December 30, 2013

Genetic Memory - Our Preconditioned Mind

Hi Guys,

In the past few months, I have read at many places that Human Brain reacts in a manner that cannot be rationally explained in certain situations. Many psychologists explain that this may be due to ‘Genetic Memory’

What is a Genetic Memory? It is the memory that has been passed on to you from your ancestors through genes. Generally, your brain remembers things that happens to you after a certain age and makes you react to certain situations based on that. For example, read the words below

                                                Banana                                                                                 Sick

Your mind correlates an incident that happened when you were sick and ate banana or vice versa. This is because of the memory that is stored in your brain.

But, there are situations where you react for no particular reason. When you meet a new person, your mind quickly builds an impression on the person. You might think that, it is due to the memories from the past. But, actually even if you meet a new person who is so completely different, you tend to create an impression and that tends to be correct more than 90% of the times. And how long does your mind takes to build that impression – 1/5th of a second. Amazing, isn’t it?

How does this happen? No one knows how. The most plausible explanation is that it has been passed to you by your ancestors. Remember Darwin’s ‘Survival of the fittest’. For us to survive we need to know who our enemy is and hence it has been the most important part of our evolution. This principle has been studied even candidates standing in elections. Most people select people based on their intuition and feeling. Dangerous, isn’t it? It happens in interviews too. It has been found that to correct a wrong first impression, you need nine good impressions. No doubt that it is said, ‘First Impression is the best Impression’

I am currently reading the book ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain. In a part, she explains why humans are afraid of Public Speaking. The initial stage of Human evolution was in the forests and deserts of Africa. Humans had to be sharp to defend from Animals. Speaking was not an integral part of Human Beings for so long. It has become difficult for many people to come out suddenly and speak.

The most interesting concept from ‘Genetic Memory’ is ‘Loss Aversion’. Human Beings have been conditioned to avoid Losses. It again goes back to the Darwinian Theory. To survive, you cannot lose something. Loss Aversion works in many interesting ways. Consider an example – A dangerous virus has spread in a hospital. You have two different drugs with the following outcome

A: 100 people can be saved
B: 20% probability that 500 people can be saved

Which option would you choose? Most people would go with Option A. Now consider the options C, D

C: 400 people would die
D: 80% probability that 500 would die

Now which option would you choose? Most people would choose Option D. Interestingly options A and C are same as well as B and D are same. When it comes to survival, we choose the definite one and when it comes to loss, we tend to choose a more probabilistic one.

It reflects in our day today behavior. Before entering into a work, we are neutral. But after entering the work, you tend to think more about positives of the work. Daniel Kahneman in his book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ would have described a beautiful situation. There are twin brothers A and B. When they join work, they are given two options – ‘One extra leave per month or additional salary of $1000’. But only one person can opt for an option. Initially, both options seem equal to the brothers. After some time, the firm says if they want to interchange their positions, they can. Now, the option with one extra leave means losing $1000 and it doesn’t look good. Similarly, losing an extra day off also doesn’t sound good. So, they remain in their positions.

It has been found that, in such situations, the loss looks highly valuable and human mind wants something 2.5 times its size to compensate (i.e. $2500 for the extra leave or 2.5 days leave for the extra $1000). Intriguing, isn’t it? That is why we often find out the advantage other people have. But, if we are put into that position, we forget the advantages and speak about the sufferings. Our mind reminds us of the things we lose and not what we gain.

It is interesting to know, how deeply ingrained our thought process is, isn’t it? As Brad Pitt once said, ‘I’m one of those people you hate because of Genetics. That is the truth’

Happy Reading!

December 14, 2013

The Root Cause of Indian Stagflation

Hi Guys,

Two days back, the Economic Indicators of Indian performance in October was out and we reached a new low with CPI Inflation going to 11.24% and IIP dropping to -1.8%. Food Inflation was at 14.72% and Manufacturing growth was -2%. GDP growth was 4.8% for Q2, 2013. RBI is all set to increase interest rates (probably by another 25 basis points) and industries are all set to oppose it.

