Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Review of three not so easy to read books

These three books I read in the last two weeks were not an easy read for me. Two of them were already on my bookshelf for years. I had attempted reading them in the past but could not keep up my interest for long but now I am surprised at being able to read them now. Their styles were so different and unusual, plots did not have traces of what you see in common lives of the neighborhood so it was not easy for me to connect with the characters in these novels and they were all sad portraits of life. They drain lots of energy out of you but they would make you a seasoned human being. For an average reader, these books would not make much or any sense but if you are not an ordinary one (but have literary interests) and want to see different faces of humanity, they would not fail for sure.

Vanity Bagh by Anees Salim

The story begins with the protagonist of the novel, Imran Jabbari, entering a jail being sentenced for being involved in a serial blasts case. He begins to tell his memoirs looking at blank pages in the book binding room of the jail. There was nothing close to his heart than Vanity Bagh, a mohulla of Muslim residents where his family lived. He along with his friends from the neighborhood form a group and give it unusual name ‘5-1/2 men’. They get involved in petty fights but little they knew that they would become part of far bigger crime. While some of the observations of author reflect the opinions of Muslim community but that does not make this novel communal. The strength of plot lies in how the main character reveals his past life to the readers and being surprisingly honest with it. And the style of this novel is so unique, I cannot compare with anything else I have read in the past.

The author Anees Salim, wrote two more novels to get over the pain of rejection of his first work and now he is an award winning author. He does not promote his work but expects his books to do the talking and not him. Well that is a hallmark of a genius writer and I expect lot more good work coming out of him.

The illicit happiness of other people by Manu Joseph

This is a psychological thriller. A poor family living the middle of well to do neighbors goes through an unfortunate incident. Their elder son, who was in his teens and a great comic artist, commits suicide and the reasons are not known. Then begins the journey of his father, a journalist by profession, to find out what would have led to his son to give up his life. Though he meets all of his friends and talks to them, he does not get anything satisfactory out of it. After a gap a few years, he receives the comic strip his son intended to send to someone else just before his death but it being returned. Father begins the efforts again trying to decipher what the comic was revealing. One thing leads to another. The mystery beings to unravel but the reason behind suicide was not a simple one. The boy had gone through very serious psychological explorations and the reasons for such a situation were many. The journalist learns very unusual facts of the psychological issues many people face and finally understand the reasoning with that ends the novel.

Manu Joseph is a journalist and author and his works have won him many literary awards.

This house of clay and water by Faiqa Mansab

The story is set in Lahore and revolves around three characters. One that of a housewife, Nida, married into a upper class family but tortured in life with loss of her mother, her one year old kid and seeing no true love in her life. The second character, Sasha, a woman who has an ordinary husband who cannot earn enough to fulfil her wants of luxurious goods so strays beyond her marriage to satisfy her needs. The third character is that of a Hijra (neither a male nor female) named Bhanggi, who spends most of his time in the vicinity of a dargah (shrine of a Muslim saint) and is deeply pained for the reason he was not born normal and cannot live life like others. All these characters get to know each other at dargah. They have a common thread among them. All of them are lonely and tortured in their lives. For them life is not short but a long suffering. Sasha changes her attitude of not being loyal to husband after her minor daughter goes through rape. Nida who does not have much option in her life and no one to comfort her, gets closer to Bhanggi. Nida’s husband does not approve this and gets the hijra killed. Pained further by this development, Nida leaves her family life to become a hijra and occupies the place of Bhanggi.

This novel is the debut work of Faiqa Mansab.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Book Review: Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

This is the tale of an introvert. This mini-novel (124 pages long) is written in first person. The author introduces himself and his family of father, mother, uncle, sister and later his wife in the dedicated chapters for each member of the family.

The plot begins with the story of a typical middle-class family who count every penny they spend and the hardships they go through. It takes a slower turn as the novel progresses. As the family’s income begins to improve, their lifestyle also gets better and they move out to a better house from the small house with little privacy where-in author’s mother had to battle with ants on a regular basis.

Author gets married and then things begin to change in their family. Anita, author’s wife asks tougher questions seeking the darker truths of the family. Until then, all of the family members did not question each other’s motives and remained selectively deaf and blind. That had created a bonding in the family. But the daughter-in-law questions the belief system of the family and shows that they were indeed all selfish for their own reasons.

When Anita, wife of the author, is out of town, the family gets together and the casual conversation develops among them and the old bonding feels like coming back into the family in her absence. But the conversations turn into how and why people get killed and how one could easily walk out of that mess without legally binding into it. That indicates morale of family is beginning to compromise.

After that discussion, author becomes uncomfortable. He gets out of the house and goes to a coffee bar which he regularly visits. Sitting there, he contemplates whether his wife will reach home back safely or does she get killed on the way. As that thought comes to him, he gets tensed and breaks the glass he was holding and that will injure him and he sees his own blood.

This is a classic work and gets into the minute details of how our sub-conscious thinks, adjusts and changes with the external factors. The language of this book makes it more interesting than the plot. This book is not meant for the young readers but those in the middle-age would appreciate this as the trauma of the protagonist of this book would be theirs too.

This book was originally written in Kannada but it got widely known after its translation into English. Though I would have preferred to read it in Kannada, I came across the English translation first and it became my last weekend’s read.

Book Review: Veerappan: Chasing the Brigand by Vijay Kumar

This book beats a thriller movie in its speed, narration of events and providing a visualization of the details that went through the years spent in nabbing Veerappan. This is not just the biography of the sandalwood smuggler but that of the author and many more police officials who were part of STF, who had a single mission in their lives that of putting an end to the saga of the bandit.

All of us know the criminal activities Veerappan was involved into and how many people he had killed in the process and his kidnaps for ransom too. But we would not know in detail that he was a master strategist coupled with knacks for detailed tactics that gave him an upper hand in all the confrontations with the police of three states. Every time he had emerged winner in those 20 years span. Though the author thinks Veerappan was lucky, I suppose it was Veerappan’s intelligence, knowledge of territory, ability to quickly identify the dangers and knowing when to flee the battlefield were keys to his success.

After failing to capture him (or shoot him) for two decades, STF adopted different ways. Until then, they were successful in reducing his team’s size and they could only eliminate those who were not as agile as Veerappan but the main target always had managed to slip away, right under their nose. So they changed their tactics and begin to mimic what Veerappan did, like moving in small teams and choosing the advantageous place to meet. Some of the plans failed but one bait finally hooked up the bandit. And Veerappan’s eye was bothering him beyond tolerance. They could bring him out of the forest cover in the pretense of getting his eye operated but that was all planned in detail by STF and the ambulance too was driven by one of them. As the vehicle carried Veerappan and his mates into a pre-decided spot, STF turned on the fire and killed those in the van.

