July 31, 2007

 

And they want us to take media seriously.

Quick questions. What is the quantum of punishment for Sanjay Dutt? How many convicts have been awarded capital punishment in "93 Bombay Blast case"?

Never mind if you could get the answer for first and not second.

It's not our fault if the media uses its celebrity obsessed discretion to highlight the issues in exactly opposite priority. Since the trial came in the last phase a year back, I always wished Sanjay Dutt was not involved in the whole matter. Or he should have gone into oblivion like some of the star kids instead of riding popularity wave with Munnabhai series. For, his presence in the case has diluted the seriousness of the issue. If not for him, media would have never come up with headlines like "Only Munna not Bhai, court says."

In India, you don't hear court handing out death sentence often, like some other countries. In this case, 12 convicts were given death sentence, the highest number in India to the date. That should have evoked some serious debate in the media. But, media seems to have assumed that the government has done a fine job to bring the guilty to the book. It would rather concentrate on the impact of Dutt's sentence on entertainment industry.

Media is missing the important issue. The failure of Govt to protect its citizens after 1993 is just too scary. Govt has shown equal incompetence in solving other terrorism cases. The threat of naxalites is grossly understated. Instead of highlighting the unpardonable lapses of Govt media is talking about the attire of Sanjay Dutt on the judgment day. Shame on you, media!


sanjay-dutt-sentence-toi

sanjay-dutt-sentence-dna

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July 26, 2007

 

Pause on the dream run

In last 3 years, the employees in technology industry took 30% annual growth in salary as routine. If current employer didn't match the figures, there were many employers in the line who were not only ready to match the outrageous expectations, but top it with bonus and other perks. I have heard stories about a global giant offering 30-40% raises to employees from the local biggies with 4+ years of experience. Without an interview. Just walk and collect the offer letter. I'm sure there is some amount of hyperbole here, but frankly, it wasn't incredulous.

The companies were/are on the wrong side of demand-supply equation and so they continued to sa the demands. It was like the growth of Indian telecom sector, where every million subscriber joining the network brought down the ARPU, but at macro level, the total profit was/is increasing. For IT companies, the growth in the volume of the business and depreciating INR helped mitigate much higher wage rise. Rising wages was never a reason to leave some low-margin business on the table.

But in last few quarters, the INR vs USD equation has changed. INR is at 9-year high against USD. And if the results of latest quarter clearly indicate that it is hurting the profitability of the IT companies. They have reduced their INR profit guidance.

What does all this translate for the employees in tech industry?

Obviously, the I-want-a-modest-30-per-cent-hike days are summarily over. Job switches will also not help much as companies will learn to say "no" to militant demands. There will not be any retrenchment, though. There is a reason for that. Irrespective of how much we Indians gloat about us being a software superpower, cold numbers tell us that the IT-ITES sector in India accounts to lilliputian 5% of global industry. (The global IT services market is estimated at more than $600 Billion, growing at 6% per annum. In absolute numbers, the global market is growing by total Indian industry per year, which is $30 bn for FY06-07!) To reiterate the point again, there is no slowdown in the industry and outsourcing is going nowhere. Remember, the companies have issued warning saying profit growth will lag the revenue growth! That's why it is a pause and not a full stop to the dream run.

While switching between Infosys, TCS, Wipro, Satyam may not ensure result into big hikes as all of them are grappling with same problem, IBM Global services may spring some surprises. They have already grown too big (53,000 employees) too fast (quadrupled in five years) in India. I guess, they can grow by another 100% by recruiting the not-so-happy employees of Infosys, TCS, Wipro and Satyam. (10,000 employees quit these four companies in last quarter.) Switching to IBM and other MNCs may squeeze out the last drop of this dream run. But, the plateau will be hit eventually.

All the folks working in IT industry, work hard and be nice with the company. Next year, they may let you keep your job. At a generous hike of 6%!

Picture taken from flickr album of Skylover

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July 13, 2007

 

Too much of wisdom

Of late, I have noticed alarming rise in gratuitous wisdom on entrepreneurship. Much of it is about hiring A-team, sticking to plan and such assorted non-controversial and orthodox wisdom. And I'm tired of it. Just the way I'm tired of iPhone related "news."

Am I the only one who thinks this way?

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July 12, 2007

 

How to use Credit cards in India

The high interest rates on credit cards (CC) in India has attracted the international attention. This NYT article repeats almost same thing which we have been reading in newspapers and watching on TV.

As per the article, the CC interest rates in India can be as high as 30 to 50%. For the developed countries, in US the average rates are 17-20%, and can go upto 30% depending on credit history. Average interest rate in UK is 17.5%. It must be noted that the inflation and risk-free interest rates in these countries are quite low. Compare it with Brazil which has average interest rate more than 200%(!), while the inflation is still in the single digit. The epitome is while the rates 30-50% seem high, which they actually are, they are not out of tune with rest of the world.

My take is rather than the interest rates, it is the lack of education which is causing the unrest among the card holders. And banks don't seem to make a whole-hearted effort at educating users because it is not in their interest, excuse the pun. So, with limited knowledge, here is a succinct course - "Using Credit Cards 101." (A personal friend owns some these ideas.)