So, why does RBI want to increase Interest Rates? To understand that, we need to understand Inflation first. Inflation is caused by changes in demand and supply. Generally, Inflation can be said to be a situation where, ‘Too much money chasing too few goods. It can either be a state where too much of money is there in the economy or when the availability of a product goes down.

So, when inflation exists in an economy, a central bank (RBI) tries to play with interest rate. When interest rates are low, people take loans and the money comes into economy. When interest rates go up, people do not take loans. Rather people deposit their money and money supply would be reduced in the economy. This is done in order to bring Supply and demand to Equilibrium.

Generally it is said that Inflation should be lower than Interest rate by approximately 2% in a country. Only then does a business performs well and would be able to sustain its growth. People would not be affected too much by inflation. In India, Inflation is way above the current interest rate. RBI feels that increasing interest rates would reduce money supply in the economy. On the other hand, Industries feel that it would affect the already faltering Industry growth.

So, is RBI right in saying that increasing interest rates would stop the inflation? In my perception, increasing interest rates would have no effect on the money supply. The main reason is that Inflation is not happening due to the increasing money supply from borrowings. The root cause of the problem lies somewhere else.

The central government in the name of Rural Empowerment, provided lot of subsidies and money transfers. The key among them is the NREGA or the Guaranteed employment scheme. As one of my professor says, it unskilled the people. People who were working stopped working for wages were guaranteed. So, he didn’t have any incentive to work and productivity went down.

For any country to grow from Agrarian to developed economy, Manufacturing is important. Manufacturing doesn’t require much of skills and the employment it generates is tremendous. For once, India thought it leapfrogged that stage and can conquer growth based on Services. The main problem with services is that you need to be educated and it does not generate too much of Employment (26.6% of Labor force accounting for 56.9% of GDP).

The NREGA scheme spoiled an entire community of workforce. They got paid for doing literally nothing. As many people would say, the job of this workforce was to dig and fill holes. Government’s intention of ensuring wages was good, but they should have allocated a suitable work. All this money came back to the economy. The rural consumption pattern changed. From normal diet, they moved into protein diet. Food consumption increased and food prices skyrocketed. When growth came down, Government had no idea of what was happening.

Though our Finance Minister says that Food prices are reason behind inflation, I don’t think he has a solution. Now, Government wants to increase the minimum wages in order to improve the rural conditions. RBI increasing interest rates would affect industries and it would be too difficult for them to recover.

Even if a new government comes to power, they won’t have the audacity to pull back all the subsidies and money transfer schemes. One thing that can be done is to improve their skills and make the rural people productive. Pay them, but get some work out of them.

India is into the trap of low growth and high inflation or what is known as Stagflation and it is not going to be easy to come out of it. Let’s hope something good happens.

Happy Reading!

December 9, 2013

Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman - Book Review

Thinking, Fast and Slow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Are Human Beings rational? Most of us know that we are not. Daniel Kahneman has collated his detailed research work into a single book and describes how our mind works. Daniel Kahneman won Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002 for his works in Behavioural Economics.

The book starts with an introduction to our thinking and how we work. Daniel Kahneman speaks about two systems inside our mind, namely System 1 and 2. System 1 is the fast thinking system that works based on intuition. System 2 is the slow thinking system that takes decisions rationally. More often, we take decisions based on System 1. System 1 is so powerful that it overrides System 2 in most of the cases.

The author has divided the book into five parts. The first part is about the two systems and how our mind works. He gives us many famous perceptions and concludes that no matter, how much our mind knows that the perception is false, System 1 will make us believe that it is true. More often than not, we are shown two lines which are of similar size, but appears unequal in appearance. By now, our mind should have understood that they are equal. But, we continue to perceive that they are unequal. This famous Muller Lyer Experiment is a result of our System Conflict.

The second part is on Heuristics and Biases. In this part, the author says how we are susceptible to biases and how our mind plays with it. For example, car accidents result in more deaths than flight accidents. Still, the nature of flight accidents make us fear flight travel. Similarly, rare disasters make us fear about those events rather than normal events. He also says how statistics can turn if wrong base is used and how often we use statistics wrongly to make it comply with our intuition.

