Archive for the ‘View’ Category

Review – www.WishesnGifts.com

Disclosure: www.WishesnGifts.com is a start-up aimed at customers who want to send gifts from any International location to India (specifically, Hyderabad and Secunderabad for now). The review of this website/startup in this blog is purely objective, although the startup is owned by one of my friends (along with another friend of his). As usual, no bias included in the review. I would urge you to use this website and send feedback to the promoter/owner or me (I will pass on the feedback to my friend).

WishesnGifts.com was an idea long time in the making. My friend told me about this idea more than a year ago, and it came to fruition just last week. As I stated before, this website is aimed at customers currently based out of International locations to send gifts back home to India (specifically, Hyderabad and Secunderabad for now…gradually ramping up to other parts of India too). Gifts range from cakes, flowers, gift cards to very interesting stuff like a family movie outing and karate classes.

Here are the list of Pro’s and Con’s of the website.

Pro’s:

1) Very clean interface: The usual shopping websites are cluttered with advertisements trying to force-sell me different products. Personally, and probably universally, people are attracted by pull-selling rather than push-selling. This website has a refreshing look, various gifts neatly into categories and a very pleasant header.

2) Prices: This is easily, one of the very unique propositions of the website – the gifts’ prices being lower than the usual shopping websites. Generic products such as Cakes and Flowers do not have much difference (given economies of scale, I guess this should come down) while other unique products like the ‘kuch hath ke’ category products are much cheaper.

3) ‘Kuch Hath Ke’: This category was what intrigued me the most in the entire website. ‘Movie ka Funday’ (gifting your loved ones a family outing to a movie), ‘Nunchuk classes’ (gifting someone to learn karate) are easily a standout. Talking to one of the promoters the other day, he mentioned that ‘Salsa classes’, ‘Rock climbing training’, ‘Dine, shop and back home’, ‘Kids package’ are to come very soon. Easily a significant value proposition.

Con’s:

1) Commodity business: Unfortunately, shopping online has become a commodity business. This essentially means that the barriers of entry are very low, and replication of this website’s products is very easy. Price will become the differentiating factor, unless the service of delivery is extremely superior. Similar competitors use tactics such as ‘taking a pic with the gift’ for enhancing service delivery. It would be interesting to see what the promoters would come up with in this space.

2) Google search: I could not answer one question ‘Why should I shop at this website rather than any competitors website?’ In fact, the question of ‘what is this website all about?’ has not been answered anywhere on the website (probably, the promoters thought this was a no-brainer!). The second question is easy to fix on the header of the webpage, but answering the first question needs a lot of brain-storming. What’s more, I don’t think the website has been optimized for Google adwords nor does it come up in the first 10 search results for queries like ‘gifts to hyderabad’, ‘gifts to secunderabad’ (supposedly, the selling points) etc. I don’t know the extent to which the promoters have marketed this website, but online presence in Twitter, Facebook, Shopping forums is easily a must. Whipping up a frenzy in the online world is slightly difficult, but the efforts are worth it.

3) Look and feel – The last and the final grouse. I agree that it is a very clean interface, cutting out all the clutter that makes me rush out of any website. But the choice of colors and some text is appalling. ‘About us’ and ‘How to order’ in Pink??!! C’mon guys, you can do better than that.  These two, along with the FAQ section are easily the most visited tabs in case of a startup. I am sure, such deviant differentiation is worth avoiding. Please do revamp the FAQ section – answering 3 questions (with bad formatting) will not serve any purpose – in fact, it may drive away customers. Registration, Ordering, Deliver, Payments and Disputes are atleast 5 categories that come to my mind immediately. Testimonials section easily needs a revamp (I hope you avoid pink there too!).

Debatable:

1) Registration required: I was slightly taken back as to why Registration was required for me to order gifts. This point is debatable – the historic argument between customer stickiness versus easy ordering. I would leave it to the promoters’ decision as to what the vision of their business would be.

I am sure, with time, all these Con’s would be taken care of, more and better product lines would be up for gifting loved ones and the service delivery would be impeccable.

As a friend (and not a reviewer only for this line), I wish him all success in his endeavor. I will probably do another review say, 6 months down the line to comment on the progression the website and service delivery have made. Till then, all the best.

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What has India done and What should India do!

1) It is strange that each one of us would be willing to be involved in some form of cathartic activity to demonstrate our opposition to terrorism. We suddenly had a spurt in the number of ‘I hate terrorism’ communities/groups on different social networks like Orkut and Facebook. It was as if we suddenly woke up to the fact that terrorists were scheming right across the border only from yesterday. Another form of highly visible but least efficient way of opposing terrorism is to hold candle rallies and signature campaigns. As far as I can remember, none of the above activities proved to be even as effective as a squirrel’s ass to prevent terrorism or for our politicians to make ‘Anti-terrorism’ a part of their party agenda.