Victor writes the history. Vijay Kumar, author of this book and the head of STF, could do what his predecessors did not see success at, though they came very close several times. So you get to hear the story straight from the person who outsmarted the bandit. Of course, it was a team effort and all of them have their own valid versions. This one could be the best version.

This book is edited well and makes the read very interesting and captures the readers throughout. I took three days, six sittings to read this 250 pages book. My experience was wonderful and better than watching a thriller movie.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Literature Festivals, do they create new readers?

There are so many good things which can happen in a literature festival. I will touch upon them before I proceed to grim factors. First of all, readers to get to see the writers. You will hear their personal stories or their favorite writers and other details which are not documented in the form of books. You get to know of new literary works and their creators or even remembrance of some of the legendary writers. Yes, the discussion would revolve around the subject of literature. At last they, the literature lovers, got a forum to get together.

But beyond a physical meet-up of existing literature lovers, will these Literature festivals attract more people to read literature? Try asking the book-sellers at those festivals, the answer is not that encouraging. Those who were already attracted to literature would definitely buy books at every opportunity. Leaving them behind, are there new readers being created through these festivals? And in what numbers? You see, the writers who conduct panel discussions or read-out sessions are no movies stars. Much of them are introverts and may not feel easy at public speaking. They may not have the physical charm to attract new audience and hook them up into reading. Reading has to be done in solitude and the choice to become a reader is internal. So if the young are not coming in considerable numbers into the field of literature, how long these lit fests would make sense?

You check with the younger generation if they had watched the movie ‘Bahubali 2’. They would quote a dialogue or two from the movie. They would not have missed the IPL series too. And they would read hundreds of messages on their Whatsapp. But reading a book? It does not interest them. Some of them would have had a copy of Chetan Bhagat or Shiva trilogy. But beyond that can they name couple of authors or their interesting works? Don’t ask or get ready to face a strange look.

When the majority of population is not interested, that business line does not make much commercial sense. Let us look at best-selling authors. Books of S L Bhyrappa have been doing well but has he made any serious money from it? Who is the next author in Kannada who can find considerable number of readers? A publisher would tell, selling 10,000 books would make him see some profit. When Karnataka’s population is more than 7 crores, it is just 0.0001% market penetration. A savvy marketer would make more money selling off perishable things than books which last really long.

Those who write for self-expression may not experience pain learning this. But the budding writers who want to make a living out of it would understand first that their probability of seeing success is 0.0001%, may be same chances of winning in a lottery. Better they find a job which pays and limit literature to a hobby.

The literature fests, though they intend to revive the habit of reading and spread its joy, are unlikely to see much success. Publishing may never become a commercially attractive business anytime but keep losing its shine and disappear some day or live a negligible presence. Don’t blame the modern life style for it. Change is part of evolution. But have sympathy for writers who could not learn any other life skill.

A Tale of Two Cities

I am talking of Bangalore and Mysore. I am living in Bangalore for the past two decades and I have visited Mysore more than a dozen times and I find both of them very contrasting. One moves at a breakneck speed and other is slow and peaceful. Not just the cultural variation across these two cities is too drastic and it is the outlook towards life that puts them at opposing ends.

It is money over happiness. Every one of us know that money is important. But how important? If the money making is the prime purpose of life, even at the expense of your health and reduced time with family, you are likely to be a Bangalorean. If you want to strike a balance between money and family and also aim towards peaceful life, Mysore could be your home. If you go by GDP per capita, Bangalore may score well but if you go by happiness measure, Mysoreans would beat Bangalore by a huge margin.

Now let us look at things apart from money. See how the waste is being handled. Bangalore has garbage heaps everywhere. Mysore is titled the cleanest town of India. Now you know why I say Mysore people are healthier.

Look at population density. Bangalore is geographically 4-5 times bigger than Mysore but it has 10x more population. That would mean Bangalore’s population density is 2-3x higher than that of Mysore. And if you look at vehicles per family, Bangalore is no comparison to Mysore. So all these numbers explain why Bangalore is a choked city while Mysore is not. And I don’t have to mention separately about air quality.

Think of water? Mysore has a dam at the outskirts. Bangalore gets its water pumped from as far as 60 km. Think of green cover? Mysore has protected forests at less than an hour drive. In Bangalore, you drive for an hour, you will still be in the middle of traffic, among the cruelest animals of this earth.

In Bangalore, if you have money, you can get food or most kinds of services round the clock as the city refuses to go to bed and aims at making money in the night too. In Mysore, if you did not have dinner before 9 pm, you are likely to go hungry as most of shopkeepers close and go home for a restful sleep. They are not lured by the money the night travelers bring.

These comparisons can go on and on. And probably you are convinced now why these two cities are different. They are meant for different kinds of people. A proper Mysorean would not be able to live in Bangalore for long and he would return as soon he gets an opportunity. And an aggressive Bangalorean would see Mysore as no more than a tourist place. So the cultures of these two cities continue to remain as they are.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Essay: Who Am I?

[Essay written for admission to a writing course]

Who am I? Yes, I am asking this question to my inner self. Instead of giving an answer, it questions me back. “Have not you been asking this same question over the ages?” I agree and I do remember those interactions.

The first instance was when I was too young. I was told by my elder sister that I am Anand. That was what my parents had named me. But why “Anand”? I had probed. And my sister had told me smilingly “When you were in mother’s womb, Appa and Amma had gone to watch a Kannada movie starring Rajkumar and Julie Lakshmi. They had liked the movie and they took a decision that if the new born is a boy, the name will be that of hero’s character in the movie. If girl, then it would be of Heroin’s”. So I came to know how I became Anand.

The next was during school going days. Then routine was simple and it repeated year after year. Get up and get ready. Reach school in time. Come back in the evening, play with neighborhood kids until it gets dark. Do the homework and sleep with books next to my pillow. My school teachers had liked my promptness and consistency in completing the assignments. They told everyone that I am a good student. And I believed in that. Even my parents never missed to tell those visiting our home that I am good at school. Now you know how I, Anand, got to be known and identified as a good student.

Then teenage came, I left home to study at college. I had become more independent. For the first time I tasted Tea at a hotel outside of home though I was a regular tea-drinker at home. I began to develop awareness of my looks and also started to notice how the world judged people by their dressing and outlook. I was not a complete rebel but yet refused getting a short hair-cut which was the norm until then. I demanded additional pocket money to buy a nice pair of shoes. Yeah, I was thinking for myself and decided what was good for me. What a phenomenal change! For others, I was a son of so and so parents and came from the place which is bigger than a village but smaller than a town. But I knew those were just external identities and I knew for sure I had a mind of my own and that was my true self.

