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Showing posts from 2011

Office Productivity Booster: 3 Tips I use

Here are three tips that i have personally benefited a lot from at work.

Read through your emails 2-3 times a dayStop checking your emails every few minutes. I use Lotus Notes for work emails and had replication set to 1 minute. Now, I have moved away from those crazy days and check mail between 2-3 times a day. Once at the beginning of the day and once more around around 3 pm in the afternoon. What this has done is left me a lot of time to do "actual work". I am now no more a slave to my emails. Stop multitaskingThis is really critical. Multitasking is crazy. There are tons of research on the ill-effects of multitasking on attention, concentration and ability of recall information. So, to really do quality work, just focus on do one thing at a time. If you are really keen, you can use the Pomodoro technique. I use it fairly regularly and think it brings in a good deal of focus as it forces you to work against the clock.Put your important tasks on your calendarPreviously most…

PM Talks Tough!!!

In a discussion with the leaders from Indian industry, Indian Prime Minister let his displeasure known. "It is a little disappointing to hear negative comments from our business leadership or be told that govt's policies are causing slowdown and pessimism. Such comments have added to uncertaintyand have emboldened those who have no stake in our economic growth."

It is like a school child who has failed in a class but is petulant and saying that why are you all saying that I have failed, it makes me look stupid in front of others!! The problem, Dr Singh, is that whether you like it or not, the govt and by extension you, have been performing miserably. No amount of talking tough or big is going to change that. Instead of raising your voice to these people, better do it with your coalition partners and your party members and get some real work done!

Bharat Ratna: Is the change in guidelines good?

Lately there has been a large hue and cry over the changing of the criteria for awarding the Bharat Ratna to "performance of highest order in any field of human endeavour". This is a modification from the previous criteria of restricting winners from the fields of art, literature, science and public services.

The detractors are saying that the rules have been changed to facilitate awarding Sachin Tendulkar. And since Sachin is a sportsperson, which is by nature "a form of entertainment" and does not contribute to nation-building, should be excluded. I have nothing to say for or against Sachin as an individual awardee. My only contention is that I am not very sure of how people like Bhimsen Joshi, Bismillah Khan, Lata Mangeshkar, Pt. Ravi Shankar, M. S. Subbulakshmi - all musicians have contributed to the "nation-building"!! Similarly, the award has been presented to all Prime Ministers that headed Congress governments. I am not sure how great a job was act…

Blogs: New focus

I am planning to make some clear demarcations between my two blogs. ValueInvstr would continue to focus on investing. I would focus on equity value investing, economic viewpoints, behavioral finance, financial news and views, financial book reviews and the very popular guru speak.

This blog will continue with an emphasis on my other interests - management, leadership, politics (again with emphasis on Indian and Bengal politics). 

Please feel free to comment on my posts (or send me emails as before).

Dream: How to control India's fiscal deficit?

Warren Buffet had two wonderful ideas that he has espoused over the years for fixing the fiscal deficit for US. Here let me outline two solutions that will go a long in solving this in India. But these ideas can also be extended to make governance work in India.

Solution 1:
Make a rule which automatically disqualifies all the sitting parliamentarians for running in the subsequent general elections once a threshold fiscal deficit target is breached!!

Solution 2:
Issue export certificates to all exporters for the dollar equivalent of their exports. Imports will be allowed only against a valid "export certificate". Create a secondary market for trading these certificates like stocks or bonds. For example, say Infosys exports software services for $1 billion. They get certificates for that amount. Now, Indian Oil needs to import oil. They can buy those certificates from Infosys in the open market and use it for the import of oil upto $1 billion. What will happen in reality is that b…

Leadership crisis all around

Everywhere around I look, I see a crisis of leadership. In Bengal, India, in the world, everywhere. There are simply on one who can be a role model for the future generations.

In Bengal, the state is plagued by myriad problems. Primary among them is an acute shortage of cash to pay salaries and pensions to the state government employees. Yet, there is a leadership vacuum to bite the silver bullet and raise taxes and reduce government expenditure. The government and its ministers are busy promising developmental programs for which there is no money! The only way to garner tax resources in the long term is to encourage business prosperity. It is going to be difficult to do this as the government has a stated policy of non-interference into land acquisition. You cannot have big factories without large tracts of contiguous land which the government is unwilling to deliver. So, no one wants to be unpopular in the short term to do things which are important for the long term.

In India, we ha…

US Trip for the NextGen Workshop

I was to travel to US on Friday night (early Saturday morning, Aug 13, 2011) for New York. From Friday morning, I was not feeling well. Had a slight fever, headache and a queasy feeling. Overall, a bad day to start travel on a 21 hour flight away from home.
I got to the airport and it was raining really heavily. Then as lady luck would have it I got upgraded to Business Class! My first trip on business class. So, the flight experience was good. After a while, the effect of the medicines that I had taken took effect and I started feeling a better. Slept nearly all the way to Frankfurt.

At Frankfurt, I had to go from one end of Terminal 1 to the other end. A good 1-1.5 km walk in the morning. Then for the New York flight was announced and it was a A380. Had heard so much about it when it was launched. From the outside it looks imposing, nearly 1.5 larger than the regular size. But the inside, atleast for this particular flight, was the same old one. Here again, I got a good seat, althou…

Goals Execution - The Agile Way

I just completed listening to a brilliant audio book today from the Franklin Covey foundation on "Execution". Here is what I learnt.

Execution is the most important aspect of strategy. Nothing works if you can't execute it. It is dependent on a few factors:-
Goals - Have focused goals. Max of 3. More goals dilute the focus.Find out the measurable factors for your goals - the lag (the dependent variable y) and lead indicators (the independent variables x1,x2 etc)Create a dashboard to monitor if you are winning the execution game. It should contain both lag and lead indicators.Monitor the dashboard results daily/weekly ONLY for the identified goals.