2) Another extreme form of cathartic activity seems to be heavily arguing for bombing the hell out of Pakistan – smug with the feeling of ‘we are bigger and stronger than them and hence we’ll win’. There is no doubt that we would win but at what cost. The US might be willing to attack and bomb countries which are thousands of miles away from its soil. There is little cost in terms of human lives/development except for outrageous outflow of money. Would the US attack with same fervor, say Russia which is across the Alaskan border? Forget the fervor, would it even attempt to attack at all, say even with snow dinghies? Talking about winning is one thing, getting atleast 3 or 4 of our major cities bombed is another. The cost of human lives and to the corresponding development would be enormous.

3) My friend asked me a question the other day ‘Has India as a whole gone so aloof – why did some states let Congress win inspite of their non-performance and incompetence to tackle terrorism?’. Performance has never been a hallmark of any political party since our Independence. In fact, I would go so far to say that we have had this tremendous economic development, not because of the government but inspite of it. Secondly, looking back at history, India has always been a conglomeration of princely states. We never were one single country except under the aegis of Asoka and Akbar. Expecting the rest of India to be tuned and sensitive to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai is a far call. The rest of India might in turn ask difficult questions like ‘What are you doing about the Naxalite movement in Chattisgarh?’, ‘What are you doing about the ULFA in Assam and NE states?’, ‘What are you doing about the Gujarat riots?’. There is no one right answer to any of these questions. Finally, politics in India is and probably never will be based on one single issue (or any issue for that matter). Identity politics is rampant – and I particularly don’t see any immediate solution to move away from votes based on caste, creed and religion. Congress has won/BJP has won in those states purely based on anti-incumbency and not on any particular issue.

4) So, what can we do to prevent terrorism? Again, there is no one answer – rather the approach should be multi-pronged. The biggest and the greatest weapon we have is our education and favorable demographics – in other words, our economy. We need to get stronger and stronger in our economy, through entrepreneurship, investments and growth in general. It is an open secret that politics in the global world is nothing but managing the imbalances in economies. Given that state, we need to improve our economy multi-fold. Another approach would be to cripple Pakistan’s economy through tough economic measures (cutting off trade, holding off on bilateral talks etc) and probably getting it declared as a terrorist state. The present government is taking the right steps in that direction. This approach however, is fraught with risks as a unstable Pakistan with a crippling economy is a disaster to India (excessive immigration, legal or otherwise, more people resorting to terrorism due to hunger etc.) It is indeed a fine line between the two approaches – the question really is, do we have the leaders to lead us through the fine line? Honestly, I don’t know the answer.

Mumbai Terror Attack – Opinions galore!

1. Our dear President, Her Excellency Pratibha Patil Thursday strongly condemned the deadly terror attacks in Mumbai and asked people to maintain calm and cooperate with authorities. Why, even Shivraj Patil strongly condemned the terror attacks and let us know the all-important information that the terrorists chose a time and place where they could cause maximum damage to human life and property.

I salute both of them. Firstly, I thought terrorists create terror only in deserted lands and on the Moon. Secondly, Lashkar, Pakistan and the ISI would be frantically discussing among themselves as to how to deal with this strong condemnation, leading to eternal damnation.

2. Our beloved PM, Sri Sri Sri Un+Man+mohan Singh declared in his rabble-rousing, deeply inspiring that would have put the terrorists inside the Taj to sleep “The well-planned and well-orchestrated attacks, probably with external linkages, were intended to create a sense of panic, by choosing high profile targets and indiscriminately killing foreigners”. That was very insightful, wasn’t it? I mean ‘high profile targets’ (who would care about the common folk), ‘indiscriminately killing foreigners’ (I think you should teach them the ‘Theory of Discrimination’ from your Economics 101).

3. And then, R R Patil comes in and says “small incidents like this do happen in big cities”. Well, firstly, Karan Johar should sue him for stealing his line (bade bade sheroh mein aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hai). Secondly, the NSG should have shot him and called it ‘terrorist fire’…no, wait. That would have resulted in Bharat Ratna for R R Patil. They should have just shot him and said ‘Oops!!’

4. I wonder where the Thackerays were in all this drama. I mean, this was their moment to sweep the polls. Hold a rally near the Taj and call the terrorists ‘Marathi Manoos’, which would have probably scared them away (calling the NSG commandos Marathi Manooses would have resulted in ‘Oops!!’ again). Raj, Udhav and the Big Bal (no pun intended) didn’t even come out with as much as a courageous statement as our ‘respected’ President like ‘strongly condemning the attacks’. I wonder why?!