The third part is on Overconfidence. Here, the author writes about various illusions. He says that our mind fits in patterns to the success stories and make us think that we need to repeat them in order to be successful. But, more often than not, it doesn't result in a success. He also writes about how intuitions are more often wrong and how we continue to believe them. But, he also writes about when intuitions can be correct sometimes.

The next part is on choices. This is a part where he has written about most of his significant research works in the field of Economics. He says how Utility theory has some errors and how Prospect theory aims to correct them. He writes about the difference between Economists and Human Beings. Reference point is important to find impact and we don't use it very often. Getting rich by $10 is different for a millionaire and a poor guy.

In the final part, he concludes by writing about two type of selves - Experiencing self and Remembering Self. He says that more often, people do works based on Remembering self, though it might be more painful for experiencing self.

He uses the term 'Loss Aversion' in the book often. Human Mind is oriented towards avoiding losses, rather than seeking gains. Gains must outnumber losses in the ratio of 2.5: 1 for us to accept the gamble. He refers this to the evolution of mankind. In order to survive, organisms have been trained to avoid losses and this has been imprinted in our mind.

Overall, the book is a good one for people who want to know about Psychology. The author is very humble and associates all those people who were present with him during that approach. He also writes about the limitations of his theories and says that he might be bound by some the theories and may not be right. The author has understood very well about human mind works and he has presented the book with a lot of examples and practical approaches. The book is a must read, if you are interested in knowing how you make decisions.

So if we read this book, will we think differently? Well, this is what Daniel Kahneman has to say,

It's not a case of: 'Read this book and then you'll think differently. I've written this book, and I don't think differently'

Happy Reading!!!

November 20, 2013

Is Success a 'Regression to the Mean?'

Hi Guys,

I have been reading the book ‘Thinking, fast and slow’ written by Daniel Kahneman. It is an interesting book on how our mind works and how we often get things wrong. Yesterday, I was reading an interesting chapter in the book titled ‘Regression to the mean’. In the chapter, he defines the formula for Success.

Success = Talent + Luck
Great Success = A Little More Talent + A Lot of Luck

Success is often attributed with Talent alone. More often than not, we hear people saying that a person was highly successful because he was very talented. People often forget the luck factor associated with it. An equally talented person might not be even half as successful as him.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers’ would quote people with high IQ and explain how they were not very successful. People generally say that Albert Einstein had high IQ and that was a reason for his success. But, there are lot of other people in this world who have high IQ too, but they end up just being show pieces.

Gladwell would also explain the time factor as to how people who were born in the 1950s had significant advantage than others since when they graduated in 1970s, Computers were in the forefront and they capitalized on that. Not all people would have been benefited out of that, but a few people like Michael Dell and Bill Gates had that luck in them.

Being a cricket fan, I had some thoughts on the game. Most of the great innings would have had some luck factor associated with that. I am a big fan of Sachin and I don’t remember his famous Sandstorm innings at Sharjah against Australia when he hit back to back centuries. When I watched them a few days back, I saw that in the first century, he had an edge that fell between three fielders. In the final, he had an inside edge that missed the stumps by inches. On any other day, he could have got out. Have two chances in back to back matches and getting to be known as the greatest innings has a bit of luck along with his great batting.

If you see players like Mike Hussey or Mathew Hayden or Stuart McGill, they got into the team late. They were not able to get into the team despite the talent. If they were in their 20s today, they would have been selected easily into the team. But, now when the Aussie team wants big talents, they find it hard to get one.

Daniel Kahneman says that the law of averages will catch up with everyone. It is driven by maths and has always happened in the past. We often hear that sportsmen would be nervous after a good performance and would not perform properly. The opposite case would also happen and people would say that they had nothing to lose. But, Kahneman says it is how things happen. This is known as ‘Regression to the mean’. As per Kahneman, good or bad things are not bound to continue for a long period. Everything would tend to move towards the mean.

Just as I was writing this, a point came to my mind. Is Success a ‘Regression to the mean?’ Is luck the main factor that contributes to a person’s success? Sachin might have been a bit lucky here and there, but didn’t he outperform many other batsmen? How come Sebastian Vettel won 8 straight races? Is Usain Bolt lucky to win continuously?