Book Review: Let's Do Lunch by Roger Wilson

I read this book sometime back as part of my journey of understanding food and how it affects the body and mind. In the last two years I have managed to lose about 10kgs of weight and in the process have learnt a fair deal about food, although not enough to talk authoritatively with a nutritionist.

Roger Wilson's book deals mainly about how the author lost a significant amount of weight himself after trying his own diet plan. The diet he followed was eating fruits and proteins. His lack of fundamental knowledge of nutrition makes his commentary a suspect from the very beginning. This book is more a chronicle of the authors weight loss journey than a guide to healthy eating.

Conclusion: Better to avoid.

Jairam Ramesh rekindles the IIT-IIM debate

Jairam Ramesh, the environment minister and an ex-IIT graduate has rekindled the debate of the effectiveness of the quality of research and faculty at the IITs and IIMs in India. As expected, people have taken a position based on their allegiances. IIT/IIM alumni and faculty have come out vociferously to defend their alma mater. People are amazed that an ex-student whose father was also the head of Civil Engineering department at one of the IITs can break rank and speak out against them! Various reasons are being put forward for the lack of quality research, primary among them is the lack or delay of funds from the government.
Interestingly, what is getting sidetracked in all this noise is that fact that Jairam Ramesh is actually right. It is a fact that the quality of students going into these institutes is far better than what other esteemed colleges abroad (MIT, Caltech, HBS etc). I would really like to see one experiment that would prove the mettle of the faculty. Let them swap one…

Bengal Votes For Change

The future of Bengal took a turn (for better or worse – the debate continues) when the votes were counted on May 13th, 2011. Trinamool Congress, Mamata Banerji’s thirteen year old party along with its one time parent party, the Congress, swept the Bengal assembly polls. The combine won 227 of the 294 seats and with it ended the 34 year rule of the Left Front – the longest by an elected communist government anywhere in the world.
There are two prevalent reactions that I have seen after the elections. Some are saying that Bengal has jumped from the frying pan to the fire. Others are saying that let us give these guys a chance. If they don’t perform, we can always vote them out. I am more inclined towards the second line of thought. My argument is that today Bengal is at the bottom of a “bear-market” (if I may borrow a term from the stock markets). It can’t really get much worse.
The fact is that for a lot of people in our generation have never seen a non-Left government in the state and …

Infosys 3.0 - An outsider's perspective

First a disclosure: I work in an IT company and this post reflects my personal opinion and not that of my company.

Infosys made the long-awaited and eagerly anticipated event in Indian corporate calendar (nearly as eagerly awaited as the succession-planning event currently on at Tata Sons). The stake here was very high. Infosys is a highly regarded Indian IT giant. It, alongwith a few others, created the IT outsourcing phenomenon that has become part of the standard business model today. The question was can Infosys move to the next generation of leadership. It had been guided all along by NR Narayan Murthy (NRN) and later by the more charismatic Nandan Nilekani. With NRN’s retirement from the Chairman’s position, the top position was open for the first time.

Infosys announced that K.V. Kamath would step in as Chairman and S.D. Shibulal would be the new CEO and S. Gopalakrishnan (the current CEO, better known as Kris) would be the Executive Co-Chairman.

To me, this announcement has effe…

Bengal Elections - The Winner's Curse

Elections are coming up in the state of West Bengal (not sure why we keep calling West Bengal, when there is no East Bengal in India, just Bengal would have made more sense), and as per popular media, it seems Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Congress combine is likely to win.
Before I start, let me clarify my political inclinations. I typically favour any political formation that can create and sustain economic growth and provide good governance. I do not vote for any party. In that sense, I am what is known as a “floating voter”. I tend to see politics through the eyes of economics and eventually the stock markets.
In Bengal, there are two things that are close to the people's heart – sports and politics. After nearly 34 years, the Left Front comprising of the CPIM, CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc are on the verge of losing the possession of the famed Writers Building – the seat of political power in Bengal. In their place, a coalition of TMC and Congress alongwith som…

Sleeping With The Enemy - Nokia and Microsoft

Nokia's recent announcement of chucking out their Symbian platform and bringing home the Windows Phone 7 is an interesting move by both Nokia and Microsoft. This is marriage of two partners who were once the greats and now are fighting younger, nimbler opponents on their own turf. Apple with its iPhone and later Google's Android platform has made life very difficult for Nokia. Similarly, Microsoft is battling its monopoly on operating systems and office suites on multiple fronts like the Google Chrome OS platform, Google Docs, Facebook, Open Doc movement.
What is interesting for me is Nokia's perspective here. They were still the market leaders overall in mobiles. By moving away from their own platform, they have own relegated themselves from a A league to the B league. There is no difference now between a Chinese or Taiwanese mobile assembler and Nokia. They have moved from a high margin business to a commodity oriented low margin business. What prompted them to do this is…

Resolutions for 2011 and a review of last year's resolutions

I had made five resolutions last year. It's time to review how I have done with respect to those and take a fresh guard for 2011.

Year Resolution Result Remarks 2010 Lose 5 kgs (or more) of weight I have gained a little bit of weight at the fag end of the year, so now I am back to 78 kgs! ·Continued in 2011. Needs a better detailed plan. ·2010 did not work out well. ·Plan to reduce atleast 0.5 kgs per month. 2010 Exercise everyday - walk/exercise for 15-45 mins everyday Did stay on course for this for most part of the year. Walking around 30 mins 3-4 times a week in general. Started playing tennis regula