5. The media was sharp, wasn’t it? I mean, 24×7 updates for 3 days. TRP ratings of all news channels would have gone through the roof. I think these guys would pay the terrorists to perform such activities once in a while – you know, just to push up TRP ratings and bring you ‘exclusive coverage’ from all 234 news channels. Then there was Barkha Dutt – flailing her arms more than a circus clown telling the whole world about her fantastic investigation skills which included how many NSG commandos had come in, where were they taking their positions etc. The terrorists wouldn’t dare watch the television, right? And then, there was our man of the moment, Rajdeep Sardesai asking some of the rescued hostages questions like ‘did you in your wildest dreams think you would face a terrorist?’ and ‘will you ever forget this experience, how does it feel?’. Well, insightful questions demand deeply philosophical answers. The answer to both the questions is ‘eff you’ (and show him the middle finger of both hands please!, just for clarity purposes).

6. The worst of the lot were the NSG commandos and the police. I mean what were they doing – they were  doing their mundane job of rescuing hostages and killing those terrorists without any gas masks, nor night-vision goggles nor proper intelligence, which somehow, somehow in all the political melee and fund distribution, the politicians forgot to buy. Heard of a term called ‘shopping disaster’. Could you guys be more moronic?

Now, for some straight talk.

Politicians – You either deliver on some measures or don’t give us trash talk. Tell the citizens that you are not capable of doing it. We will try out another bunch of jokers who we think they can.

Media – Ethics and Morality are out of the window for you guys, for no fault of yours really. I mean, with numerous 24×7 channels, some time back, you sensationalized two monkeys getting married in a remote village of Bihar. This attack was ‘your moment’.  The only way, I think is for the Government to draft some policy to limit the coverage in case of such events. Please, for god’s sake, don’t then cry for ‘Freedom of Press’.

NSG and Police – The nation salutes you for your brave and fantastic efforts. We only heard of the brave deeds you guys do in Kashmir and other insurgent places. Last week, we watched them live. There is nothing we can give that would justify your supreme sacrifice. I hope you guys do get gas masks and night-vision goggles to kick ass – in a better fashion and without loss of lives on our side.

Terrorists – Get the eff out of my country and keep off my favorite city. We will not break come what may. You guys can go to hell where there are 72 aliens looking to rape you guys in the worst way possible.

My earlier post when similar terrorist activity occurred in Hyderabad and Jaipur – little more analytical.

Getting fired and the US financial crisis!

Last week, one of my colleague got fired. He got fired due to non-performance rather than the huge financial turmoil that has been happening lately in the US. He was a very good friend of mine and we spent a lot of time talking about soccer (he was from Europe) and in general were on very good terms professionally too. He came down early in the morning, like he usually does but was promptly walked out of the door by his manager. It was a shock to him, as it was for everyone else, including me. This was the first time I saw anyone getting fired, and it shook me for that day. I called up one of my good friends and my conversation went on the lines of ‘I might not see him ever again, he is as good as, if not exactly, dead to me’ – not exactly sentimental or sympathetic but close to it but that was that. Life continued on the same enthusiastic tone from next day onwards.

Over the last week, however, hundreds have been fired. Over the next 6 months or so, many more will be. Lehmann, AIG, Washington Mutual, Wachovia – its almost like the who’s who of US financial services. Quite a few of my friends work in many of these companies and many of them and their colleagues have got fired. Other than the usual friend bonding-sympathy, I felt no particular remorse that these giants were going down nor that people in these companies were getting fired. Was it the feeling that these companies deserved to be punished that made me feel non-remorseful/not shocking? Maybe so. But there was another reason.

I believe in Capitalism (more libertarian than capitalist, but for simplicity purposes, let’s stick to capitalism). Whether I like the Darwinian capitalism of the West, state-sponsored capitalism of Europe or the neo-Confucian capitalism of the East is anybody’s guess. Capitalism drives efficiency, promotes markets, promotes level-playing field and in general, is an accepted form of generating value for a long time, for the greatest number of people.

I think that’s the precise reason why the United States is the hotbed of capitalism, entrepreneurship, innovation and in general, the destination market for almost every company in the world. Resources get allocated to the highest bidder or the brightest idea. Money is not a consideration as long as your idea can work, or you have the right skill sets. Markets (and by extension, Wisdom of the Crowds) determine whether you/your idea are successful or not. Markets determine your profits and in an ideal, capitalistic society, Markets should indeed determine your losses.