Education was over and I started job hunting. During the interviews, the first question asked was “Tell about yourself”. I would narrate them how Anand, a good student, now is in search of a job and a steady income. They believed my story and I got a job with some disposable income. That was when the sub-conscious person in me went on a high and soon I was riding a bike, bought out of my own earnings and of course with few EMI’s to pay. Who was I then? I was a person who saw the world full of opportunities and trying to make the best out of it. Then I begin to see the inner selves of other people too, beginning with my parents. They wanted to own a house and they saw me as the vehicle to reach their desire. A part of my inner self was a part of theirs too. I was just an extension of my parent’s souls.

It was time to marry. My soul mate had chosen me for the reasons unclear to me yet. Happy times followed and the children too. I became a complete family man. Who do not like their young kids? The answer to “Who am I?” got changed again. I was observing the transformation of my soul with the changing life phases but yet simple things like career, money and indulgences in keeping the physical senses happy were ruling my soul.

I was nearing my fortieth birthday and one day I was not able to read the newspapers and magazines with the same ease I was doing before. My wife suggested to see a doctor, so I went to one. After making the checks, the doctor asked “Are you 40?” I was surprised how she knew my exact age. I got my reading glasses and I began to carry them wherever I went out apart from two cell phones in two different pockets.

It was not just my vision which was blurred but the soul too had become dim. I had realized that it does not matter who I am but what matters is why I am here and one has to know the purpose of life. My friends and colleagues shrugged it off saying it is mid-life crisis. Had they gone through the same thing I was going through? I was not convinced. I googled it which led me to spirituality. I found that Adi Shankara and Swami Vivekananda who took the spiritual path had found their answers quite early in their lives and they did not live to forty. I realized I was slow and thought of attempting to trace the routes one of them had traveled. I could form a small group of friends to reach the Himalayas. During Adi Shankara’s time, it took many months to get there from south India but for me it took just three days. After taking a dip in the holy Ganga, I went on to meet a hundred year old yogi. He was a renounced man but still a man. The concept of God became clearer to me. There is no God and God is everywhere. Hope you do not see any contradiction in it else you are not yet ready for it.

Now the question ‘Who am I’ does not bother me anymore. Bhagavad-Gita says I was here before and I would come here again. Not the time to discuss if Mahabharata had really happened but the philosophical take away is, it does not matter who I am but what matters is what I do.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Impact of IT job losses on Indian Economy

IT industry is going through a rough phase. Blame in on Trump or Brexit or Automation, jobs are being lost in this sector. They were high paid jobs in comparison to others sectors and these employees were earning forex. So the impact would be substantial. Let us try to estimate what would be the impact of this on Indian Economy.

1. Job losses: Estimates show that there are 48 lakh employees work in IT industry. Regarding job cuts, every report has their own numbers ranging from 2 lakhs to 10 lakhs. But most seem to agree that there will be around 5 lakh jobs being lost. Many senior management jobs which get top salary are cut along with the jobs at lower end being lost to automation. If we assume that average pay of these employees is Rs. 10 lakh per annum (since it includes highly paid management jobs), it will amount to USD $7.8B (billions) of total lost income per year. The actual impact could be less as many of these people are likely to find another job, may be with a lesser pay. But we need to make an estimate, so we will assume the worst case impact, and we get this $7.8B figure.

2. Reduced pay: Those who remain in the job face lots of heat too. Their variable pay or bonus whatever you call it, can be trimmed and IT companies will not shy out from doing this as we have learnt from the last downturn. If we assume that around 20 lakh (out of those 43 lakhs remaining on job) lose around 10% pay, it will sum up to $3.1B.

3. Secondary impact: As those losing their income reduce their spend on eating out, travel, etc. and also free up office space, reduce load on facilities and utility services etc. it will lead to reduced spend on services and it will have a negative impact on national income (GDP). I assume that would be equivalent to number of jobs being lost (5 lakhs) but at reduced pay. This would amount to $3.8B.

All this will sum up to close to $15B.

For Indian economy, which is around $2 trillion, $15B is not a huge impact. And on the economy growth rate of 7%, the negative impact is almost negligible as it is spread out over 2-3 years. But yet, this will kill the optimism in the industry and also reduces the employee morale which is intangible. And for cities like Bangalore where IT industry has significant presence, it may feel like recession.

If the estimated job losses begin to go up 3x or 4x, then it will start hurting the Indian economy. That no one is predicting now and probably we should not worry about. But for this down wave in IT, Indian economy is likely to digest and move forward.

ಮರ್ಯಾದೆಗೆ ಹೆದರುವುವರು ಮತ್ತು ಹೆದರದವರು

ಈ ಜಗತ್ತಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಎರಡು ತರಹದ ಜನರಿದ್ದಾರೆ.  ಮರ್ಯಾದೆಗೆ ಹೆದರುವುವರು ಮತ್ತು ಹೆದರದವರು. ಹೆದರುವವರದೇ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿನ ಸಂಖ್ಯೆ (ಅದರಲ್ಲೂ ಹೆಣ್ಣು ಮಕ್ಕಳು). ಅವರು ಅಕ್ಕ-ಪಕ್ಕದವರು, ಬಂಧು-ಬಳಗ, ಊರಿನ ಜನ ಹೀಗೆ ಒಟ್ಟಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಸಮಾಜ ತಮ್ಮನ್ನು ಹೇಗೆ ನೋಡಬಹುದು ಎನ್ನುವುದಕ್ಕೆ ಪ್ರಾಮುಖ್ಯತೆ ಕೊಡುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಸಮಾಜದಲ್ಲಿ ತಮ್ಮ ಗೌರವಕ್ಕೆ ಎಂದೂ ಕುಂದು ಬರಬಾರದು ಎನ್ನುವ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನದಲ್ಲೇ ಜೀವನ ಸಾಗಿಸುತ್ತಾರೆ. ತಮ್ಮ ಮನೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಏನಾದರೂ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ ಇದೆಯೋ, ಅದು ಹೊರಗಿನ ಸಮಾಜಕ್ಕೆ ಗೊತ್ತಾಗದಂತೆ ಕಾಳಜಿ ವಹಿಸುತ್ತಾರೆ. ತಮ್ಮ ಮಗ ಲಂಪಟನೋ, ಸಾಲಗಾರನೋ ಆಗಿದ್ದರೆ, ತಮ್ಮ ಕುಟುಂಬದ ಗೌರವಕ್ಕೆ ಹೆದರಿ ಆ ಸಾಲವನ್ನು ತಾವು ಮುಟ್ಟಿಸುವ ಮೂಲಕ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಯ ಬಗೆಹರಿಸಲು ನೋಡುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಪತಿ ಕುಡುಕನೋ ಅಥವಾ ಮೋಜುಗಾರನೋ ಆಗಿದ್ದರೆ, ಅವನ ಪತ್ನಿ ಈ ವಿಷಯ ಹೊರಗೆ ಬಾರದಂತೆ ತಡೆಯುವ ಎಲ್ಲ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾಳೆ. ಇದು ಸಾಕಷ್ಟು ಕುಟುಂಬಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆಯುವ ಸರ್ವೇ ಸಾಮಾನ್ಯ ಸಂಗತಿ. ಮೊದ ಮೊದಲಿಗೆ ಇಂತಹ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಗಳು ಬಗೆ ಹರಿದಂತೆ ಕಂಡರೂ ಅವು ಕ್ರಮೇಣ ದೊಡ್ಡದಾಗುತ್ತ ಹೋಗುತ್ತವೆ.