I think that Luck is very much important for the initial success. But then on, you need real talent to go forward. How many batsmen would have got a chance to play for India? A few lucky ones. But how many among them has played more than a few matches? A real talented player would survive, but a player who was just lucky would be thrown away.

Gladwell would have written about the ‘10000 Hours’ concept in Outliers. For anyone to be successful to be in a field, they need to practice for 10000 Hours in order to be perfect. A real talented person who have done this.

There might be few exceptions everywhere. Some would be really lucky and some would be really unlucky. But generally, we can say that a talented person would be successful in life. But for him to reach the heights, he needs certain amount of luck too.

For a person to be one among the top, you need to have the right talent at the right time with a right amount of Luck!

Happy Reading!

October 27, 2013

The Elephant Catchers - Subroto Bagchi - Book Review

The Elephant Catchers: Key Lessons for Breakthrough Growth by Subroto Bagchi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hunting a Rabbit is easy, but catching an Elephant is difficult. It requires expertise planning. This is the theme of the book. Subroto Bagchi, one of the cofounders of Mindtree has used this phrase as an analogy to the growth of a firm. There are lot of startups. Many of them fail immediately. But among the startups that cross the initial struggle, a few survive the phase of Scaling. Based on his experience of scaling up Mindtree, Subroto Bagchi has outlined all the strategies that would be required by startups that succeed.

The book is full of analogies and examples. The author takes four chapters to explain what 'Scale' is and how people often misinterpret scale. He wonderfully depicts how 'Elephant Catchers' function and how how they are important for any organization. He has divided the book into five parts apart from a separate part on introduction. The five parts deal with Scaling the Business, Intellect, Reputation, People and Scaling against Adversity.

In the first part, the author writes widely on how emotions work, how it is important to identify proper salesmen and the dangers of Joint Ventures and Mergers & Acquisitions. He then says how important Equity is and how many people make the mistake of selling Equity for unnecessary spendings. He shares an event where a Newspaper approached him to give Equity and in return they would promote the company and also avoid publishing negative news (It pulled down my already poor views on Media. It looks like we have to take into account the relationship of Media with the company before accepting).

After that, Subroto Bagchi writes on how to deal with Consultants in order to get good results. He also writes about the importance of dealing with Media, where one careless sentence in an hour interview can be made as the headline. He also writes a bit about CSR and the way companies exploit society and give donations back and say they are for the society. He says firms should inculcate CSR in the way they function.

In the next part about people, the author writes about Hiring and firing people. He says often times firms forget about the culture of the firm their new executive is from. He says most times firing is not done on time and it creates problems. He also says the founder cannot be behind everything. Trusting the respective people is important and they are specialists in their zone. He also compares the Hindu mythology of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva as to how each role should be taken by specialist and not by the same person.

In the end he looks back into 9/11 events and says how Mindtree survived the phase. He writes, 'When Extraordinary events overtake us. It is time to do the ordinary things extraordinarily well'

The book was very short and crisp. With all the examples and analogies, the contents register in the minds of a reader easily. It is a must read book for any person who wish to become an Enreprenur or a person who has started a small firm.

Buy this book from Amazon - The Elephant Catchers: Key Lessons for Breakthrough Growth

Happy Reading!

October 13, 2013

Shooting for a Century - Stephen Philip Cohen - Book Review

Hi Guys,

As a new experiment, I have tried embedding my review from Goodreads.

Shooting for a Century: The India-Pakistan Conundrum

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

India - Pakistan. These two words are enough to spark many debates and fights in both the countries. Both the countries view each other as hard core enemies. What is it to do with both the countries? How did the problem turn out to be such a grave issue? Stephen P. Cohen looks into this issue in his recent book. As per the author, there are only 5% of the conflicts in the world that are not resolvable and India - Pakistan is one of them.

The author starts the book looking at the context of how these two became separate countries. The partition was done by a Britisher who never had any idea of the area, civilization and people leading to a poor border. Kashmir, an area with majority Muslims, but ruled by a Hindu Ruler was taken by India and it has become a big issue right from the partition. Result is that the South Asia region has only 5% intra regional trade which is very bad.