The last point precisely pissed me off during the last week. Failure of the basic tenet of capitalism. All the who’s who of US financial service companies made truckloads of money over the past few years, over seemingly intricate financial products, only understood by a few. These companies were champions of the market, proclaiming how good the Wisdom of the Crowds was. However, when it was time to recoup the losses, they criticized the market for short-selling (which simply means that the market has lost confidence in these companies and hence will eventually lead to a downturn in their share prices) and shamelessly begged the Government to bail them out. And, the stupid Government did.

Communism is another concept, wherein the resources are taken from the rich and are given to the poor, thereby creating a sense of equality. What has happened in the US over the last week, is Reverse Communism – taking from the poor (in the form of taxes which inevitably have to be raised over the next few years, in the form of less development due to resources deployed to bail these companies out, increased cost of borrowing due to a screwed up financial economy etc etc). Heard of double standards? Capitalism on the way up and Reverse Communism on the way down – thereby making hay whether the sun shines or not. Well, I would love to be on such a party, if I was not paying for it. But, the tragic part is, that I will – atleast in the form of increased taxes. When the shit hit the fan in Wallstreet, all the walls in US homes got colored.

It is not the huge profits that these companies raked that pissed me off, it is not that the Government has bailed them out that has pissed me off, but the very concept of privatizing wealth and socializing debt is what that has made me angry, frustrated and when I hear such things as AIG getting sold at $1.5 a share and Lehmann close to zero, I experience immense schadenfreude – and if that makes me a sadist – so I am.

P.S – On my other blog Framework for Increased Profits – An Understanding

An ‘Indian’ Outlook to the Olympics gone by

Spectacular closing ceremony. Stunning peek into London Olympics 2012. And, of course, Impressive display by the Indians.

If I were a statistician, I would say that after a period of almost zero growth for about 20 years in Olympics, India has had a 200% spurt in Olympics tally (1 medal status since 1988 and 3 medals in Olympics 2008 ) – an indication of a nation growing not only in its economic strength but also in Sports.

Only if statistics were true and would serve some direction – if ever they were.

– I can understand that countries like US, China, Russia and Great Britain can win the most number of medals, simply because of superior infrastructure and being either authoritarian rules or private enterprises.

– What I don’t understand is countries like Estonia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan winning more medals than India? Surely, their infrastructure could not be superior to us. Surely, we did not have to content with 5000% inflation and worry about where the next morsel is coming from. And surely, they do not have a 1 billion population and a growing economy like us. Then, why or how could they win more medals than India – rather, how have they been consistently winning more medals than India?

I am not discounting the players of Estonia, Ethiopia etc., in fact, I admire them that inspite of challenging odds, they strived towards perfection in their art and succeeded in it. What I am sad about, is the fact that the situation may not change for the better in 2012 or even the 2016 Olympics even after a wonderful performance by Indian players in this Olympics.

I heard people prophesizing that improved infrastructure, no politics and genuine meritocracy would lead to more Olympic medals. I also heard people saying that most sportsmen are on lookout for those Government jobs that our beloved democracy hands out rather than winning Olympics. What’s more, I also heard that it is sad that in a nation of 1 billion people, we have only a few Olympians and hence the derivation that more people should start participating in Olympics.

Well, there is talking the talk and then, there is walking the talk. I often wonder if people would want to ponder a question – ‘Would I send and encourage my son/daughter/brother into playing sports professionally?’ That one question is powerful enough to gauge whether you truly believe in something you say/talk. We are masters at talking about how the government should be run, but does anyone want to participate in Elections? Similarly I guess, in the nature of continuity that we are now so adept at, we are masters at talking about the direction that sports should take in India, without really wanting to get into the dirty secrets of it.

However, I would go even further – that question of self-inquiry has deeper ramifications:

1) We are a country with a huge middle-class. Being in middle-class implies staying within limits, not taking risks, every month’s salary being of prime importance and all such. Most other countries that I mentioned previously like Estonia, Ethiopia etc has a huge poor class. The only way out for them is to win – and win big to secure their future. It is the medal or abject poverty – thereby driving them harder. In the US and other developed countries, there is money in sport. For the huge middle-class in India, sport is not an option – no money, no security and hence no encouragement from the family.

2) Second, and more importantly, simply put, there is no pride in being in sports. Unless, somehow anyone reaches the pinnacle in sports, like V. Anand, or A. Bindra – there is literally no other big name that pops up in mind (S.Mirza, of course, for reasons other than sport). There is a certain pride associated with a job (however monotonous), pride associated with a business (small or big) (however risky) but no pride associated with sports. That kills most of the young sports enthusiasts – our future sportsmen who migrate to jobs or business.