ಅದಕ್ಕೆ ಕಾರಣ ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ವರ್ಗದ ಜನರಿದ್ದಾರಲ್ಲ, ಮರ್ಯಾದೆಗೆ ಹೆದರದವರು (ಅಥವಾ ಮರ್ಯಾದೆ ತೆಗೆಯುವುವರು). ಅವರು ಈ ಮರ್ಯಾದೆಗೆ ಹೆದರುವುವರ ಮನಸ್ಥಿತಿಯನ್ನು ಚೆನ್ನಾಗಿ ಅರಿತಿರುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಅವರಿಗೆ ಅದೇ ಬಂಡವಾಳ. ಸಾಲ ಕೊಟ್ಟವರನ್ನು ಸರಹೊತ್ತಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಮನೆಗೆ ಬರುವಂತೆ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಕುಟುಂಬದ ಗೌರವವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಗೆ ಈಡು ಮಾಡುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಅಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಪತ್ನಿಯ ಮೈ ಮೇಲಿನ ಒಂದು ಆಭರಣ ಮಾಯವಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಆದರೆ ಇಂತಹ ಪರಿಸ್ಥಿತಿಗಳು ಮೇಲಿಂದ ಮೇಲೆ ಬರ ತೊಡಗುತ್ತವೆ. ಕಾಲ ಕ್ರಮೇಣ ಅವನ ಪತ್ನಿ ನಿರಾಭರಣ ಸುಂದರಿ ಆಗುತ್ತಾಳೆ ಅಥವಾ ಅವನ ತಂದೆಯ ಸ್ಥಿರಾಸ್ಥಿಗಳು ಸಾಲಗಾರರ ಪಾಲಾಗಿರುತ್ತವೆ.

ಕಳೆದುಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಏನೂ ಇಲ್ಲವೋ ಆಗ ಆ ಪತ್ನಿಯ ಅಥವಾ ತಂದೆ-ತಾಯಿಯ ಪ್ರತಿಭಟನೆ ಶುರುವಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. 'ದುಡಿದು ತಂದರೆ ಹಿಟ್ಟು, ಇಲ್ಲದಿದ್ದರೆ ತಣ್ಣೀರು ಬಟ್ಟೆ' ಎನ್ನುವ ಉತ್ತರ ಸಲೀಸಾಗಿ ಹೊರ ಬರುತ್ತದೆ. ಮರ್ಯಾದೆಗೆ ಹೆದರದವರಿಗೆ ಬಯ್ಗುಳ ಏನೂ ಹೊಸತೇ? ಅವರು ಅಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಜಗ್ಗುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ಆದರೆ ಅವರ ಆಟ ಮುಗಿದಿದೆ. ಅವನ ಪತ್ನಿ (ಅಥವಾ ಪೋಷಕರು) ಈಗ ಮರ್ಯಾದೆಗೆ ಹೆದರುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ಅವರು ಅವನನ್ನು ಮೂಲೆಗೆ ಕೂಡಿಸುತ್ತಾರೆ ಅಥವಾ ಮನೆಯಿಂದ ಹೊರ ಹಾಕುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಆಗ ಅವನು ತನ್ನ ಖರ್ಚು ತಾನು ದುಡಿಯುವ ಸಾಧ್ಯತೆಗಳೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚು.

ಆದರೆ ಇದೇ ನಿರ್ಧಾರ ಮೊದಲೇ ತೆಗೆದುಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದರೆ, ಕಳೆದುಕೊಳ್ಳುವುದು ತಪ್ಪಿಸ ಬಹುದಿತ್ತಲ್ಲವೇ? ಆಗ ಅದು ಕುಟುಂಬದ ಗೌರವದ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆ ಆಗಿತ್ತು. ಸರಿ, ಆ ಗೌರವ ಉಳಿಯಿತೇ?  ಕಳೆದುಕೊಂಡ ಮೇಲೆ ಬುದ್ದಿ ಬಂತು ಅಂತ ಗಾದೆ ಮಾತೇ ಇದೆ ಎಂದು ಸಮಾಧಾನ ಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಬಹುದು. ಆದರೆ ವಿಚಾರ ಮಾಡಿ ನೋಡಿ. ಮರ್ಯಾದೆ ಎನ್ನುವುದು ಊಟದ ನಡುವಿನ ಉಪ್ಪಿನಕಾಯಿ ಅಲ್ಲ. ಅದು ನಮ್ಮ ಭ್ರಮೆ. ಅದಕ್ಕೆ ಹೆದರುವುದು ನಮ್ಮ ದೌರ್ಬಲ್ಯ. ಮರ್ಯಾದೆಗೆ ಹೆದರದವರು ಅದರ ದುರ್ಬಳಕೆ ಮಾಡಿಯೇ ನಮ್ಮನ್ನು ಅವರ ಜೊತೆ ನಿಲ್ಲಿಸಿಬಿಡುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಅಕ್ಕಂದಿರೇ, ತಾಯಂದಿರೇ, ನಿಮ್ಮ ಪತಿ ಅಥವಾ ಮಗ ಮರ್ಯಾದೆಗೆ ಹೆದರದವನು ಎಂದು ಗುರುತಿಸಿದ ದಿನವೇ ಅವನನ್ನು ಎಲ್ಲಿಡಬೇಕೋ ಅಲ್ಲಿಡಿ. ಅವನ ದೌರ್ಬಲ್ಯಗಳು ಸಮಾಜಕ್ಕೆ ಗೊತ್ತಾದರೆ ಆಗಲಿ. ಅವನಿಗೆ ಹೊಸ ಸಾಲ ಸಿಕ್ಕುವುದು ತಪ್ಪುತ್ತದೆ. ಅದು ಬಿಟ್ಟು, ಸಮಾಜದಲ್ಲಿ ನಿಮ್ಮ ಪ್ರತಿಷ್ಠೆ ಏನಾದೀತು ಎಂದು ನೀವು ಭಯ ಪಟ್ಟರೆ ಅದು ನಿಜವಾಗುವ ದಿನ ಬಂದೇ ಬಿಡುತ್ತದೆ. ಅದರ ಬದಲು ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಯನ್ನು ಎದುರಿಸಿದರೆ ಅದರಿಂದ ಉಪಯೋಗವಾದೀತು. ಇಷ್ಟಕ್ಕೂ ಸಮಾಜಕ್ಕೆ ಗೊತ್ತು ಎಲ್ಲರ ಮನೆ ದೋಸೆ ತೂತೆ ಎಂದು. ಅದು ತನ್ನ ಪಾಡಿಗೆ ತಾನು ಸಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಎದುರಿಸಿ ಗೆದ್ದೀರೋ, ಆಗ ನೀವೇ ಆ ಸಮಾಜಕ್ಕೆ ಮಾದರಿ.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Arbitrage trades and their impact on spot market pricing

