Thursday, December 10, 2009
The second point is a part of the bill being debated in the house to overhaul the regulation of financial sector. I think it makes perfect sense for such a fund and asking firms to contribute to it in relation to their size. The simple logic is this. So far it has been illustrated that too big is actually an insurance against failing. Because by now everyone knows if you are too big and 'interconnected', you will (have to) be bailed out by the government. To big is then actually an insurance in itself, leading to the moral hazard and temptation of, often, indulging in risky business practices. So like any other insurance, it makes sense that a premium be charged for it.
Update [ Jan 6, 2009] - On, a slightly different note, I think its important that I put down the name of the bill. The bill is called, "Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act." No campaign speech that, a really name for a law. Yes, there is a lot in a name. My apologies to Shakespeare. But then he hadn't met the politicians of today
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
It so happened that a gentleman whom I recognize by face as the Executive Director, the senior-most person in the organization, walked over to a door in the hallway. Standing outside the room he asked, " Would you like to talk to me about that video shoot/press release (or something similar) right now." The lady inside the room mentioned that she was working on another project/assignment at that time. He responded with the equivalent of - Fine, we will do it at a later then. He later strolled over to my work-space, said hello, and inquired if he could ask a question. I must mention that we have never met formally, till today.
I tried my best to recall anything remotely similar to that in my five years of experience in India but couldn't. I have worked in highly unstructured software setups and fast growing private sector insurers and have had some really great bosses. But the notion of hierarchy, and your boss having the final say on your time is embedded in our work culture. I don't think any Indian could have ever responded in the way the lady or the gentleman did. Our culture where age and position imply authority, is partly to blame. The expectation of deference to your superiors' wishes built into Indian nature, is further strengthened by the fierce competition due to India's huge population. As a result most of us fast realize, consciously or sub-consciously, that "Yes Sir" is the safest and often the fastest, route to career growth.
It is pertinent to mention that the non-profit actually serves Asian clients, including South Asians. The question is, if we can do it here, why not back home?
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
A front page article in the Wall Street Journal states that the micro-finance push maybe creating a credit bubble in India. What started as a social initiative, caught the eyes of investors due to higher returns. Micro-finance loans have interest loans to the tune of 24% - 39% and are generally given to women (more than 90%) who are supposed to be better repayers. Apparently the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) does not regulate interest rates in this market except for advising organizations not to charge too high rates.
Today the number of lenders offering micro-finance has jumped almost 400% from 50 in 2004 to more than 200 in 2008. NBFC (Non Banking Financial Companies) have entered the fray. The loaned amount has grown from less than 0.5 million to 2.4 million. As a result, atleast in some towns and villages there are too many lenders are chasing few good borrowers and - funds loaned for starting business are being used to buy TVs or spent on marriages. Apparently in some over-crowded markets - lending practices are lax; it is often difficult for lenders to cross-check with each other or to verify the utlisation of funds. I just hope the stories of Ramanagram are not being repreated across the country.
This is not to the say that the credit needs to Rural India are being met. Rural Indian economy has very few sources of funds and an even lesser understanding of financial products. I know this by virtue spending an year scaling my organization's distribution beyond metros. It will be really unfortunate if poor lending practices deprive the region and the people their chance for development.
The article published on August 13, 2009 written by Ketaki Gokhale is titled - A Global Surge in Tiny Loans Spurs Credit Bubble in a Slum. You can read it at the WSJ website, but a subscription is needed
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Nandita Das, an actress I greatly admire was here to talk about her debut as a director in Firaaq (Search/ Quest) which showcases the aftermath of riots in Gujarat. Here is the text of my interview with Nadita Das published at desiclub.com
Movie Update: Firaaq (Nandita Das), A Wednesday (Nasserudin Shah), Oye Lucky Lucky Oye (Abhay Deol), The Voyuers (Bengali, Buddadeb Dasgupta) and Quickgun Murugun (Tamil/Telugu).
Book Update: The Time Machine & The Invisible Man, both by H G Wells.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Friday, June 05, 2009
Take a guess as to which country is being mentioned in the following paragraph.
The country X enjoyed a huge bubble in the _____. When it burst in _____, prices collapsed, sending the economy tumbling. Regrettably, the government and the 'central bank of the country X' kept trying to halt the natural, cleansing effects of this recession by propping up many of the companies in trouble. Just as a forest fire serves to clear out deadwood and underbrush so that the forest can renew itself, recessions help to ensure healthy future growth. In 'the country X' , the business that should have been liquidated became "zombie companies" surviving, albeit barely, on government's artificial support. Everything was Band-Aided with quick fixes. While this delayed a decline, it also postponed the country's recovery. A country can actually spend more money trying to stave of a recession than the recession might cost.
You probably think that I am talking about USA. However this is a passage describing 'the lost decade' of Japan by Jim Rogers. Though Jim mentions in passing that America followed the same route in 1970's, he might as well be presaging what may be coming ahead, considering the way the American debt & fiscal deficit has ballooned. To use a cliche, "History repeats itself." As Jim mentions, a country can spend more money trying to avoid a recession than the recession might itself cost. Sounds even more familiar. After all, only last week the Fed chairman Ben Bernanke pointed out that US needs to control is spending & deficits. Of course he did not talk about the fact the balance sheet of the fed itself has been increasing in size as it has been buying just about anything - mortgage backed securities, corporate debt and the T-Bills issued every few days by the US government.