A plea to the Government – please don’t throw money at sports. Throwing money has never solved problems and never will. In case of Sports, increase visibility, increase pride associated with it, improve economic prosperity and then – an entire ecosystem around these themes will come up automatically- playgrounds, stadiums, schools, competitions, coaching, etc. – which will win us more Olympic medals and thereby make the dream of every statistician come true – wherein he would see the result fit into his/her conclusions rather than the usual other way round.

Olympics = Close to Perfection?

I have always wondered what ‘Perfection’ looked like – rather, is there anyone in the world doing the perfect thing or is there a perfect person? As a child, I had always been taught a maxim, which I have held dear over the course of many years –

Perfection is the Goal;

Nature tolerates Excellence.

Over the years, I have come to believe the adage to be true – we are really built to become perfect beings, but never are due to a variety of reasons – laziness being the prime among them. Not having any perfect role model/never seeing anything perfect might also have been one of the reasons. Achieving a level of maturity to understand what is ‘perfect’ is also one of the reasons. This Olympics, for whatever reason, has taught me what ‘perfect’ is meant to be.

Olympics is unique among sports events. It is a sporting extravaganza. For 15 days, the eyes of the world would be on who’s who of sports. Make no mistake, each and everyone participating in the Olympic events are the best their countries could come up with. All the players would have practiced for years together to showcase their talent in this particular event – an event through which they would be known forever. The kind of pressure and media-hype the players have to go through and yet perform to the best they can is what makes these Olympic events even more special. The winners of these events even more so.

As I watched Michael ‘The Phenom’ Phelps race towards his 8th gold medal in a single Olympics, Usain ‘Thunder’ Bolt thunder across the 100m race to break the world record, Shaun ‘Magical’ Johnson providing the perfect momentum for the US gymnastics team with her graceful, yet stupendous performance and many many more reach medal after medal, I understood that this was being as close to perfect as it can get in Sports.

Rules of Nature are simple, aren’t they? Hardwork and dedication (along with the oldest saying I ever heard ‘Practice makes man Perfect’) is all it takes to be ‘perfect’ in almost any discipline. And yet, it is so very surprising that we are content with just above average (which means, more or less ‘mediocrity’) to spend all our lives. Yet, these sportsmen battle it out, day after day, year after year for the greatest glory in Sports – to participate in the Olympics, and win a medal for themselves (and their countries). What drives them? Is it the money, is it fame? Would you or I want to exchange the best part of our lives (most Olympians are below the age of 30 and on average, would have practiced in that particular discipline for atleast 10-15 years) for money and fame – which again, is only based on winning a medal and not just participating? I think not. What is the probability of winning – 1 in a billion atleast; and what happens if you don’t win the medal after all that effort? You are treated as a loser (atleast in India), someone who could not perform at the highest level and thereby bringing down country’s name (whatever that means!). Yet, the same players pick themselves up and brace for another day, another competition and another event. Hardwork, practice, dedication – again and again and again.

That spirit, my dear friends, makes them perfect – and to all the players who have made it to the Olympics – I salute you!

P.S: There was an advertisement that was telecast a few years back in India – it went something like ‘Do you know the value of 0.1 sec? Ask an Olympian who won the silver and hence lost gold’. After the 100m butterfly event involving Phelps in Olympics 2008, I think it should be changed to ‘Do you know the value of 0.001 sec? Ask Milorad Cavic who won the silver, and hence lost Gold to Phelps!!’ 0.001 sec? 0.001 sec? Surely gotta be kidding, right? 🙂

Save the Planet – Eff you guys!

There, I said it – All you guys who claim/market to ‘Save the Planet’ – you can go eff yourselves (Eff (read it as a single letter ‘f’), of course, certainly doesn’t mean Fraternity, but means a four letter word whose usage would block my blog at the workplace!)

Isn’t it fashionable nowadays to be a part of this ridiculous movement called ‘Save the Planet’ or some such? Everyone wants to save something – Save the Trees, Save the Tigers, Save the Polar bears, Save the Icecaps. Everyone wants to be a part of this green movement which seemingly will save the planet. To tell you the truth, I have never ever, ever seen such self-importance, self-conceit and self-righteousness in any issue till date except for this jazz of ‘Save the Planet’.

Let’s look at certain facts which will ascertain whether we can claim to ‘Save ‘something” – The planet has been here for the past 4 billion years, humans have been part of it for maybe 50,000 years, if not 100,000. We have had Industrial revolution and all this pollution for about 100, maybe 150 years. The Planet has gone through more trouble than our greatest fear of increased greenhouse effect – hundreds of volcanoes spewing ash in the air, earthquakes, floods, comet and asteroid hits, plate tectonics, magnetic flares from the sun, pole reversals – and we have the guts (and the balls, unfortunately!) to even talk about ‘Saving the Planet’ from us, human beings. A passing species, in the entire timeline of the planet. More than 95% of the species that existed on this planet are non-existent today, they just disappeared. Did we kill them all? Why don’t we understand that it is a Nature that decides which species lives and which doesn’t. Are you guys telling me that we should interfere with Nature, a concept which we can’t even comprehend in an abstract fashion, let alone understand it. The planet is fine, perfectly fine – the people are effed.

