September 30, 2008

 

Policy Hypocrisy

Starting 2nd October 2008, smoking will be banned in public places. The health minister, who is very enthusiastic about ban on smoking, quoted that the cost of healthcare due to tobacco is higher than the revenue entire tobacco industry.

Here is a simple question. If Govt thinks so passionately about its anti-smoking stance, why doesn't it simply ban all the business activities related to tobacco? To start with they should ban tobacco farming. Shutting down a big company like ITC would be another good step given that they make 90% of their profits from tobacco products. Banning import of cigarettes is the next step. Our Left friends may not like that idea much since it means banning import of Cuban cigars.

There is one minor glitch in this whole shut-down-the-tobacco-business part. Govt loses a money spinner account. Every year, the govt increases the taxes on tobacco products and still you don't see morchas taken out in protest. Govt knows that very well.

So there are you are. Govt hates nicotine and still loves it for the money it brings in to the kitty.

September 26, 2008

 

Online is the way. Really?

When I used Facebook in its early days, one thing I couldn't ignore was the sliders in the network activity settings page where one could specify you want more photos in stream and less about groups. That slider was so much like Windows volume control. It simply didn't look html.

Facebook opening up its platform was called as the OS of the web. Now they have redesigned their service and one could see their aspiration to be the Operating System of the Web percolating down from function to aesthetics.

While everybody says OS is slow crawling towards redundancy as all you need is to fire a web browser, on the web they are trying really hard to give you the feel of the OS. My tiny brain finds this schizophrenic.

September 24, 2008

 

Desktop-based TODO list

As much as desktop apps are going out of vogue, for a old fashioned guy like me, I still need those desktop apps. One of those nifty utility is desktop based TODO list - Stickies.

Thank you, Tom Revell.

September 23, 2008

 

Process and Results

What is more important - the process or the result? Pause for a while and make up your mind.

Good.

Did you just say the result matter a whole lot more than process? I offer you a counter-argument here. All the investment banks did the same thing from the start of this decade till they went bust. Apparently, they leveraged something like 30x of their net worth. Think of it this way. You have earnings of Rs 100 and you buy something worth Rs 3000 expecting it to go to Rs 3200. But if drops to Rs 2900 or lower, you lose your networth. These investment banks faced the same problem except that their networth went into negative zone.

So, while these companies were taking huge risks and making profits, they were praised for their aggression. The same amount of risk took them down. And now they are blamed for being reckless. It's the same action, but different results received different response.

This is not an argument about process being a better yardstick than result. This is just a thought that sometimes the results are not good indicators of the processes.

This is broadly the idea of the book "Fooled by Randomness," where Taleb tells us that good results might be just because a random event or what is referred colloquially as "plain dumb luck."

 

Contrast

Some large companies are filing for bankruptcies. Some large companies need the shelter of the US govt or other larger companies. Some companies have lost 50-90% of their market cap which runs into hundreds of billions of dollars. It is all gloomy picture out there.

And then there is Microsoft. They plan to buy back their shares worth $40 billion. Which means they are earning a lot more (and a lot faster) than they plan to spend. Now, this is not such a bad problem, especially in the light of the havoc in financial world. But, isn't there a better use of this cash? I am sure the super-talented team at Microsoft must have given it a serious thought.

How about buying some of the companies out there? I am sure there are enough of them on sale at right price. What will be their source of cash when they buy, say, Facebook for $15bn? Or are they confident that by the time they want to buy entire Facebook, they will again be flush with cash?

Or how about leaving some cash on the table? I mean, charging users a little less. Like say $0 for Windows Vista. At least they will buy some goodwill in this way, because the $40 bn buyback hasn't really perked up their stock.

Of course, all these are possibly stupid ideas from a clueless guy who doesn't know how to run companies, let alone a supremely successful 8000-lb gorilla. (Yes, it is 8000 lb and not 800 lb.)

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September 16, 2008

 

GigaOm ad

Saw this ad in the RSS feed of GigaOm.


300 bn mobile handsets?!

September 13, 2008

 

Be scared. Very scared.

When the tele-marketeers call us to sell credit card, personal loan, insurance, financial planning, etc. the generic crib from us is invasion of privacy. We always wonder how this information comes to these people. And more importantly, where all our personal information is scattered.