The author moves on to the conflicts between the states and how there are three types of issues that are mainly contributing to the conflicts. One is the visual disputes such as Kashmir, River Waters, etc. Other is the identity crisis in which the way people perceive about each other has caused lot of problems. India is considered as a giant which takes advantage and is considered to be a dominant Hindu oriented nation, while Pakistan is looked upon extreme Islamist. The strategic location of the nations has been exploited by external countries for their strategic advantage.

The author next moves into chapters dealing with the perspectives of how Indians and Pakistanis think about each other. They have always viewed each other as negative and has always taken all the chances to impose the same in their people's mindsets. The education system of both the countries are altered in such a way that History is never taught properly. He looks at the various sects of people in both the nations and how they consider the problem widely.

Nuclearization has not done major changes, but it has been a factor that has made responsible acts from both the Governments. There is always a chance of some irrational behaviour that would lead to nuclear war, though it is very low. The changing geopolitics such as Soviet Union collapse, rise of China, Afghan Terrorism has changed the way the external nations look at Pakistan and India. They have always played a crucial part in extending the issue and never tried to help the nations bridge the gap.

Pakistan is no longer a big threat to India with growing China and Pakistan doesn't look the same way with decreased Army dominance and increased terrorism in the western regions.

Finally the author considers the prospects of the countries coming together. Though he says normalization may not come true, increased trade and mutual acceptance might come due to the increase in communication through Social Media and the changing views of the countries. He also wishes that USA plays a crucial role in helping the nations come together.

Overall, it is a well researched book that explains the problem in all angles and from everyone's eyes. The book doesn't say what would happen in the future, but gives a clear picture of what are different possibilities and how things might turn up. It is a must read book, if you are interested in Geopolitics or if you are interested in knowing about how India Pakistan problem shaped up or would turn out in the future.
If you are interested in reading the book click the link below,

Happy Reading!

P.S: Thanks to Harper Collins and Indiblogger, who gave me this book as part of their Review Program.

October 9, 2013

Is MOOC a Game Changer in Education?

Hi Guys,

MOOC or Massive Open Online Course has been in the limelight in the recent past as a major breakthrough in education. A MOOC is an online course wherein a technology firm signs up with a top notch university to provide a course to students across the globe. Though there are lot of websites doing this, Coursera has been one famous site providing MOOC. Coursera has tied up with many of the leading universities to provide courses across many streams like Engineering, Arts, Humanities, Management, etc. Recently it has come up with a concept known as ‘Signature track’ wherein the student pays a nominal fee and get certified by the providing university.

Is it a really a game changer? Well, MOOC is widely considered as higher learning platform, where learning occurs voluntarily and not by force. In real world, a student attends a college or a university. A professor frames the course, provides resources and guides students to learn the course with the help of lectures, projects and exams. In today’s integrated world, all the materials are available online. If I google Thermodynamics, I’ll get enough materials to master the subject. But, the problem is I won’t know the order or how to get into the subject. A professor facilitates that. If you have doubts, you ask the professor. You get clarified. The professor constructs it in such a way that you get the subject (Though, not many people would agree with that!). You have friends who would have different opinion. It will lead to knowledge development.

A MOOC is somewhere between a real university and the self-search. A professor records his lecture and slides and presents it to you. He gives you reference material. You have assignments, quizzes and peer evaluation. You can learn on your own. But, it would be individual learning and you can’t go back to the professor to get clarified. A MOOC cannot replace real education, but it provides you a framework to learn on your own.

Let me quote a personal example. After joining a few courses in Coursera about varied topics, I discontinued them due to lack of time or the complexity of the course. Recently I completed a course on Social Psychology. If there was no coursera, I would have had no idea on how to know about Social Psychology. Still, I might not have in depth knowledge in the subject, but I know something from the subject.