Let’s not talk about ‘Save the Planet’ – let’s just talk for what it is – we are currently peeing in our pants that our species might get eliminated, the all-knowing, self-important, arrogant species like us, in the near future and we don’t want it to happen. You know, the changing Nature thing. Then, let’s just effing call it ‘Saving our asses’ (let’s be parliamentary and call it ‘Save your future generations’ or ‘Save the Humanbeing species’ or some such – the green marketing folks can certainly come up with a better catchy phrase than me!) That would be better and more self-directed. Let’s save ourselves rather than talking all this mumbo-jumbo about saving the planet. Most people on the planet, including the poor and uneducated will understand this concept rather than the theoretical ‘Save the planet’ concept, where they don’t understand what the eff is all the fuzz about.

[Kindly do not give me the explanation of “‘Save the Planet’ is an abstract concept, it’s a metaphor – in fact, we meant saving ourselves”. What the eff are you talking about, eh? I mean, do you think the majority of the population gives a damn or has time to think about abstract concepts and metaphors? Majority are still trying to come to terms with their abstract lives, do you think they would give a shit about other abstract concepts which they don’t understand?]

That brings us to the actual situation – saving ourselves. Certainly, this clear concept throws up difficulties which we humans almost always fail to handle. The concept of ‘Saving ourselves’ has given rise to NIMBY concept – NIMBY is short form for ‘Not in my Backyard’. For example, Kyoto Protocol – a noble agreement where all the nations in the world agree to certain emission standards has not been signed since its inception in 1994. We have actually been negotiating over an agreement for 14 years while the world was emitting more and more greenhouse gases. The developed world wants the developing world to conform to the standards while they themselves wouldn’t want to get binded by ‘harsh’ emission limits. Why talk about governments, let’s talk about us. Isn’t it fashionable to talk about not using plastics and aluminium cans (non bio-degradable stuff seemingly) and yet use it almost every day in retail stores? [Don’t talk about, do we have a choice? Oh yes, we can buy paper or cloth bags you know. But guess what, those cost more and hence, what the hell, let me continue with plastic bags attitude] Or drink cold drinks from aluminium cans by the dozen? Why hasn’t all this green-stuff been made an electoral mandate, atleast in India? Simply because, beyond our mean, self-centered, petty lives, we could care less about others. The same is true for majority of the people from the stupid effing ‘Save the Planet’ movement.

Please guys – let’s learn to care about each other first, let’s learn to live to-gether in harmony – the planet will live on, inspite of us – don’t worry about the planet, worry about yourself.

For all others who still want to ‘Save the Planet’, I hereby humbly show you the finger!

P.S: One of the better articles I have read recently on the fallacy of Go-Green concepts – http://www.newsweek.com/id/143701/output/print

On my Other Blog – The Three Foundational Rules of Business

The ‘in’ things!

After 2 hours of deep thought process, I am as close to framing up a short story as India were to losing to Sri Lanka in the first test (losing by an innings and 239 runs should give you some idea) – the story neither had a beginning, nor an end or anything in between. As the great authors of the yore would say, ‘I am working on a short story’ and will publish it shortly.

That brings me to write about a topic which I am quite familiar with – talking about the ‘in’ things. In other words, I would be expounding on some of the fads (fashion for the ‘poignant’ folks) that beckon us today in ‘every sphere of the world’ (I have no clue what that phrase means!)

Social Media:

Today, everyone and his uncle’s grandfather are talking about Social Media. Simply put, conversations’ happening over the web is Social Media. However, just like the Communist parties of India talk about the Nuclear Deal without knowing the nitty-gritty’s of it (and neither do I) and raise a hue and cry about it, so do everyone I talk to nowadays is talking about the deep impact that Social media is having on the society today. On further enquiring what exactly is Social media, most of the people don’t seem to go beyond mentioning Facebook, Myspace, Orkut, Twitter and Friendfeed. Even if they know three out these five websites, they claim to be an authority in Social media. But as you can see, it is the ‘in’ thing to talk about – just like everyone in IT wants to work in a startup nowadays, and just like every Ramu and Pinky opened a company in the late 90s and just like every web enthusiast talks passionately about Web 2.0 in every forum they can gain entry to.

