Thursday, October 30, 2008

Viswanathan Anand - Genius & World Champion from India

Viswanathan Anand emerged victorious today in the FIDE World Championship challenge match played against Vladimir Kramnik in Bonn, Germany. The victory makes Anand the undisputed World Champion in chess for two years in running. Anand had won the double round-robbin world championship held in Mexico city in 2007 . However , he was forced to play this one-on-one, 12-round challenge match against Kramnik (winner in 2006) as Kramnik had the right to challenge Anand for the crown. Anand had termed this rule of right-to-challenge as "ridiculous" earlier but like a true sportsperson moved on to play the match and defeated Kramnik 6.5 to 4.5 overall ; when the 11th game was drawn today bringing the fortnight-long match to an end.
Chess may not be a spectator-friendly sport but has its own share of countless players & fan-followings ,who prefer the brain over the brawn, across the world. Its a game that has been dominated by Russians in the past decades. Its an immense joy to find an Indian sportsperson single handedly breaking the domination and ruling the chess world in circa 2008.
Since Anand became Grand Master in Chess in 1988 at the age of 18, he has performed in the topmost echelon of international chess for 20 years . In the process he picked up 5 Chess Oscars, 3 world championship titles & numerous other titles. No other Indian sportsperson has performed so consistently in the highest level of any international sport for two decades at a stretch.
Anand has already received the highest civilian award for a sportsperson from India , Padma Vibhushan (2007) as well as the highest sports award , the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award (1992). The Government of India will have to institute a completely new civilian award to honour outstanding achievers like Anand, who will never get a Bharat Ratna (highest civilian award in India) as sports persons are not eligible for this award.
Isn't it a shame that while outstanding achievements in literature & arts qualify for Bharat Ratna (apart from public service & scientific achievements), achievements in sports do not count?Till the time , a special award is created for Anand , we congratulate & bow to this exceptional genius for bringing glory to himself & a nation of 1 billion Indians .

Picture Source : Cristi Dorombach on flickr.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Financial crisis can create economic crisis in India

The recent financial crisis that has blitzkrieged the world since Lehman Brothers & Bear Sterns turned belly-up about a month back has already netted three countries in its whirlpool. Ukraine, Hungary & Iceland are now dependent on the IMF loans of billions. The immediate symptoms that came up in these countries were
  • Almost 20% & above depreciation of their currencies to US Dollar
  • Almost 60-70% fall in commodity prices have crippled export of their economies. Ukraine, of the steel-economy fame, is already facing retrenchment, wage-cuts because of global fall in demand & prices of steel.
  • Large current account deficit because of costlier imports & shrinkage of exports.

India is struggling with the rise in demand of dollar and rupee has already depreciated by 20%. With a CRR cut of 250 basis points & repo rate cut of 100 basis point , apparently liquidity has been restored but the demon of inflation is yet to come to down. Investors are busy converting assets to cash & holding on to them . The credit squeeze will increase cost of borrowings for working capital & new projects. North America & Europe remain the largest market for any MNC. A sustained recessionary environment in those countries will put long term pressure on the profitability of the corporations directly serving those markets & more importantly the key component of the supply chain connected to these markets; BPOs,KPOs etc. The engine of economic growth is always fuelled by lower cost of capital & building of supply lines as long as recessionary conditions/demand shrinkage are absent. With a high interest rate regime in the backdrop of lack of trust in the credit market & fears of recession looming large on the horizon, we are witnessing the turn from supply-side to demand-side economics in India.

Denying the presence of economic crisis is equivalent to denying the existence of currency & rubbishing the concept of cash. The financial think-tanks of India should do well to understand that the fruits of reforms can vanish in thin air if the economic growth rate of the country falls below 5%.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Politician & Paranoia.

Finance Minister, India on the sensex slide:- " Investor should remian calm & composed......" - As in a funeral?

-"RBI will use conventional & 'unconventional' tools to tackle finance, price & economic stabilities." Stabilities or instabilities?

Cartoon Source:Bigpicture's blog

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stats,stats on the wall; who's the best Indian Cricket Captain of all?

(Click the picture above to see "stats" in Large font.)

M.S Dhoni, in his second test match as the stand-in skipper to the injured Anil Kumble,once again registered a win. This time by 320 runs against the mighty Australians at Mohali. Dhoni, once again proved that "Winning is Everything" by getting the entire team to play their respective roles while bagging the Man of the match award himself . Dhoni's recent successes as captain at the T20 world cup, ODI series in Australia & ODI series in Sri Lanka had already strengthened his claim to be the Indian captain in all forms of the game.