Dennis Yang, president of another famous MOOC provider Udemy says that MOOC is in the peak of Gartner Hype Cycle (see picture). It is in the peak of expectations and wild swings are expected. People say MOOC is the future of education and can spread education at a low cost. MIT Open courseware has been giving away the course materials free of cost for a long time. It hasn’t created a big learning for you can’t replicate the professors of MIT.
Garner Hype cycle - MOOC is said to be in the peak of the cycle.
Many other points are to be considered. A MOOC does not allow you to gain practical insights. It doesn’t boost peer learning (Discussion forums are not peer learning). The quizzes and evaluation might not reflect the true learning. There are few advantages too. It is easy for you to find a course you like and enrol just for the fun of knowing (If you are person like me, you will enjoy it). It enables you to connect with peers across world and get to know how they think about certain aspects. Features like Google Hangout enable people to come in and interact and enable some amount of peer learning.

Generally, lot of people join a course. But only one-tenth of people complete a course. It requires some self-motivation and commitment to stay with the course. I would say MOOC would not become a game changer in the near course of time. But, they definitely help spreading knowledge and can evolve over a period of time.

Happy Reading!

September 25, 2013

The Doomed Dwelling!

Hi Guys,

I had been thinking about writing a story for a long time. I have penned down something which you might call a story, if you are generous enough. This story is inspired by some of the events that happened to a few of my friends years back. Please read it and let me know your valuable comments. Thanks!

The day still remains fresh in my heart. After spending two years in college hostel, my parents had agreed to allow me stay outside. I was a hot May morning, but I was so fresh and the day was simply great. To the readers who are confused as to who I am, let me introduce myself. I am Ram, a Mechanical Engineering student in one of the private Engineering colleges in Chennai. Staying in hostel has its own issues. We have to stick to the idiotic rules, we have to bear with the poor food, we were not allowed to go outside, we were not allowed to use mobile phones and so on. Staying outside has its own advantages and freedom. So, I and three of my friends got into a house in the suburbs of Chennai.

It was a quite an old house, but nevertheless a big house with a few spacious rooms. We were in the first floor. The house owner said that the ground floor was being renovated and that he was in search of tenants for the second floor which was also big. The rent was much less compared to other houses in the area. There are certain things in this world that you won’t believe until it happens to you. Getting a house for cheap rent was one such thing and I was happy with it. Little did I know that I will experience other unbelievable things too.

A few weeks passed by. It was the starting of September. My roommates had gone to their homes for weekend and I was staying alone in the home. I was a Saturday night and I was watching a random movie in my laptop. The tube light in the room started to flicker and it was off before I tried to do something. I went to the hall and switched on the light, but it refused to switch on. The neighbouring homes had power supply, so I thought there was something wrong with the fuse. I took a torch light and went to the electric meter box. To my shock, the main switch was turned off. I turned it on, but was observed in thoughts as there was no one else in the home.

I came back to the room to find that my laptop had been turned off. I thought it had run out of battery, but then realized the power source was still on. My first thought was that it was a thief. Slowly and steadily, I went to other rooms and switched on the lights to find that no one was there. I had a thought that it might be a ghost, but then I never believed. I thought, there was something with the electrical connection and slept off.

The next day morning, I got up quite early. I spent most of the time outside my home. The night came. By the time I came home, all the lights were turned on. Confused, I called my roommates. None of them had reached home. I was scared now. The house was open. I went slowly inside and found that no one was there. Sweat started flowing down my face. I was standing by the entrance for some 10 minutes. Someone was opening the door in the second floor. I starting walking down the steps when the house owner called me. He said he had come with a plumber to do some repairing works in the pipeline. Sometimes, mind does play games with us.

Night came. I locked myself and I was trying to comprehend whatever I had written in Thermal Lab note to write in my record. It was then that a small girl in the opposite house started to scream as if she had seen a ghost. The girl was pointing to something in the second floor of the house we were staying and she fainted. Her parents came later and took her, probably to a hospital. Her terror ridden eyes remained in my heart and was very scared after all the events. I tried to stay awake with lights turned on. My eyes and brain were playing games with me.

Somehow I drifted off to sleep. It was around 6 in the morning when I got up. I found that my roommate Siva had come from home. He was sitting in hall and writing something. He didn’t seem to note me. I brushed my teeth and I was having headache due to the events that happened in the previous night. I wanted to have coffee and came out. The mother of the little girl was standing outside. I enquired about the little girl and she said the girl was fine. She asked us to get out of the home soon as there was apparently a ghost in the house. The home was used as a hostel few years back and a girl had committed Suicide in the hostel. Due to that, the house has remain uninhabited for a long time. If someone comes to the home, the ghost makes an appearance. She said the so called plumber was a witch hunter. I suddenly remembered that he had no tools with him.

