21000 and the USD weakened against the Rupee to a low of 1 USD = INR 39.30. On the face of it, all looked hunky dory. But on the face of "IT", the story was far from hunky dory. The IT companies were crying bloody murder due to the losses they were sustaining due to the weakening of the USD and the biggies like TCS resorted to hedging to consolidate their position. Several smaller players found it extremely difficult to compete.

Post January 2008, everything changed. The stock market plunged to a low of 14000 in a space of 30 days and several investors were wiped out. Especially those who banked on the Reliance Power stock to make a quick buck. The banking sector lost significant ground along with IT and other sectors and the market is still trying to recover from this setback.

The country is now gripped in a situation of industrial growth slowdown and extreme levels of inflation which stands at 8% as per the latest revised numbers. Let us look at this scenario. Keeping your money in a Fixed Deposit will yield u a maximum return of 9.5% per year, which JUST about covers inflation. Scary??.See the next one. At the current rate, you are losing money by keeping it in a savings bank account. The interest rate is 3.5% and inflation is 8%. Consequently, your money loses 4.5% of its value every year! This is forcing people to look for higher payout option like Mutual Funds and the equity market which yield average returns of 25% per year. But have a greater risk associated with them.

The government recently adopted several measures to control the rising inflation. Banning cement exports, steel exports being some of them. But the most ludicrous of measures was increasing the CRR rate of banks, thus making borrowing more expensive. Now this method is adopted to control demand driven inflation. The rise in lending rate reduces demand for borrowed funds and thus reduces the market demand over a period of 2 years, consequently curbing inflation. However, the inflation in India right now is pretty much supply driven. Deficient production, hoarding by wholesalers and retailers, rampant corruption etc are the causes. Not high demand!

There is NO magic pill to curb inflation. There just isn't. But there are way and means by which it can be controlled. Reducing government expenditure is one way. No you would ask me what does that have to do with inflation? Let me explain.

Income = Expenditure + Saving

Reducing expenditure frees a larger component of Income for saving/investment purposes and there is no need to raise direct and indirect taxes, thereby reducing inflation and keeping the sentiment positive.

I would like to end this blog by the following line:

"Inflation may or may not sink this country. But politicians will definitely will!"