In order to check the claim of analysts , who think that Dhoni will become the best Indian captain , I thought of digging some statistics to compare the performances of 6 Indian captains since 1990s in all forms of the game (combined ODI, Tests, T20 internationals). Azhar, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Kumble & Dhoni. Here are some key inferences.

  1. Which player has been in the winning side more often ? - Dhoni has been a team member in 51% of his matches when India has won, followed by Tendulkar in 45% of his matches. Azhar, Ganguly, Dravid & Kumble have been equally in the wining & losing team in their lifetime . It appears that Dhoni & Tendulkar have been positive influences to the Indian team . The presence of Azhar, Ganguly, Dravid & Kumble have made no difference to India winning or losing a match.

  2. How have the players performed their respective roles as batsman, bowler, allrounder in their lifetime? Tendulkar, with a career batting average of 48 stands apart & Kumble boasts an excellent bowling average of 30. But for Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid & Kumble the average drops by more than 30% whenever India loose implying that failure to perform their respective roles could have contributed to India's loss. As a complete contrast, Dhoni's average shoots up by 46% whenever India wins implying that whenever Dhoni fires with the bat , India has a decent chance of winning.

  3. Finally, what has been the role of each of the above as Captain?
  • Sachin Tendulkar
    : Disastrous record as Captain , losing 53% of matches although has probably won only when he has fired with the bat. His batting average shoots up by 47% for the matches he has won. Overall captaincy affected his batting , pulling his average down by 5 runs. Tendulkar's bowling performances show a decline during India's win implying that he did not make good use of himself as a bowler when he was the captain. Overall, a captain's resource as a good allrounder but not a good captain himself. Rating : D
  • Md. Azharuddin: Consistent batting average of 40 even as a Captain and a good win record of 47%. Captained India for 51% of his matches. Rating : B
  • Sourav Ganguly : Again captained almost half his matches( 46%) but in the process knocked his batting & bowling averages down by 3 runs. However, both his averages shoot up when India has won (49% of times) implying that he used himself well as an allrounder. More often than not, his batting & bowling both clicked when India won the matches under his captaincy. Other Indian captains do not seemed to have used Sourav well as a bowler as his career bowling average drops by 48% whenever India has lost. His record as a Captain is better than Azhar. Rating : B+
  • Rahul Dravid: An excellent record as a captain with a 10% points difference between his winning & losing matches eclipsing Azhar's 6% & Sourav's 9%. And Rahul has just been a captain only 23% of his matches. Has a consistent & higher batting average of 43-45, second only to Tendulkar. If Dravid had not batted poorly( average dropping by 31%) in the matches India has lost under him, his average could have been much higher. Rating : A.
  • Anil Kumble : Has captained only 3% of his matches with a poor win record of 29% and a drastic fall in bowling average by 9 runs. Ignored,for most of his lifetime, Kumble was made the Captain last year after Dravid resigned. Rating : C
  • MS Dhoni: Captaincy seems to have improved Dhoni's batting as his average shoots up by 11 runs. Has a fantastic win record of 55% with a 21% difference between winning & losing matches.Dhoni's batting average as a captain go up by 40% when India wins & go down by 40% when India looses.When Dhoni's strokes get going , India coasts to a win. A key player, MS Dhoni's absence in the team can lead to India's loss. Truly, Dhoni is India's Captain courageous. Rating : A++
After Dhoni's win at the Mohali test yesterday as a captain, the selectors would do well to appoint him immediately as the Captain of the Indian test team. That will help keep the winning momentum going for India.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The value of a politician in India.

A great man is different from an eminent one in that he is ready to be the servant of the society- B. R. Ambedkar

An elected politician in India has three basic values.

1. The value of public service: Whereby , the politician can serve his electorate constituents by aiding in continuous development of the region; creation of infrastructure like roads, electricity, schools, hospitals ; economic development through creation of jobs, inviting industry etc. A Member of Parliament gets 20 MINR per year for spending in development projects,

2. The value of nation building : Whereby, all elected politicians bring in new policies for building a modern India keeping in tune with the needs of the globalised world.

3. The nuisance value : Whereby, a politician on account of his manpower ( as a leader of a 500,000 constituents) and/or official position can stop a developmental project , defy law of the land and bring business operations to a standstill.