Here is the textbook definition of how Arbitrage Funds earn money: “Arbitrage fund leverages the price differential in the cash and derivatives market to generate returns. The fund simultaneously buy shares in the cash segment and sell futures in the derivatives segment of the same company as long as the futures are trading at a reasonable premium.”

This would mean they do no-risk trades. Though there would be transactions costs (may be taxes as well), this arbitrage would still generate positive return with a very high probability. This opportunity exists as long as premiums on futures remain high creating a spread between spot price and its futures.

First we need to ask why there is a premium on the futures. Because there is a hope that underlying stock would gain, buyers of Futures are willing to pay a premium. But at the expiry, hope meets reality and the spot price converges with futures price resulting the premium to become zero. This cycle repeats every month.

Beginning of the new series as the premium is high, these funds enter the trade and when there is no premium to earn (at expiry or before), these trades end with square-off in futures and selling in cash market. They would earn at least 1-2% month per trade.

It is good for Arbitrage funds. But for rest of the traders, these trades might give false impressions of what is happening. As those funds buy in the sport market, demand goes up so will be the spot price. But they are creating a short position in futures market simultaneously. When they want to square-off the derivative they hold, they sell in spot market which causes pressure and the spot price declines. So this creates a price range and within that a stock would move multiple times.

You might think all of the trades in the spot market are not arbitrage trades. Looking at the data shows that majority of the trades are indeed done by these arbitrage funds. They contribute significantly to the volume. Take example of IDFC Bank stock. The number of shares owned by Arbitrage funds in this stock is a lot higher than long term mutual funds hold and also higher than its daily or monthly average trade volume in the spot market. These funds are not long term investors but only interested in pocketing the premium and they do not care about the underlying direction of the stock. Since they would win anyway, they do not shy to create a stampede while selling or would not mind to create a hysteric demand taking the price up and increasing the arbitrage opportunities for themselves.

When they are buying, price levels see an increase beyond what it would be possible if these arbitrage funds were not present. Once their trades are set, they stop buying and the price drops as demand drops too. At this stage, arbitrage funds might decide buying again increasing the Open Interest levels or they can square-off exiting spot market too. And in the process they would damage the price to an extent of 1% to 10% depending on the depth of the market. But the fall won't be forever as they need to create hope for buyers to pay a premium which would happen with fresh buying. That is to sell futures at higher premium. This cycle repeats at least once a month and sometimes more within a month.

When a stock (traded in F&O) sees a sharp up move and then just passes time for the rest of the month, you know now who profits from it. Now that we are aware of their presence, how do we get to know their actions and how we can profit from it? I would write about that in a future blog post.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Book Review: The Gene

As the sub-title of this book describes, it is an intimate history of development of biological science with focus on genomics which is now getting prominence for its potential benefits to mankind.

The book begins with a prologue in which author (who originates from West Bengal, now resides in US) describes about three persons in his family over two generations diagnosed for mental disorders and could not lead normal lives. It is believed that genes carried these defects or the disease causing mechanism making it a hereditary disease. The blood of parents is not lost in you. However, defects may not come to surface in every member but yet it would use them as vehicles to come to life again in the next generation.

Then the next few chapters explore the efforts of scientists like Gregor Mendel to Charles Darwin (and many other scientists) in understanding the process of evolution and natural selection. These chapters are a fascinating read as the book touches most of the literature, theories developed and experiments devised over a period of few centuries and it establishes how this stream got developed into a full-fledged science and how each scientist built on the foundation laid by their predecessors.

Then the detailed study of genes follows through. Efforts to understand why they are sequenced in a particular way and how each is influencing the characteristics, be it in plant, animals or human beings. There is explanation of how the evolution played a role and how the nature nurtures this mechanism of passing the genes to their off-springs. If and how genes can be engineered to get the desired results and similar discussions form the rest of this book, which cannot be summarized in a blog post and I believe it requires reading full 500+ pages of this book. If this subject interests you, get it on your study table soon (if not done already).

Though this is a science non-fiction, this book uses a simple language and keeps the readers interested, thanks to the literary skills of the author cum scientist Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee. He won the Pulitzer award for his previous book on the study of cancer. This book in an extended study of his previous book and would become one of the foundations pillars in the historical study of genes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I wish Dara Shikoh was not killed

He was the eldest son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and also his favorite. He was the crowned price and an able administrator. He was rational. He was on a spiritual conquest. He tried to understand the meaning of life. He got Upanishads translated into Persian. He respected all religions. People loved him. Army generals hated him. Spirituality and wars, they do not get along well. Dara Shikoh lacked the skills of an able warrior. He understood the secrets of religious texts but failed to understand the secret plots his younger brothers. He went to war to fight his brother Aurangzeb who was everything that Dara was not. Dara lost the battle and ran away for life seeking help. He never got it. He was hungry for days, his wife died on the way. He was easily conned and handed over to his brother. An enlightened man had to meet a brutal death along with his son. You can call it fate or destiny, but it is all history. Dara was dead and religious extremism was born.

I wish things have had happened otherwise. I wish Dara was less spiritual. I wish Dara knew how to fight a war. I wish Dara knew moves of enemies. I wish Dara had got help. I wish Dara was not killed. I wish Dara had become the emperor. I wish people had understood what Dara knew very well. I wish there was only one religion. I wish Dara gets another opportunity.

