6 Apr


Verbosity, once more :)

Originally posted on AwfullyClever.Me:

Its 2.30  AM and I`m just back from the 4th of July Celebrations at the Charles River in Cambridge, yes the fake one in Massacheutus, America and not the real deal in that little island off Europe. (Just to let you know, I think that Massacheutus is the stupidest, most difficult to pronounce name in the world and the New Englanders purposely chose a name that lesser Americans couldn’t pronounce.) (Not to mention the abusive connotations the third syllable has for Indians)
Today was about a hell lot of different perspectives, and they were what you call international. I think that’s a word that has been over used till its nearly meaningless, but today sort of underscored the meaning.
My Italian neighbour who has incidentally studied anti terrorism in Israel and is doing a thesis on Terrorist Recruitment gave me his perspective on Islamic Fundamentalism. It was as revealing…

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Naam hai Don, Donkey

6 Apr

Given the relative youth of todays startup founders, its perhaps fitting that a story from my 7th Grade ‘Gulmohar Reader’ serves as a What Not Do for any aspiring founder. When you have a new idea, and/or are growing rapidly, everything seems to be a “billion dollar market” (sic VC Speak). But even if you are Durga (which chances are, you are not) you only have that many hands.



The edited version of the story :

“Long ago when the world was brand-new, the sun rose in the sky and brought the first day. Flowers jumped up and stared, astonished. Then from every side, from under leaves and from behind rocks, creatures began to appear. To begin with, all creatures were very alike – very different from what they are now.

They had no idea what they were going to become. Some wanted to be birds and others, lions and so on. The ones who wanted to be lions practised at being lions – and by and by they began to turn into lions. Thus all the creatures practised at what they wanted to become and began to change. But…

There was one creature that never seemed to change at all. . Oh no, he wanted to become all creatures together, all at once. He used to practise them all in turn – first a lion, then an eagle, then a bull, then a cockatoo, and so on – for five minutes each.

Thats how, the Donkey was born. “

Incase you still need an explanation to know what it means, let me give you an F word as a hint – Focus.

Guerrilla Marketing and Oily Food.

28 Mar

Picture this. You are McPonalds. Burger sales are falling. And due to new localized burger players having come on the scene you are forced to lower prices. And burger prices are at their lowest since 2009. Your CEO passes away and his son takes over. He is a marketing type, sharpish suits, nice cologne, slick smile, you know.

He thinks that all McPonalds really needs is some marketing. Nothing else. But he studied about guerrilla marketing in his fancy B School. From the kind of one step evolved B School professors who say that you wont learn marketing “here” but you will learn it from the street vendor in Brazil who sells here product for a few cents.

So what does the CEO son do ? He hires lets asks his McGoons to go to the factory of the SmallFry burger chain and vandalise it and create a fight. Incidentally (yeah right) all the trucks carrying the McPonalds burgers have to pass through the corner where the SmallFry factory is located.

His social media team, already being primed for this, takes to Twitter and tells the public that since all McPonalds items come from the factory, and supplies could be affected, burgers are in limited supply. Moreover since the SmallFry factory is located in a volatile region which produces burgers, maybe every burger company Overnight, tens of thousands of people que up at McPonalds stores and it can price its burgers higher. Voila. The son rises.

Of course I don’t really mean that McPonalds is Saudi Arabia and SmallFry Burgers is Yemen. How could I ? I mean really? So what if oil prices went from 54 to 58 in two-three days.

Saudi Arabia produces 11 million barrels/day of petroleum. Simple use of a calcualator will reveal that 11 Million Barrels a Day multiplied by 4 Dollars is about 44 million dollars. A day. So the air strikes boosted revenues by 44 million dollars daily! As per Aviaton Week an F16 costs $24,000an hour to run. CNN says a 100 jets were involved in these air strikes for an hour. Thats 2.4 Million dollars a day for airstrikes. As such, like any self respecting Marwari bania will tell you, that’s a net profit of more than 41 Million Dollars a day. Yup, about 1.7 Million Dollars an hour.

Thats Guerrilla Marketing for you. Pardon the not knowing who the real guerrillas are.


Heres wishing you a luxurious christmas break

24 Dec

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Why the excise hike on fuel is good for you.

14 Nov


Know the feeling where you were expecting a raise and end up with a pay cut instead? Yes, the double whammy when both future expectation and past conditioning gang up to gong you on your thick head like a mugger in a Brooklyn back alley. Or is it ?

At least that`s what the current excise hike of Rs. 1.5/litre seems like to most ‘normal’ people. As discussed earlier here, global oil prices have been on the slippery slope to US$ 80 a barrel from their hallowed perch of beyond US$ 100. That has resulted in six back to back reductions in fuel prices since August. The heightened expectation about lower prices was just people wanting more of this less business.

However, the audience will be happy to know, that far from a tragedy, this twist is actually good for our economy. And how exactly is that? For very long, our government has played the populist messiah, doling out oil subsidies like Facebook rolls out privacy invading measures. Which meant that when oil prices were high, the government (thats French for you – the taxpayer) absorbed it and when they were lower, they cut prices. Antics which lead to a bloated fiscal deficit, and an emancipated country.