The business of running an economy ruled by politicians is normally taken care by the big funders, corporate & large business empires. For them every politician has a value which can be objectified into a figure depending on the paths of action taken by him.

While all three activities referred above have their importances; probably in a developed democracy , a politician's monetary value can be judged by the second activity of "policy change & nation building". Lobbyists fall over each other to support & legally underwrite fund-raising dinners for politicians whose vision of policies fall within the broad objective of their organisations.
Ratan Tata's open support to communist government in West Bengal in an half-page advertisement in all the major dailies in Bengal & Rahul Bajaj's tacit support to the opposition's rally against Nano project on the tube have to understood in this context. It is more than corporate rivalry , as is being made out to be. Indian business houses have been "paying off" political parties in India from time immemorial, although illegally. Probably, the time has come to legalise & make transparent political donations from corporate houses so that the common people of India are aware of the actual agenda behind either a "policy decision" or "extra subsidies from government " or " a rally."
In an evolving ,illiterate, impoverished democracy like India; its the third value that of "nuisance " that attracts the highest bidder. No business entity wants a "mob" to vandalise the "congenial environment" in which his business empire operates. The nuisance value of the politician is in threatening or removing the perception of "congenial" environment.
Higher the nuisance , higher the price business has to pay , illegally, to buy peace & congeniality.

Probably, its time for business entities in India to take a look at fixing a value for the first activity, that of public service. It makes sense for business empires to invest in development of a politician's constituency , where his units are being set up. The donations can be legal and can match/surpass the government grants for a MP. But more importantly, it will bring a focus to a politician's first job of nurturing his constituency & also keep the "mob" away from being a part of rag-tag army of vandals.
Cartoon Source : Bigpicture's blog

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hire & Fire: Jet Airways publicly pioneers the process in India

Aviation industry in India is going through doldrums. Coping with high fuel prices & low passenger load factors is proving to be costly for all carriers. This prompted two biggest carriers in India , Kingfisher & Jet , to form an operative alliance and dump, for once, 1000 of its air crews.

The fired employees, who were fresh and under probation, cried foul and have sought the help of 'enfant terrible' , Raj Thackeray , leader of a parochial , close minded political entity called MNS.

While Raj arrogantly has threatened to forcibly ground Jet in Mumbai, there is little reaction from the labour minister, Oscar Fernandes on the legality of such a move. Out of the blue, Deora, pertoleum minister, thinks Jet has carried the matter a bit too far and should be hauled up for non-payment of dues to Deora's petroleum ministry even though the credit period of Jet is still valid. The grand old man of trade unionism , Gurudas "spitfire" Dasgupta , even led a bannered protest on behalf of airlines crew.

The viewers on the tube couldn't care less. And they kept on searching for pretty faces among the protesting crews , some of whom claimed to be air hostesses. Having found none, they opined that these probationary officers, who have qualified from dubious institutes, deserve to be grounded.Not one pretty face!WTF!

Welcome to hire & fire in India.

This is one small step for 'labour relations' but a giant leap for 'business adaptability' in India.
Raj Thackeray, notwithstanding!!!
Late news: Baniya Goyal , Chairman of Jet Airways, with his fidgety eyes announced late last night that he was suffering from insomnia after seeing the "agony" of fired employees & hence has reinstated all his employees. The same people who Goyal , just two days back, had dismissively called "probationers & not part of family"! So, first round goes to Raj while Goyal looks eagerly towards the government for a possible financial bailout and/or extension of credit period for paying fuel bills.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Telepathy synthesised

The US army is funding research for creating a technology that will enable mankind to convey messages to another fellow mankind. All by thought. That is I think a message, convert in into tiny electrical signals which then are amplified, processed, coded by a device fitted to my cap. The device then transmits a text message , by radio, to another device in your cap that conveys the message to you by voice or text mail. The technology is called Synthetic Telepathy.

Nintendo, a video games manufacturer,wants to incorporate thought-controlled gaming actions (pull, spin, push , jump..) in video games.

Emotiv EPOC is the name of a neuroheadset, developed by Emotiv, that enables computer players to respond with emotions dynamically to another player's smiles, frustration etc.

From gaming to army , Synthetic Telepathy will let you hear voices in your head; irrespective of the fact whether you are a chronic schizophrenic; as long as you have the headset on.