Income from your investments

Lots of us have bad experiences investing in the stock markets directly so would prefer the route of Mutual Funds. That is fine. The only problem I see is, Mutual Funds are skewed towards companies with higher market capital. That is to balance the risk-reward profile. As the assets of the fund grow, they find it difficult to earn higher returns than the index as their portfolio gets wider too. And each fund house has their own bias too. That is counter-productive. So all of this will lead to returns generated by mutual fund is almost comparable to index. Stock concentration gives higher returns than the market but can increase risk profile too. Is there a way, individual investors can manage their portfolio risks? Yes, if we can harness our emotions and invest with a sane mind.

o Have realistic expectations: We want to earn higher returns than benchmark index but we do not aim at windfall gains. Higher expectations makes us take higher risks and increase the chances of losing out. Capital protection is as important as growth.

o Give time: Think of portfolio creation like constructing a building. You cannot have rental income from a building which is not complete and it may take many months to years to complete and until then you are not expecting a return. And you are not judging the valuation of the building on daily or monthly basis during that period.

o Due diligence: Choose stocks wisely. Identifying fundamentally good stock with growth potential is a primary filter. Revenue and earnings growth have to be consistent and any deviation should have valid reasons. Risks in balance sheet should not be unhealthy. Cash flows have to be sensible and should triangulate with the state of business. Strategy as explained in investor presentations, conference calls, public interviews by the management should invoke confidence. Look at co-investors through share-holding pattern. Before you put money, spend time studying the company, their business, products, customers and competitors. The more time you invest here, higher is the quality of your portfolio.

o Techincals: Learn to identify supports and resistances. You may use chart patterns or look at option-chains or any other technical tools. Buy only at support levels. This will give a good start. If the stock falls after you buy and hits the stop-loss, it is better to get out. You did not study it well or you could not get the rhythm of that stock. Averaging it would potentially become a trap. Journey has to begin positively. Cut your losses at the first instance and retain those you get it right.

o Add only when there is price difference (and not every month): Do not buy in bulk but invest in small amounts. You will buy the next lot only when the stock moves up significantly and not periodically. If a stock stays at same level for months, there is no point in investing in it every month. We do not know the next move, it could be break-out or break-down. We are in the stock market to earn money which comes with price difference. Unless the positive price difference comes, it does not make sense to put additional money in the same stock. You may lose out on the initial rise if stock does well immediately after your purchase because your volumes were not high but you also avoided big loss potential too.

o Keep moving the stop loss level up:  This is to safeguard your profits. Since you have added more quantity only when the stock has moved up, there is a positive difference between your average price and the current market price. There is a always cushion of profits for your portfolio. But when the fundamentals change and you decide to exit, you should do so without incurring losses. Revising the stop loss levels up helps us to retain profits and realize them.

o Portfolio mix: We do not want to hold 50-100 stocks in our portfolio but wish to have around 10 stocks any given time. These stocks should not be from the same sector (for example, all should not be banking stocks or cement stocks). Ensure they are un-related, that would reduce industry risk. If regulator or the Govt. makes any policy changes, it should reduce the impact on the portfolio if the mix is not concentrated.

o Keep good cash: Keep some-thing like 30-40% of your portfolio in cash (it could be in the form of deposits or bonds or demat gold). Since stock markets surprise us often and give discount buying opportunities, we need to have cash (or equivalent) to make use of the opportunity. During your portfolio building years, you would not invest more than 70% of your money in equity. Once it begins to perform, you would book profits regularly to keep the cash levels at 30-40%. This may not look like efficient when the going is good but when there are shocks to market, the discount buying opportunities produce higher returns, this would give you an upper hand in the overall returns of the portfolio.

If you study the points listed above, we are doing everything right from identifying the quality stock, to entering at the right price, to managing the risks (credit risks, industry risks, portfolio risks) and also making good use of the opportunities.

If are too enthusiastic, you are likely to lose the money in the market so invest enough time until the euphoria is replaced with balanced perspectives. Then your investments will begin to produce positive cash flows. This journey will take at least five years. And you don’t learn to manage any business efficiently in lesser time than that.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Leave to Live!

Purna Chandra Tejasvi, a noted writer had said in a casual conversation that Bangaloreans, when they die, directly go to heaven as there would be no hell worse than Bangalore in which they had spent their life time. Well, he had said that a long time ago, and it was a dark humor with a warning then. Now that has become reality.

Ask any resident who has stayed in Bangalore for long about how it is transforming, you will realize how a paradise gradually turned into a hell. Ponds and lake beds became space for public utilities and residential townships. Green cover had to be sacrificed for roads and highways. Natural resources got depleted at an alarming space. Now how and why do you expect Bangalore to remain cooler?

Around 15 years ago, it was possible go around Bangalore in a bike like how one would do in any other town. But if you attempt it now, you would return home not just exhausted but with extreme rage and uneasiness. It won’t be a surprise if you woke up next day coughing which won’t leave you for days.

Bangalore is one of the fastest growing cities in this world. It kept growing for its ingredients. In the post-independence era, Bangalore became home to many public sector companies like, BHEL, HAL, BEL, BEML and many more. Industry got developed. There was Indian Institute of Science and good number of Engineering colleges attracting and growing the talent feeding the developing industry. Then came the IT wave which changed the geography of Bangalore completely. Sleeping farm estates of Whitefield turned into a silicon valley of India. People came to Bangalore and they never returned as they built there home here.

It was difficult for Govt. machinery to cope as they had not anticipated this kind of growth. Coupled with their inefficiency, temporary measures adopted by the residents such as improper disposing of waste, drilling deep bore-wells along with unscientific ways adopted by the construction industry including sand mafia helped accelerate Bangalore reach the present state. All of us living in Bangalore, directly or indirectly have contributed to this mess. There are many videos being circulated in social media and numerous articles being published on newspapers and magazines on how Bangalore would become unlivable soon. As we just keep talking and not do what is necessary, we would consciously walk into the reality of unlivable Bangalore.

Then what? Many of us would be forced to leave Bangalore and build home elsewhere. Our employers would change their base. Government may move out some of its offices too. Before that happens, lots of residents would be losing their health for the ill-effects of pollution of every kind – water, air and noise primarily.

So why not leave early? Don’t we deserve a better a life? Of course, there are practical issues like job opportunities are not there outside Bangalore. But for those of us who can find an alternative, it would be worth considering. Cities are harsh on daily life leading. Higher the time spent in commute, lower the time available to do anything else. Higher is the exposure to pollution, lower is the life expectation. Higher earning in Bangalore would also mean higher costs with health deteriorating and reduced ability to earn or remain in job over a long period. Considering the opportunity costs, it would become economically viable to leave the high-paying job in Bangalore to lower earning but a simple life of a small town.

To me (and to some like-minded) this discussion is making sense. I hope I would be able to leave Bangalore before I am forced to.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Stock Holding Patterns and their impact on pricing

In the Short term the market is a voting machine, but in the long run it is a weighing machine.
- Benjamin Graham in “The Intelligent Investor”

We all agree with legendary Benjamin Graham. But have you thought how the transformation of scale happens with transit of time?