This government on the other hand is doing what any sensible person would do – save for a rainy day ! And God knows we as a country have enough of those. The additional Rs. 14000 Crores that the excise duty will mop up can be used to reduce debt, thus interest rates.

But, wait a minute, you right wing jumper to obvious conclusions – don`t high fuel prices literally fuel inflation too ? Yes, but unlike Kim Kardashan, inflation is not inflamed only due to one thing. As you may know, inflation in India is more supply push than demand pull. Which means that higher interest rates cause higher interest payouts which cause higher prices since companies that make things need to pay banks that make loans.

So how does an excise duty cut reduce interest rates for companies ? Hmm. The most indebted Indian is not Vijay Mallya despite popular perception. It is in fact the Government of India. What the hell, since we are busting popular perceptions lets bust another one too. You would accuse the government of being many things but not of being credible or creditworthy, right ? Wrong. Due to a certain John Maynard Keyne, our economic systems automatically consider (non Greek) governments less of a credit risk than any private (i.e. non government) organisation. Thus your friendly neighbourhood Shylock banks would rather lend to the government than to you. Which means the only way to get them to lend to you or your company is to pay them more interest than what the government is willing to pay.

Ok, so ?

So, if the government returns Rs. 14,000 crore to banks and doesn’t want to borrow it back, it does two things. One, the bankers have money to lend without lending which they will not make their fancy bonuses. Two, the governement coffers are in a better state which causes bond yields to go down, thus reducing the general interest rates. Put the One and Two together and average folk like you and me get easier access to funding.

So, tomorrow when you are scowling at the pumpwallah when tanking up, know that the Rs.1.5 extra may just save you 1.5 percent on your next car loan interest rate. Now, thats good for you in a way that green tea can seldom claim to be.


13 Nov

A cup of insipid tea
A distant honking cab

The noises of a days end
Sky like faded black ink

An overflowing mind
To empty with Tonite

Sighs of a morning that never was
On a vaguely warm winters night

Who loses with Low Oil Prices ?

10 Nov

big_oil_excuses notap_oilprices_down

As you drive to the pump and gleefully see the price of diesel below the Rs.60 mark, you exult thinking of the many Louis Vuitton bags the Rs.2 saving will buy you. Oil prices are at a record low. As low as they have got in 4 long years. So, are the Sheikhs scrambling to replace their Rolls Royces` with mere Bentleys or is it more about Arab Economies than Economising Arabs ? Is there more than just meets the Eye(raq) ?

Aren’t oil prices controlled by a ‘few’? Isn’t the ‘demand supply theory’ just like one of those ‘Big Lies’, the kind that middle class middle Americans apparently live by. Isn’t it really all a conspiracy? Well yes, OPEC controls the oil prices to an extent. But then the fly in the oily ointment is that of late, the Yanks have been churning out a fair bit of their own dark stuff. Due to the so called Fracking revolution no less. (Yes, technology has more mundane uses than just allowing you to watch Miley Cyrus videos without waiting for endless buffering.)Now, fracking wasn’t viable sometime ago since the cost of extracting the oil was more than what people were willing to pay for it. Then someone came up with the concept of horizontal drilling and fracking became viable.

While we will come back to fracking and shale etc., lets go East (my friend). The Middle of it. As even the laziest foreign policy aficionados would know, apparently the ruling Saud family (of Saudi Arabia,duh) made a (dirty) deal with the Americans (who else) to stay in power forever. The Saud`s would allow American Military presence, and generally be civil to the Yanks while in exchange, the Americans would support the Saud`s by keeping them in power mainly so they can continue to buy neon Lamborghinis and private jets with rotating prayer rooms.

Like the first few pages of a Bengali novelist detail the family tree explaining who the pishi is and so on, now you are aware of the players in this big unhappy family, the frackers, the Saudis and the rest of us.

We forgot the evil aunt, the ISIS. The start up Terror Outfit ? What have they got to do with Oil prices? Oh yeah, terrorists drive oil prices up since they give newscasters reason to use the words ‘geopolitical tensions’ with the half smile. But that was long ago, this startup uses oil as a funding source by selling Syrian oil on the black market (which other colour could a market for oil be?) to Turkish traders. Now, the Saud(i)`s dont really like the ISIS. A neon Lamborghini only has space for close friends, let alone managing to stuff 35 AK47`s into the alcantara interiors, you know. So for the first time in the history of the Middle East, lower oil prices are actually beneficial to the Saudi`s. Talk about perfect alignment with American Politicos.

So who loses?  The frackers with the highest marginal cost will soon go bankrupt, or atleast the banks backing them will. The new American oil boom towns will soon be less El Dorado and more Detroit. The Saudi`s with their Arab Spring led inflated wage bill may get into big trouble. The renewable energy boom may come to a premature end as ‘conventional energy’ becomes cheaper. The ISIS, now they`ll have to sell more oil to Turkish oil traders to buy the same amount of olives and guns. Lastly,the government, who will have to bail out the banks sustained by the global debt boom which in turn was sustained by the global commodities boom.

Less isnt always more, isnt it ?


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