Although the lead scientist in the army project,Mike D'Zmura, from the University of California, Irvine , says that , "I think that this will eventually become just another way of communicating." , the commercial applications are as many as one may imagine them to be. From organised thought-control industry like advertising, regimented religious societies,field training to therapeutic applications in mind disorders; the world may soon become a theatre for puppets on a string.

While everybody can claim to a number of telepathic occurrences in their life (like when your phone rings and you lift it to find its the friend you were just thinking of) , synthetic telepathy will let you have your friend communicating with you just by thought.

Whoever knew that the brave new world , penned by Huxley, will soon be here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Best Indian awards

The annual Saltyblog Awards for significant contribution to the country in each of the following fields (sorted alphabetically) are here:

Best Bureaucrat : Arun Kumar, Director (retired), CBI for following copy-book bureaucratic procedure to handle Arushi case. Arrests, Search, Detention, Simulation, 'scientific' tests & then release of everybody. Expertly closed the case by clean-chitting the bereaved & accused father after detaining him for 45 days. No body of course knows who murdered Arushi & why ?

Best Corporate Chairman : Ratan Tata. For long speeches to the public & for making his business house a repeat target for eviction from the forest or agricultural land of India. Keeps the shareholder’s wealth safe in his purse, often denying the grease-hungry administrative machinery, power brokers & people with high nuisance value..

Best Economist : Mamata Bannerjee. For protecting Singur from development, inflation & costlier standard of living.

Best Eligible Bachelor: Rahul Gandhi for hinting to keep the dynasty flag flying & for his freudian slip in the Indian Parliament about the plight of Kalavati. The latter was made famous by singer Kishore Kumar in " Zarurart hai, zarurat hai ... ek shiree moti ki , kalavati ki; seva korey jo poti ki..."

Best Enginner(s) : From HCC Ltd, who designed two major flyovers that gave way , while under construction, in Hyderabad & Lucknow injuring scores ; and still qualifying as permitted bidders for other construction projects. If they can manage to dig the Bandra-Worli link flyover in Mumbai too, their balance sheets would look healthier as HCC is losing money everyday on this project.

Best Friends: The Leftists who took the nation for a long costly ride over the nuclear deal and parted from the allies in government after 4 years of support. Have proven expertise of grabbing the cheques from the friends and making issues out of the bills.

Best Marketing Manager: Anil Ambani. For bagging Rs. 130 billion from the public for Reliance Power IPO at a premim of over 400 rupees a share without laying down a single brick of the plant

Best Politican : Dr. Manmohan Singh for steering the government towards signing a nuclear deal with the unpopular President Bush after crossing major political & circumstantial hurdles, Glossed over other problematic issues like inflation, famers’ suicides, administrative reforms, corruption. Has fully metamorphosed from custodian of central bank to vote bank.

Best Procurement Manager : Amar Singh's office for buying out required number of MPs, allegedly ,@25 cr a person within a tight deadline to vote for the nuclear deal.

Best Sportsman : Suresh Kalmadi, Chairman Indian Olympic Committee for going to the gym everyday and spearheading a contingent into getting unprecedented 3 medals in the Olympics.

Award reserved for
Best Social Work: Arjun Singh, Minister of Human Resources & Development who introduced 49.5% reservation for socially backward classes among students & faculty of IITs , without discrimination. It is rumoured that he finds it difficult to spell the word 'Merit' and hence has banned the use of the word in all official correspondences of his ministry. Stands by the human rights for all victims of terrorism, namely the accused themselves when they are bumped off.

(pics source : executive )

Friday, October 3, 2008

The curious incident of Nano in these strange times.

As voiced by Mr. Ratan Tata in a press conference six weeks back, Tata motors has decided to move the “Nano small-car project” outside West Bengal. In a press conference held today in Kolkata,Mr. Tata cited his concerns for the uncertainty regarding the continued safety & welfare of his employees in the face of “aggression” from opposition politicians & their supporters in front of his factory gates. In an exercise of plain talk , Mr.Tata owned up his responsibility for the welfare of his employees in the absence of a “congenial environment” to work in Singur . Likewise he talked about his accountability to the shareholders of Tata Motors because of which he could not afford to keep the investment in a “limbo” till a solution emerged . He had already spent two years full of “trying times & disruption”, Mr. Tata said.