Every business has multiple class of investors.

1. Promoters: They form the base, they might be at the forefront of running the business or passively influencing it but they do define the ethics, value and culture of the business. Mission and Vision is defined by them. All the successful companies will have promoters with great business sense & skills contributing towards the business they are promoting. Increase or decrease in holding of promoter share would change the direction of company’s value too.

2. Growth Investors: They may not be actively participating in how the business is run but they firmly believe in the business they have invested in. They are aware of business-cycles and ignore the short-term fluctuations. They would be happy getting dividends rather than cashing out their stocks. They are in perfect alignment with promoters in the ideology and likely to hold the stocks for really longer times, if not forever.

3. Value Investors: Whenever a stock is under priced, these kind of investors will step-in and hold until their target is achieved. (They might short sell when a stock is overpriced too). Their holding period would be typically range from a few months to couple of years. They are more of a theme based investors and are in play with an expectation, so they would make the difference (profit or loss) for their expectations and sell out.

4. Short term traders: These provide liquidity to the stock. They holding period could be few minutes (algo-trading) or as long as few weeks. They would get out for very small gains or losses and would move to other counters quickly. Stocks just pass through these hands when expectations are high so there is momentum for the stock. As they get out volatility gets reduced too.

Promoters and growth investors bring in stability to pricing, their increase in holding may be an indication that stock has growth potential and is not overpriced. They reducing their stake would be an alarm. Retail investors, as shown in the history, usually come when the stock is topping out. They do not have long pockets and are not equipped emotionally to handle the stress, so they are unlikely to take the price up further steeply. That would leave the value investors which are mostly mutual-funds, big-institutions (like LIC), foreign investors and high net worth individuals. They make the most out of the market in the medium term. They have access to information, they have the buying and holding power, so can move or break a stock. But how will you know who is coming in and going out?

Promoters and large investors have to declare their trading to exchange, that information would be available to public in a day or two. But remember their moves either indicate the floor price or a high (if selling) but not necessarily the momentum which is mostly driven by value investors. To know what they are doing, look at the stock holding pattern which is published on monthly basis. If mutual funds, FII are increasing their stakes, they would not be in a hurry to sell out, they would be in the stock to get some 30-50% returns at least. Become a co-investor with them, you would be able to ride the wave.

It is presumed that you would have done your research like studying the financial statements, estimating the expected earnings growth and the risks to it. If that is all convincing, get to know the promoter and the management better. Pay attention to what the management told in their quarterly calls, investor conferences or their public appearances through interviews to media. Observe if there is a positive change and quantify that in your model. And wait for the value investors to come-in, this is for the confirmation on your research and also for timing of the entry. You would behave no differently than a fund manager but your portfolio could be better (or not) than theirs. If you have done this well, assets under your management would have grown and you have honed your skills as an active investor.

If this seems lots of work, yes it is. Investing is a serious business. If you do not have time or not serious with your investments, you are better off hiring a fund manager (invest through mutual funds and not stocks directly). But if you can pull this off, it would change your fortunes. (I am still having a day job and have not made any serious money yet from markets but slowly getting the confidence to say this.)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Fiction: Dairy pages of an old Tiger

You humans call me a big cat. Well, the comparison looks awkward to me as I don’t like playing with kids or getting pampered by women. I would rather eat them for breakfast. Calling me a Tiger though look appropriate, I would have preferred a much scarier word than that. I did overhear the story of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’ in which a Tiger is the chief villain. Hmm…you people make up the stories rather than telling the facts as they are. For that reason, I would have behaved no different than ‘Shere Khan’ and I would never have made friendship with ‘Mowgli’. I was governed by laws of the nature until I met with an accident.

Tigers do not believe in luck or fate. So I think my encounter with human beings is purely an accident. When I was growing up, I did not know that human race existed. Playing with two siblings under the protection of my mother was the world to me. Mother would take us out and let us watch from a hiding how she hunts. All four legged animals, thinner the legs, bulkier the stomach, better the meal for us. Time was running fast. I did not know then what it meant when they say happier times. Wait for the right moment, Attack! Mother had trained us well and I learnt to hunt on my own. That is when mother’s affection started fading and soon she pushed me out of her territory.

         I was on my own comfortably. An ambush strike on the way to waterhole would keep my hunger satisfied for couple of days, then I would sleep well and keep my cool before the need to hunt again. During my walks marking the territory instinctively, I noticed how scared other animals are seeing me. Am I the prince of this jungle? Yeah, looks does matter. Scarier the appearance higher the respect. A plain growl would keep my path free. It did not take much time to transform from a prince into a king.

All was well until I met a human accidentally. There was not one but many. They appeared like large monkeys (you remember you called me big cat), walking on two legs but they were not jumping from tree to tree. They appeared weak. I did not want to eat them but I was irritated a lot by their presence. I waited until one of them singled out and made an appearance before him. My intention was to scare him out of my territory. No doubt he was scared but he shouted and all the crowd began to gather. I just disappeared from the scene, not of out fear but sheer disgust.

After that incident, I had a sense of being watched whenever I went out. Soon I had to meet a human being again. At some distance he was standing on the top a tower, holding a stick aiming at me. Blood rushed to my face and I instantly jumped on him. What a surprise, his stick fired something which pierced my hind leg. I fell down and could not run anymore. In no time, I lost my senses and collapsed.

After what it appeared to be a deep sleep of many days, I woke up in a small island like place surrounded by barricades. There is room to walk but not big enough as few steps would bring it to end. Go back and go round. ‘Oh, this is a confinement’ I realized. I was captivated. Food came regularly, what a relief but it is boring to eat at same time of the day. I missed unpredictability of the jungle. I hear sounds of other animals in the vicinity and understand that they are captivated too. Each animal has a confined space here. What kind of a place on earth is this? No exercise to muscles and I am not using my paws and teeth which were my ultimate tools in hunting. I started looking at what is outside of those barricades. There were humans, tens of them, standing on the other side iron bars and staring at me. The moat is wide between us. While I can attempt a jump off the moat, those iron bars would still hurt me else I would have taken lives out of those bodies one after the other. I am out of options. I just lie-down and stare back.