Being a Social media enthusiast myself (the ‘in’ thing to say you see!), I find it deeply disturbing (so much so that I can sleep over it for days) that people use and abuse the impact of Social media on organizations and community in general. Frankly, talking about Social media is great, but from a business point of view, monetizing the concept is extremely difficult. I would rather get down to numbers and business rather than jazzy presentations using Web 2.0 tools about Social media and its impacts that I seem to go through nowadays.

Politics:

The ‘in’ thing to talk about is the Nuclear Deal treaty. Inflation can cross 12%, the common man on the street may suffer due to rising oil prices, there might be blasts in Bangalore, Ahmedabad or any other city in India but all the media and the politicians can talk about is the Nuclear deal. Heck, talking about this deal has brought the horse-trading tactics in the open – a seemingly closely-guarded secret we all knew about all along, threatened to bring down the government (not that the government was any better all these days) and advertisers are having a field day on TV channels focused on this deal where all they talk about is ‘hot air’.

But you see, the ‘in’ thing is Nuclear Deal – it gives us a chance to appear intellectual, morally superior and we come across as knowledgeable about day-to-day affairs. Never mind that this deal will result in actual power only in 2020-25 range, never mind that more than hundred things can go wrong in US elections, and never mind the inflation which has shot through the roof (and sadly, without the corresponding hikes in salary), we have to talk about the pros and cons of Nuclear deal.

Technology:

Specifically, the iPhone. iPhone or its younger brother, iPhone 3G. I can understand the excitement in possessing an iPhone – it’s aspirational. Credit to Apple that over the past 28 years, every product it has churned out, it has turned it into a cult. Brilliant marketing. But, I just can’t understand why people cannot be rational when buying such a high value product. Just because it is aspirational, doesn’t mean I shell out close to Rs. 25k and get it unlocked for another 2-3K.

As Apple would market it, an iPhone is a combination of a phone, iPod and Internet. What’s more, iPhone 3G has in-built GPS. What Apple will not tell you (or anyone for that matter) is that GPS drastically reduces the battery life, you can’t send applications via Bluetooth, there is no MMS feature, certain basic features like cut-copy-paste are not enabled and many more. But nope, flaunting an iPhone and talking about is the ‘in’ thing – how else would I prove to be technologically advanced and up-to-date to the society if I don’t posess it or don’t talk about it.

With the explosion of Internet in India (so says Comscore in their ridiculous report with numbers where the terms ‘average’ and ‘heaviest’ mean the same), there would a corresponding increase in talking about these ‘in’ things – sad, but true. Now, that was certainly an ‘in’ thing to talk about – philosophy plus concern without any data to backup 🙂

Aha moment!

We all have had our Aha moments; something akin to Archimedes ‘Eureka’, though with the clothes on (hopefully!). Yesterday’s Aha moment was somehow special.

I never understood the term ‘love’. People – neighbours, friends and relatives spoke eloquently as well as disparagingly about this term called ‘love’ – unconditional liking is love, love is infinite, there is nothing called love, strength of love, love is blind…and so on and so forth. I, for one, could never get to terms with what it exactly meant. There have been times in my past relationship(s) that I have said ‘I love you’ – although I didn’t understand completely what it meant. I used the phrase in flippant moments, intense moments or just as simple as saying goodbye. I specifically did not know where like, love and lust draw their lines – for me, they were completely blurred.

However, during my sojourn in the blog world yesterday, I came across two quotes which gave me the clarity that noone else could in the past –

The first one –

“Thus love can make us disregard most defects and deficiencies, and make us deal with blemishes as though they were embellishments-even when, as Shakespeare said, we still may be partly aware of them:
When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her, though I know she lies.”

The second one, by Richard Feynman, in a totally different context –

“That was the beginning and the idea seemed so obvious to me that I fell deeply in love with it. And, like falling in love with a woman, it is only possible if you don’t know too much about her, so you cannot see her faults. The faults will become apparent later, but after the love is strong enough to hold you to her.”

When I read, re-read and again re-read the two quotes to-gether – it was all apparent to me. I was so overjoyed by the amount of clarity it provided that I immediately pinged couple of my friends who were online with these two quotes, and they agreed completely (or the cynic might read the quotes as ‘Don’t deceive yourself, stupid!’ But, we’ll ignore him for the purposes of this blog). Now, when I atleast have the clarity (if not the complete understanding) of the term, and I look back at my past, everytime I used the phrase ‘I love you’, I realize that I well and truly meant it with all my heart.