Confused, I reached for the tea shop at the end of the street. I saw Siva walking towards the street with his bag on his shoulders. Then who was sitting in the hall? I suddenly remembered the fact that I had locked the doors and no one could have come in unless I opened. Things dawned on me suddenly. I waited for Siva and told him everything.

He said he had been experiencing some strange dreams after coming to the house. A dream where he was walking somewhere with a long pathway with no rooms on the side and a photo of a beautiful brown horse in the wall. We went back to home. Other two friends said that they would come only on Tuesday.

We went to college and came back. We went to the second floor of the house. There was no lock and we went in. It was clear that the house was full of dust and no one can live there as of now. There was many old household things. I heard a cry from Siva in the next room. There was the picture of the horse that came in his dreams.

We came out of the house. We called the house owner and asked him to come immediately. He came and tried to convince that the house was safe. After a few nasty dialogues, he accepted that there was something scary there. He said the witch hunter would probably drive it away in a few days and wanted us to stay there and was ready to reduce the rent by 25%.

But, do you think we would have stayed there? Yes, we did. We wanted to get out as soon as possible. But, we didn’t get any other houses nearby. Our fears reduced as time went by. A few notorious things would happen now and then. But, it was some silly things and it didn’t increase in magnitude as shown in horror movies. We and the ghost got used to mutual existence. We stayed for two years and we never had a problem!

September 21, 2013

Jack: Straight from the Gut - Jack Welch - Book Review

Hi Guys,

I have always found it difficult to start an Autobiography and even more difficult to finish it. For the first time, I found an autobiography interesting and finished it very quickly. It all started with a case study for Strategic Management class. I was very impressed, borrowed the book from library and finished it in 3 days in my term break.

The book is more than a history of personal life. It provides a larger view on General Electric and how Jack Welch transformed GE with his leadership. He goes deep into many events and how he acted upon them and how he enabled people to perform better.

The book starts from his younger age and how his mother was his role model. He says his mother taught him an important lesson that if you can’t lose, you can’t win. Then he goes on into this education and how he joined GE in its Chemical Department in 1960s. The interesting fact is that Jack disliked GE and wanted to get out of it due to the bureaucracy. But, he stayed on selling himself to go into higher positions and went into the corporate office pretty soon.

He gives the full account of how the race to CEO was and how difficult it was for the candidates and how he made it. After becoming the CEO, he wants to move GE from the position of a ‘Giant Tank’ to ‘Agile Speed boat’. He describes about his Neutron Jack years, where he sacked many employees, sold many businesses and acquired many.

Then he moves on to how he improved the people side of the firm with Crotonville centre, stock options and so on. He moves on to describe how he continued to learn and introduced ‘Boundaryless’ term in the firm that enabled ideas to flow across. He continues to describe the main strategies that GE took in his years – Globalization, Services, Six Sigma and E-business. He says as a firm they have only 4 major transformation in the 20 years.

He says that it was people who did things, not strategy or machines. He writes, ‘In Manufacturing, we try to stamp out variance. With people, variance is everything’ He writes how he made good people stay back and poor people get out before worsening the system.

From the book, we know that Jack Welch is a guy who you won’t come across very often. He knew what he was doing. He didn’t wait, plan and do. He acted swiftly and he says that in the end he felt he waited a lot before getting into it. He understood business, he understood people and he enabled them. He is a great inspiration to all those people who want to run companies.

Many of the people focus on improving processes, reducing costs, building brands. But Jack says that it is people who matters most and it is an important lesson to all the young management grads. He writes in the end, ‘Great people, not great strategies, are what made it all work’

Happy Reading!

September 9, 2013

Are Engineering colleges focussing too much on attire?

Hi Guys,

It has been a long time, since I wrote my last post. It was my term end and I was busy with projects and exams. It is refreshing to have a week break and I have thought of writing a series of posts. Lets see how it goes.