You know no Tiger keeps a dairy. Reading and writing is such a waste of time and a Tiger would rather live life to fullest remaining in action. As my hunting skills and tools are rusting, I am learning to think like humans. Yes, there is nothing else to do. I don’t mean life is bad in confinement but there is no excitement. To kill time, keeping a dairy, spending time in the reminiscences may not be a bad thing. Will they ever leave me back in the jungle? I am not sure if I want to go back. You think Tiger loves freedom over timely food? You can find out for yourself which Tiger lives longer. Then extended life is the price for freedom. Is not it? I don’t like thinking this much. Let me take a nap.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Wheel of History turns all the time

There were times when the saying “Sun never sets in British Kingdom” was true. It got changed. Brexit now demonstrates that the British like to hold their fort through protectionist policies. Their forefathers were very different, they went around the world exploring the opportunities. As the wheel of history turned, upward motion did not last.

Donald Trump’s win in the US and the emphasis he puts on in hiring locals shows that their upward movement too is ending. America became economic super power as it was consistently attracting best talent in the world. Look at those who are running Silicon Valley companies and holding highest patents. Immigrants have a greater share in it. In a vegetable market, if you stop fresh vegetables coming into the market, soon you would be left with rotten tomatoes. Why that would be different when you stop attracting fresh talent?

The last two centuries had belonged to the British and Americans respectively. They made most of it but now they are losing out their place. Before the 18th century, India and China were half of global GDP. Now they are regaining their lost position. And there is Russia who had lost the opportunity to the US despite winning the Second World War making a fresh attempt joining hands with India and China. During the medieval times, Japan had shut doors to outsiders for many centuries. They were the losers, their economic growth started only after they opened their doors. Similarly, if US wants to close its borders, its benefits will be ultra short term as the history has shown it,

India is slowly shedding its socialist image. Now we have toll roads and the poor too pay for clean drinking water. As the subsidies fall out, India sees an economic progress. At the same time, it is going back to its roots as it is becoming economically stronger. How else “Patanjali” as a brand can take on the mighty “Hindusthan Unilever”? Clear majority for Modi showed that Hindus are uniting. And it helped pro-Hindutva activities. Take a trip to Gangotri, you will notice scaling 10,000 feet altitude in the Himalayas is an easy drive now and compare that with the experiences of pilgrims of the past decade going for a char-dham visit. Religion is getting higher importance for sure. Yogi being appointed as CM of UP proves this point again. Not just Yoga, Sanskrit and Veda too will be learnt in great detail in coming days. Economic growth seems to have no connection with religion at the high level, but both are beneficiary of each other. They take each other up or down so go together.

Wheel of history is turning and taking up India, China and Russia economically. That will rewrite the history all over again as long as it lasts. And that is going to last few generations. Forget going to the US and be there where the momentum is if you want to be part of the good times to come.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bollywood, Cricket and GST

Going by recorded history, it was King Ashoka who had ruled over entire India. After him, there was no other king to match him for the geography under his command. Even the Great Mughals did not venture into south or north east. After a gap of roughly 2000 years of Ashoka’s rule, the British took India under their rule. They unified India to make it easy for them to administer. They built long rail roads and postal network to run their machinery. But that helped none other than M K Gandhi. He traveled by train mostly to all corners of India asking people to unite against a common enemy and fight for their freedom. People wrote to him addressing “M K Gandhi, wherever he is” and it was the job of postal network to locate him and deliver the mails. An idea of independent and democratic India was born and propagated using the infrastructure built by the British. After the independence, it was Mr. Patel played an instrumental role in shaping the geography of modern India, we owe map of India to him. Then Bollywood took over the job of keeping India united. The movie titles such as Raj Kapoor’s ‘Jis Desh Me Ganga Behti Hai’ to multi-starrer ‘Amar-Akbar-Anthony’, touched the underlying strings of united India. When P T Usha won the medal and Kapil Dev’s team won the world-cup for India, we all took pride in being Indians. Now Virat Kohli is not just a cricketer for us but a representative of Indian pride too. Last decade’s movies like ‘Lagaan’, ‘Chak De’ and the most recent ‘Dangal’ turned out to be block-buster successes as they were built on the theme of national pride and the motivation to fight against the odds. Though the heroes of these movies do not seem to be understanding what they stood for in their movies, the collective efforts of movie makers evoked the the right feelings in Indians. Thus, Sports and Bollywood have played a very important role in guarding the emotional sense of feeling the national pride.

As the baby boomers are aging and the new generation millennials are taking over, what would help us Indians in remaining united? First is migration across states. There are people from Punjab and North East who have found a home in Bangalore. Similarly lots of Mangaloreans are in Mumbai and Keralites have found to be far reaching and many more such instances. These migrants know the importance of inter-dependence across states and if their home state want to go separate, they would vote against it. But the in-equalities have to be reduced in the first place to avoid any such urges. Goa and New Delhi pay out the best wages in the country but those in Bengal or Orissa earn a fraction of what other Indians earn. This gap has to be bridged. Economic growth should spread and create a homogeneous India. And a step towards that will be played out by the tax reform GST. Central Govt. will collect a uniform tax from entire India and distribute the share to state Govt’s. This will avoid some state Govt.’s giving huge incentives and other states levying hefty state taxes. As the tax benefits or impact across states neutralize, focus moves on to labor rates. Those states with lower wages are likely to attract investments in the future, so job creation & economic growth spreads to under developed regions of India. Infrastructure too follows along with it. There comes a better India, with playing ground being leveled. Then Bollywood and Cricket will find some weight being lifted off their shoulders.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Digged for Gold but got Copper

We came to know that Modi can take bold and tough decisions. But political mastery does not necessarily equate with mastery over economics. So the benefits of demonetization were overestimated and the inconveniences were underestimated by his close aides. And they had to learn hard way that poor execution can spoil a good strategy. Newly printed Rs.2,000 notes became an exchange for black money and created a large scale corruption. It proved that the majority of Indians are not ready to pay taxes they owe to the system.

Let us look at the negative effects first. Take a glance at credit growth rates, it shows that it has gone to 50 years low. Bad times for banks. Vehicle sales have plummeted. Construction industry is seeing a set back. What India badly needs is job creation but the jobs are being lost as the mass employing sector like construction is seeing a set-back. You think it is a temporary phenomenon, well, it is difficult to estimate when the turnaround will come. Forget growth, going back to past levels of valuation will take couple of years for the real estate industry, so there is not much motivation for investors.

There are many positives too. Interest rates are down, inflation is under check. Money in banking system has gone up. Cash to GDP ratio is reduced. Tax collections will see an upside. Indians learnt to use Paytm. Debit cards are not limited to withdraw cash at ATM’s and consumers as well as retailers are demanding for use of POS machines. All these will help offset the negative impacts over few years period. Unless monetary system is tampered again, India would absorb this shock and post higher growth rates.

Collectively, over a period of years, benefits may over weigh the injuries done by the demonetization. But the expectations were set very high that India would be clean in 50 days, which was quite unrealistic.They digged for Gold but what they found was Copper. It too has some value.