But, lets come back to Jim Rogers, the guy who made enough money to retire at the age of 37. The book in question, " A Gift to My Children - A Father's Lesson for Life and Investing," is packed with knowledge and wisdom. In his own words,
the book is different from his earlier books in the sense that its about the larger lessons distilled from his experiences. Lessons about thinking for yourself, using common sense, learning history, philosophy and languages and making the world a part of your perspective. Lessons, which we all could use. In less than 100 pages Jim packs lessons that can use at all stages of your life and earlier you learn these lessons, the more you can get from them.
As a aside note, according to Jim, 21st century belongs to China. He does not like India and Russia as investment options. So much so that he has moved to Hongkong & is making sure that his two daughters know Mandarin.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Its easy to be tempted and say Indians or Asians are a smarter race and overlook the logical and more rational conclusion that most Indian & Asian children generally end up working far harder than their counterparts. Read my article Indian winner at Spelling Bee : A story without a happy ending published on a website for South East Asians
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Book Update : Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell). I had always wanted to read this one. A wonderfully written love story against the backdrop of the old south, the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. A tale of survival and determination. The perspective is slightly tainted, through the eyes of rich white landlords. Nevertheless, it does capture the pain and hardships war caused in the Southern states of America. Having read it my only regret is why didn't I read it earlier. Imminently inspiring & re-readable over and over again.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Though I am for humanitarian relief whereever there be a need, why such discrimination against Sri Lankans ? And why are Pakistani refugees get a better treatment ? Isn't it a reflection of the motivation of the money that the agency is giving out ?
The coverage : Sri Lanka warned on 'war crimes'
UN calls for massive Pakistani aid
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Slumdog Millionaire is based on the novel, Q&A written by Vikad Swarup, an Indian diplomat. Vikas Swarup, in an interview, mentioned that when Danny Boyle, the director of Slumdog Millionaire, told him that he would preserve the body of his book, Swarup should have realized that Danny would kill the soul. This heightened my expectations of the book. Such a dramatic and powerful movie can only be based on really well written-book, or so I thought. Maybe I should mention that I belong to the old school where books are better than movies, even if the movie has won six Oscars.
Anyway I got a chance to lay my hand on Q&A, now republished as Slumdog Millionaire last week, and I have the following comparison to offer. The movie is indeed based on book’s content and follows the structure of the book, as a series of questions on the popular show -Who wants to be a billionaire? That’s where the similarity ends. The book is no more than a collection of loosely bound short stories while the movie is solid commentary on Indian society with a focus on urban Indian poor. Unfortunately the book does not develop its characters, focusing instead on a series of disparate events, some of them unbelievable. While the movie floors you not only with its characters, but also by vividly capturing the life of Dharavi, believed to be Asia’s biggest slum, in the heart in India's financial capital Mumbai. If the purpose of the author was to make a generic commentary on India, he needed even more meat on the bones, which the book does not have. The author’s way of capturing the role religion plays in Indian society, through a protagonist with the name ‘Ram Mohammed Thomas’ (RMT) is far more unrealistic & ineffective than the movie’s depiction of a mob.
There are lots of other changes that the movie’s screenplay makes, small big and other small. It omits stories of RMT aka Jamal Khan (the name of the movie’s protagonist) as a bartender and his adventures in Delhi at an Australian Diplomats house. It also twists the story line, introducing an under world don while omitting a contract killer. Overall, the screenplay effectively makes a collection of short stories into a coherent movie, one that rises above its individual characters while reflecting the reality of life of the urban Indian poor. It however does this while ensuring that the characters are well developed. In this case the movie is far better than the book.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
For a start, I was really intrigued by the involvement of the ordinary American into the political process and the fact the campaign was fought on real issues. Yes, there were diversions about Bill Ayers and the religion of present President of the US but the majority of the campaign was on matters that affected the life of an ordinary American - healthcare, economy, pro-choice or pro-life (can't understand why this should be a election issue), Iraq , Afganistan and such. Turn the globe about 180 degrees to India and you fail to spot a single national issue in this election. A string of regional parties splitting, resplitting, aligning to the point where your head spins with confusion.
The two men contesting the king's chair aka Presidency of the World's largest economy, even at their most bitter, treated each other with respect. Incontrast, the two old men at the helm of two of India's largest parties have hurled insults and abuses at each other. And once you move a little lower in the ranks of the parties you are shocked at hatred and virulous remarks that you hear.
Last but probably the most important, because it explains some of the above, is the apathy of the middle class Indian towards the elections. Infact a majority of Indians think what they can achieve in their lives is despite the government rather than because of it. They can not relate to the politicians who them. On top of that is the age and generation gap. 40% of India's billion plus population is young but unfortunately young political parties have old and middle age people at the helm of affairs and in their 2nd line of command. Manmohan Singh & L K Advani and both more than 70 years old.
This article from the New York Times offers a perspective (requires a free signup)
Movie Update : The Fast and the Furious - IV . Some really great action sequences and car chases. Keeps you at the edge of that seat
State of the Play : Average to Interesting.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Thomas Friedman makes the case for staying away from the protectionist urges in NY times editorial that quotes two Indians.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Central Park, New York on a cloudy winter afternoon. The dull sky bespeaks of the upcoming gloom, only silver lining being a slight hint of color.
Its just that I have not been able to capture the color yet in the news around me, not as yet. In fact things seem to be becoming gloomier in real life. Brace for a dark night.
Monday, January 05, 2009
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (American Poet & Writer, 1850-1919)