  1. Use CC only when you have the money to pay back. Convenience of not carrying cash should be your prime motivation of using CC.
  2. Every year you should pay Rs 0 (Zero only) as the interest charges and fines on credit card.
    • 2a) Pay your card dues well before time. If you don't get your bill on the due date, contact them and ask for them to send.
    • 2b) Slightly overpay the dues. If you pay Rs 1 less than actual dues, the technology (and the bank) will point to the rulebook and levy charges. Beat them. Revolving credit is simply out of question.
  3. Never, I mean never, withdraw cash using credit card. The charges are prohibitively high. Read (1) again. In case of emergency, user another network of ATMs called "friends."
  4. Say no to all random tele-marketing offers (additional card, EMI card, insurance, co-branded cards) with the card.
  5. Keep the card information secret. Generally, banks own limited liability in case of misuse.
  6. Debit cards can also be used but as they are not accepted widely on internet. That makes CC necessary evil. Apart from that the fraudulent charges on credit card can be disputed, which is not the case with debit cards.
Feel free to add more easy-to-follow rules.

Culturally, our society has treated personal debt with shame and contempt. By looking at the incidents, may be the old wisdom is still relevant.

It would be sad if plastic money dies in its infancy due to inability of business and customers not coming to terms with each other. Plastic money will automatically widen the tax net bringing making more people accountable, who are otherwise running scot-free.

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July 11, 2007

 

1 Year

26th July, 2006. Seven blasts ripped the suburban trains apart in 6 minutes claiming 186 lives. 186 innocent lives.

Our only mistake is electing a Govt that goes soft on terrorism, and is still clueless about the conspirators. Govt has miserably failed to provide citizens the basic right to life.

There will be ritual back-slapping for Mumbaikars, admiring the indomitable spirit. Sad, many people mistake the helplessness to courage.


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July 09, 2007

 

One more reason to stick to Gmail

While feature-wise, Yahoo now provides almost all things that Gmail boasts (at least for me) it clearly lacks one thing - a powerful spam filter. I rarely get spam in my Gmail inbox, while Yahoo fails to surprise me positively on this count.

If I get any spam in inbox, I mark them dutifully. Gmail learns like a good student and applies that filter specifically for me. To give an example, I have subscribed to a bunch of groups where a few noisy elements keep flooding the group with useless messages. After I marked them as spam a few times, they never appeared in Inbox or with the given label again.

This is the difference between "good enough" and "not great enough."

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July 08, 2007

 

Paradox of Choice

Enter "gigaom.com" in Bloglines' "subscribe feed" text box and it shows 32 feeds available for it. Thirty Two! It lost me right there.

This is exactly the theme of the book The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. I didn't read the book, but came across his talk at Google. Watch how the conventional wisdom crumbles under hard scrutiny.


July 05, 2007

 

Swallows and Summers

A lot of articles have been written about a startup closing its India operations due to rising costs - salaries to be specific. Free advice is being doled out generously to the startups (and possibly every company doing outsourcing) that they should not enter India for cost reasons anymore.

Well, well, well. If a startup is hiring a few engineers remotely (in India or elsewhere) solely for the cost reason, they have a bigger reason to worry about - their broken business model! The cost factor works well only when scale kicks in. Think of having an All-Hands in Chinnaswami Stadium. Or booking the entire multiplex for employees and their families to enjoy "Spiderman 3" on the opening weekend. Or setting up a small power plant to dodge the unreliable State Electricity Boards. Or INR hitting 9-yr high against USD still leaving you with enough savings.

As for the startups, the biggest cost they should worry about is opportunity cost.

July 03, 2007

 

Justice

Mow down seven people and face six months jail term.

Forge your academic record and face 8 years of rigorous imprisonment.

Please tell me I am being cynical when I sense anarchy on horizon.

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July 02, 2007

 

Can't wait for Ratatouille

OMG! Pixar guys seem to have done it. Again. Their latest creation Ratatouille has debuted at #110 of All Time Top 250 and 95% positive reviews at RT. The wait will be painful.

ratatouille

(Image Courtsey: IMDB)

Update: The upward march of the flick continues. Currently it is at #33 of all time greats on IMDB with 6,000+ ratings at an average of 9.0. (The calculation to get into top 250 is different.)

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Thought recorder

My brain is a stubborn thing. It tends to remember bunch of useless trivia, like I need to locate my chequebook, but manages to forget some cool ideas such as finding out how the rest of the world successfully handles 70mm rains.

What I really want is a thought recorder. Kind of voice recorder, but only that I don't want to speak as I will look stupid talking on such inane subjects to myself on a crowded railway station. It should also have minor features like adding tags, sorting chronologically or by tags, etc. Since, carrying too many (two) devices is uncool, it should be available in the cellphone itself. It would be nice if they invent something like ToIP (Thought over IP) where I can transmit my thoughts to my personal thought-box which I can playback at leisure.

The potential of such service/device is limitless. I can think of an entire post while pretending to listen diligently at a meeting. Or compose a nasty reply to the current flame war with friends. Or make a quick note of adding a long forgotten person to the social network.

Now, where was I before coming to this blogging window?

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