January 31, 2007

 

Perspective

Same event, two perspectives.

India Inc hails Tata's Corus takeover


Mkt closes weak, Tata steel shares down 11

To use the cliche, time will tell if Ratan Tata is right or Dalal Street.

January 14, 2007

 

Guru : So near yet so far

With Guru, Mani Ratnam comes very close to create a path-breaking cinema. But, his lack of will power and strong desire to stay politically correct prevents him from making a great cinema. Guru ends up being just good cinema and a lost opportunity.

The ambitious Guru has flexible ethical standards when it comes achieving his dream. So flexible, that he marries a girl just because with dowry money he can set up business. I wish Mani Ratnam could use so many gray shades to paint the character of Guru. (There is a ton of material in the archives of Indian Express he could have used.) To compensate ethically questionable behaviour, he makes Guru look more human by adding characters like Meenu and Mota Bhai in the movie. The final self-righteous monologue by Guru in front of the judiciary commission has populism written on it all over. Worse, there are negative undertones of allusions to a business group survived the madness of bureaucracy, license raj and socialism without deviating from high ethical standards. Mani Ratnam need not be so apologetic about misdeeds of the man who was ahead of the time.

Things that work for movie? Abhishek Bachchan, breathtaking setup of 60s and 70s, the characters who play small yet noticeable role.

Finally, all my happiness of listening to Rehman's music came to a naught when images were associated with them. Now, when the songs are played my mind thinks about the the picturization instead of the poetry of Gulzar saab.

I keep wondering Ram Gopal Verma or Anuraag Kashyap could have done this movie.

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January 10, 2007

 

iPhone, Hype and Solving Real Problem

Apple's iPhone has generated the buzz which is difficult to match even with a marketing budget of a billion dollar. The excitement is understandable given their blockbuster product, iPod.

I don't share the excitement of millions of others as the record of people predicting future is dismal. In 2001, the slashdot crowd did not really see any future for iPod, but it went on to redefine the consumer electronics. They made gadgets look beautiful. (OK, Slashdot is just a forum of geeks, but still.) Now the same crowd is predicting this - "They (Apple) are going to print money with this thing."

With hindsight wisdom, everybody has an IQ of 180 (or much higher, if you are already there). I am not skeptical about iPhone, but would rather wait for the euphoria to settle down, feel the device and then make a call (pun unintended) on that. What is clearly laudable is the courage shown by Apple to build a product which will potentially cannibalize iPod. Let's see if Apple, rather rock star Steve Jobs, makes justice to the hype.

BTW, I hope they provide a stylus with it, as typing with a thumb on QWERTY keyboard displayed on that small screen is painful.

On the other hand, I am really excited about the idea of wireless power charger. They are solving one heck of a real problem. When yours is the unique laptop (of some brand called eMachines) and everybody else has Compaqs and Acers, it is very unplesant to forget your laptop charger at home. There are no standards for power charges, is the first problem. And secondly, when your office is as spacious as, pardon the hyperbole, Dadar station at peak hour, wires just have nuisance value. Last time, I tripped on a laptop power cable was 2 hours ago. (Apple has solved this problem by having a magnetic end connecting to the laptop so that tripping on wire doesn't bring down your laptop.) With explosion of such small devices, contrary to the convergence wisdom, the world is craving for such charger.

January 02, 2007

 

India's largest Hotel Chain

The Indian hotel industry is on a roll. The demand for rooms is outweighs supply by large margin. Some reports suggest that hotels are booked till March 2007.

Well, come June, and India's biggest hotel chain will be unveiled. That "Taj" is currently with Indian Hotel with some 10,000-odd rooms in India. But, don't expect the room rents coming down as this group will cater to only a select few. Any wild guesses on the name of the company?

Well, according to this NYT article [No-registration link], Infosys Technologies will have 15,000 company-owned rooms across India. That beats Indian Hotels by large margin. This is funnier than the news that Nokia happens to be world's largest camera manufacturer.

Sure, when the average room rent of 5-star hotels in Bangalore is north of Rs 12,000 per day, it makes sense to have in-house facility. This should partly answer the questions raised about why a software company requires hundreds of acres of land.

But, this raises another question. Should the company run this business to cut costs (or improve bottomline)? The answer is not an unequivocal yes, as the baggage associated with such non-core activities can be high, even if they outsource the entire operations to another company. Thanks to inadequate infrastructure in Bangalore, already, many software companies are running an internal transportation department which if taken together will look like a state transport company. In short term, such cost savings may boost profits and, thereby, share price. (I must add that the impeccable management of Infosys will never do things with just stock price in mind.) But what is the long-term price the company will pay? And I'm sure calculating that is not easy since it is mostly intangible.

T. V. Mohandas Pai, director of human resources, “It’s much more efficient in India to do it yourself.” The only question to that is, just because you can do something more efficiently, should you be doing everything yourselves? Or a little directly, should an oil-giant have an army of engineers to work on its website or they should outsource it?

To use investment Guru Peter Lynch's terminology, this is "Diworsification".

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