Previously I have blogged about availability of journalists' email contacts. But it pales in comparison with recent spam peddling contact information. It offers name, address, email, mobile number of variety of groups. Sample this. They offer contact information of Demat account holders, mutual fund investors, credit card holders in various cities along with their credit limit, city-wise frequent fliers, professionals with income of Rs 10+ Lacs, high networth individuals, car owners, high-end car owners, etc.

This simply indicates the amount of lekage at the financial institutaions like banks, mutual funds, telecom companies, and other such supposedly trustworthy places. Are these organizations actively selling out our details? If not then, are they aware that some unscrupulous elements are having a field day with this sensitive data? What are they doing to plug such vast data leak? Are they taking any legal action when they find somebody indulging in such practices?

These are some hard questions which I don't think any organization is ready to answer.

Meanwhile, presume that all your contact detail along with other sensitive personal information is out there in public. It will take shock factor out whenever something unexpected happens.

September 09, 2008

 

News and Almighty

Some wise person has said something to the effect "Don't confuse news with the truth." And wise person, supposedly from media industry had pronounced that news has to be sensational.

The power of Google is almost obvious for everybody who has heard the word internet.

What happens when you mix these two? Here is the epitome. A not-so-popular news site published a six-year-old article about an airline filing for bankruptcy on their website mistakenly. Google swiftly and sincerely picked it up and published as headline. In matter of minutes, the stock fell by 75%. The price was depressed only for a few minutes. But that duration is sufficient for somebody to make a killing (and somebody to lose shirt.)

So, repeat after me. News is not the truth.

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September 05, 2008

 

I was conned!

That thought brushed me gently, but the excitement of watching Wall-E so much that I quickly forgot it. The obnoxious dudes at E-sqaure, Pune had shamelessly snipped Pixar's short film, Presto, at the beginning of Wall-E.

The wait of few months is already bad enough. These guys made it worse by snatching the joy of short film. Of course, they charged us top money. I feel conned. sob sob.

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September 03, 2008

 

I am tired

I am so tired of the noise about the latest piece of software from internet's big daddy. So tired that I am not going to even mention it. Get over it, people. As of now, it only has the big name to boast about. Thanks, but no thank. I will check it out after six months.

 

Is Tata just another profit-mongering company?

If Mamta Banerjee's allegation against Tata were to be believed, Tata is just another corporate group with sole motivation of making profit, as much as it can, with complete and utter disregard to the welfare of the society, country and people.

The blokes at Greenpeace also think the same who make noise at Tata Steel's annual meeting. 10 activists buy 1 share each, raise questions at the meeting and insist that they will talk only to Ratan Tata. And then publish the account of their bravado on their website. Folks, here is an idea I wrote about, which even the company will be happy to comply - doing away with the annual reports. Meanwhile, realize that the reports you received were printed on a very lively branch of a tree.

Here is some trivia Ms Banerjee and Greenpeace should pay some serious attention. From Tata Group's website,
"Two-thirds of the equity of Tata Sons, the Tata Group’s promoter company, is held by philanthropic trusts which have created national institutions in science and technology, medical research, social studies and the performing arts. The trusts also provide aid and assistance to NGOs in the areas of education, healthcare and livelihoods."
And this is over and above the contribution by individual group company.

So, Ms Banerjee wants us to believe that Tata's are adopting anti-people policies so that they can reap huge profits, which will, ironically enough, go towards philanthropy.

If a group with high ethical standards of business faces such hurdles, are we sending the signal out there that India is a place to do business only if you can buy your way out?

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Wall-E

Fanboi Alert: Yours truly is a huge fan of animation films.


Na Umra Ki Seema Ho Na Janm Ka Ho Bandhan
Jab Pyar Kare Koi To Dekhe Kewal Man

Well, that's what Wall-E is all about. She is iPod white, beautiful, young and super-powerful robot from an advanced space-station, Axiom. He is a rusted robot whose job is to collect waste on earth. But, he is gifted with an overdeveloped sense of curiosity to make his "life" meaningful. And he is 700 years older than her. How can they fall in love? Well, it just happens.

I have nothing new to say about the film which has not been said already. All I can say is Pixar has, once again, set the new gold standard for animation movies. I hope, Pixar/Disney gather enough courage and push for the Best Picture at Academy.

Go, get awestruck by the beauty of this film!

Photo Source: IMDB

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