Analysts in the tube voiced different opinions.
Mr. Alok Mukherjee , from the industry, articulated his concerns (& rightly so ) for the deteriorating image of Bengal and the impact it will have on future investments from within & outside the country.
Kalyan Sanyal, a professor of economics from the Kolkata University ( a self-confessed ex-agitator who took to the streets protesting against the visit of Robert McNamara , World Bank chief to Kolkata, decades ago) indulged in a fine-tooth analysis to discover “mother of all marginalised people” among the affected farmers who sold land for the project . He naively thought that if their interests could be protected , the project would have been on. He forgets , in spite of his experience in this field, that agitational politics & industrial development do not go together. Farmers’ issues , like the Babri Masjid, are often merely the stepping stone for a larger political space .
Mr. Abhirup Sarkar, another economist, thought probably the society of Bengal is not ready for “industry” & farmers are not “well-informed” as to what they will do with the money they receive in exchange for the land they sold for the project.
Not ready for industry? Amusing! What are these engineering colleges doing in Bengal? For learning to sow paddy ?
What will they do with the money? Give me a break. Probably they will burn them up for some warmth during the winter or hit the hooch!!!

Quite a few of the analysts often took umbrage to their domestic maid-servants , citing their opinions as proof of the mindset of marginalised farmers. Maid servants are also Mamata Bannerjees’ favourite examples & thus an interesting symbol for the middle-class city-bred Bengali whenever they want to voice their liberal & egalitarian attitude in public. The days are not far away when the feudal Bengali society will be forced to pay higher salaries for the service (often thankless) of maid servants rather than that of the skilled engineers. And Bengal Institues for Domestic Work would mushroom in place of the engineering & technical colleges. Strange times,indeed.

Subrata Mukherjee, a politician, thought he had enough reasons to believe that Tata Motors could still run the plant if they had done A then B & C. It is a sign of the times that politicians of all hues specially the ex-toughies ,with little knowledge of technical education, can portray an image of “educating” a technocrat on how to run an industry. Politicians are supposed to bring in policies for change and a change for the better & not just blind opposition. As the saying goes , Bengal is a land of culture & agriculture. Maybe Bengal is just a land of “disagree-culture”, where people will spend sleepless nights to figure out ten ways to not to do a developmental job rather than finding one way of doing it. We are lucky that the Howrah Bridge & station, the India Railways, Airports & other mega projects have been built in earlier times . In today’s times, even a cross-country railroad project would have been opposed and alternatives of bullock-carts or cycle-vans would have been touted as viable examples of environmental-friendly , people-friendly transports.

This is 21st century and the digital age. The world is moving at a frenetic pace while reductionism rules in technology . Scientists are living on the cutting age ,reducing matter to theoretical particles & conducting experiments to discover Bosons & quarks in order to crack the mystery of the universe. VLSI circuits rule in everybody’s lives . Nano technology is already here and people are counting time in nano seconds. But in Bengal, there is a dilation of time or rather the insignificance of it. Projects here take decades before fruition. The case of Haldia Petrochemical is one such example. If only , Tata Motor had such time to waste!

Mr. Ratan Tata in his press conference today mentioned that , “Miss Mamata Bannerjee pulled the trigger. I did not move my head.”

Now that Nano gets banned from production in Bengal, it may not be long before a Mamata-inspired Bengali band called “kunritey binoshto” (meaning ‘nipped in the bud’) comes out with its own rendition of Bob Marley’s famous number

“I shot the Buddha

But I did not shoot no Mr. T , oh no…”

While Durga Puja, Bengal’s annual festival, starts in a couple of days time; one can only wonder in bewilderment whether Mamata was the Durga that exterminated Nano, the industrial Mahishashur, in the mythical tradition of good winning over evil? Or was it the evil that drove away the good?

In either way Nano's genesis & extermination will remian curious incidents in these strange times of Bengal cloaked in its self-destructive "disagree-culture".

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Smoky post.

From today, tobacco smoking has been barred in all public places in India including bars & restaurants. The choice of date was carefully chosen by the government as today is also the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the nation.

Mahatma Gandhi's predictable views on smoking are hard to come by although this weird excerpt from Vol 1. of his autobiography tends to associate smoking with stealing & suicide. One vice leading to another & obstructing the pursuit of "truth"!

Just wonder what would Bapuji (Gandhi) say to Chachaji (Nehru), if he had been alive today to catch Nehru lighting a cigarette inside a train compartment?