Onto some introspection – I undertook the world-famous Myers-Briggs test some time back. In that particular test, the result was that I think more with my head than with my heart. In simpler terms, I believe and trust more in logic than emotions. That is very true – I get convinced most of the time through cold logic, but hardly through emotions. And till yesterday, I believed that there is indeed a separation between ‘thinking with your head’ and ‘thinking with your heart’. I was told earlier that ‘love’ is meant to be emotional, your heart is involved etc. etc. I was convinced, and yet for a predominantly ‘thinking with head’ person like me, I wondered how come I was in love. However, after today’s Aha moment, I realize that this ‘thinking with head’ vs ‘thinking with heart’ is a bunch load of bullcrap (no offense meant to Myers-Briggs). However, to be fair to them, I think the distinction only kicks in when there is no clarity. Lack of clarity in personal or professional lives leads to the distinction (and hence the research) of predominantly ‘thinking with head’ or ‘thinking with heart’. Lesson learnt: Try achieving clarity in every aspect of life – the dilemma of head vs heart disappears on its own.

So, there – my ‘Aha’ or the Archimedes ‘Eureka’ – might be obvious to many but definitely enlightening to me. [and yes, I  took an example of a very narrow definition of love.  I can expand the similar concept to parents, relatives, close friends etc.]

Inflation – it’s such a mess

A man explained inflation to his wife thus:
‘When we married, you measured 36-24-36. Now you’re 42-42-42. There’s more of you, but you are not worth as much.’
– Lord Barnett

That my dear friends, is the essence of the devil called inflation. In more complex terms, and hence economically speaking, Inflation is a rise in general level of prices of goods and services over time. There are many measures of inflation – the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) and then there is the GDP deflator and then there is Excess of money supply – in short, economic and finance newspapers make every effort to confuse the common man using such jargon, thereby making money, instead of explaining it through a simple Lord Barnett’s joke which everyone would have understood. [Feminists who can’t see the joke in it can go take a hike, and probably buy The Economic Times or The Wallstreet journal]

I like Zimbabwe. No, not the cricket team – they suck big time. I love their penchant for huge numbers. Nowadays, they only talk in millions, billions and trillions. Rich country perhaps. For example, their inflation is just 2 million percent according to the latest figures. Look at that number, isn’t that music for any Finance minister of the country? Or for instance, look at this bill for one dinner – isn’t this fantastic? How rich must the people be to write a 1.2 billion Z$ cheque? And how much would you tip the waiter on this bill? Wow, the calculation in itself is mind-boggling. Wonder how the Zimbabweans do this day in and day out? They certainly love huge numbers – the bill and the inflation are living proof of it. We should all seriously consider moving to Zimbabwe if we ever want to grow rich…or atleast feel rich.

And what is the inflation in India as per latest figures? A paltry 11.42%. How much does this 11 and some change percentage measure up against 2 million percent? Our inflation pales in comparison. No wonder that still 40% of our population is below poverty line. Tchah! And can we even dream of writing a million rupee cheque for one dinner, forget a 1.2 billion rupee cheque? Nope, not in my lifetime atleast. Such sad state of affairs. On top of that, the media goes gung-ho about inflation over-shooting, food prices rising beyond our means and all that crap – ah, the media is so dumb! Why doesn’t someone direct them towards the map of Zimbabwe I say! [And not to speak of the country I currently live in – USA – inflation is a trivial 4% and the whole country is almost in tears and tatters! Uh!]

The government proves my assumption time and again – they are just a bunch of jokers. I sincerely wish for some meritocracy instead of this bizarre bureaucracy.

Let me not even start speaking of the effects of inflation on Zimbabwe. If everything was set right today, the country would take atleast 10-15 years to recover – and I don’t see that happening in the near future atleast. 2 million percent of inflation is something like – the robber asking the passenger in the train: “Hurry, give me the money, before it loses more value” or the realistic situation of giving two gunny bags of money to buy one loaf of bread.

But what is wrong with the Indian and US media? Isn’t the increase or decrease of inflation a normal part of every country’s economic cycle? Shouldn’t the media analyse what are the causes of inflation? Is the artificial price of Oil (currently at $142 a barrel – inspite of major supplies being held up in Persian Gulf due to political reasons) a cause for worry? Isn’t the sudden increase of food prices a direct effect on some of the insane economic policies undertaken (like the one to produce Ethanol through corn, a staple food) or due to large-scale hoarding by merchants in India? And seriously, any inflation above 6-8% is not worth reporting. Unless a country is in deep economic problems, the rate of inflation is always going to come down very soon from these double-digit percentages – sensationalizing issues when there are none has become a habit, leading to dire consequences.

I suggest the media take a chill pill, rest for a month or so and then comment on inflation. Experts say this inflation is a bubble and there is only a requirement for a prick for the bubble to burst. I sincerely hope this prick, whoever he/she is arrives soon enough and douses this mindless fear and fire for good.

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