The first one I want to write is about the recent story of a Social Media Entrepreneur being turned away by a famous Engineering college in Chennai for not being in formal attire. The college invited him for a guest lecture and when he went there in casual attire, the college refused to let him address the gathering. The reason given was that the students were raised up in a disciplined way and allowing a guest lecturer to be in casual attire could spoil them. They gave him formal attire and asked him to change. He refused and came away.

Students being asked to dress in formals is a usual story in the so called best colleges, but asking a guest to be in formals is quite pathetic. Interestingly, this guest handles a course in my college on Social Media Marketing and is said to be one of the best professors. Last year, the assignment he gave to students was to perform a Harlem Shake in classroom and spread it on Youtube.

Having done my Engineering in a college where we had lot of restrictions on what to wear and what not to wear and currently doing my MBA in a college where there is literally no restrictions on what to wear (of course there are few, but no sane person would go beyond the limit) I think I have some points to make. Personally, my discipline levels have not gone down or up because of the attire I wear. I no longer have to worry about the attire I wear to my classes. It feels comfortable and level of discussions certainly goes up. I would say that these colleges should have a certain dress code, but it shouldn’t make students hate to go to college every day.

The concern of the college authorities that the students could be spoilt by the guest wearing casual attire is a very stupid thing. With the growth of technology, students have access to information from all across the world. They can certainly see what is happening around. The CEOs who have been very formal in their attire have made the biggest of crimes. Students would have certainly seen Steve Jobs delivering Keynote address in his famous T-shirt – Jean Combo. They would know that the most innovative of firms do not focus on attire.

By making students focus on these small issues, they fail to kindle the minds of students to do big things. The students’ life revolves around focusing on what would be the consequences of what he does and it would not allow the student to have any freedom on innovation or research. I have witnessed many of these incidents. A student who is interested in doing something innovative would go to a leading professor in his department. The professor would not heed to the student’s concept, but would rather focus on what he did against rules recently and how it affects the reputation of the institution. That would be the end of the student’s research.

No wonder these colleges produce scores of students with university ranks, but not with scores of students with good innovative projects. The lead university provides 50 ranks to the best performing students in academics. But, isn’t Engineering a research oriented field. Shouldn’t the awards be focused towards Research and Innovation. I myself belong in this top 50 category. But, to be true I never did a meaningful research. I never had the chance to do one. All I did was study and crack the exams. This is how our system works.

It is high time for them to focus on research rather than on discipline. I do not say that discipline is not required, but discipline should not be the only thing that is required.

Happy Reading!

August 16, 2013

Gold: Why and How does it impact the Indian Economy?

Hi Guys,

Indian Economy has not been in a very good shape recently. All the economic articles in Newspapers and websites have been reporting gloominess. In the recent months, many of us would have come across this statement multiple times – ‘Please Stop buying Gold’. Our Finance Minister and his team didn’t know a quicker way to stop the decreasing the Current Account Deficit. The import duty on Gold went up from 4% at the starting of this year to 10% step by step. 20% of the Gold imports needs to be exported back again with some value addition.

So, what has been happening? Why all this measures all of a sudden? I decided to look into the issue and what has been happening over the years.

In 2001, the total world production of Gold was 3764 tonnes and India imported 462 tonnes, which turns out to be 12.27% of the total production. In 2012, the total production was 4130 tonnes. India imported 1079 tonnes which turns to be 26.12%. India has consumed one-fourth of the total gold production.

What could be the main reasons? Traditionally, Indians always have an affinity towards Gold Jewellery. In the recent years, we have started moving from the concept of Gold Consumption (buying for Jewellery) towards Gold Investment (buying for future benefits). In 2011-2012, 56% of Gold Imports happened through Banks. It is said that Gold has been purchased more due to the high returns it offers. But if we compare the returns between the period of April 2003 and March 2013, Rs.1000 investment would have given Rs. 5267 in Gold, Rs. 6158 in Sensex, Rs. 5746 in Nifty (Bank deposit at 8% would have given Rs. 2337). So, comparatively stock market has given more benefits.

Stock markets have remained out of reach for most of our population. Many of our fellow citizens are unaware of the stock market. There are many intricacies in dealing with our stock market and hence it is an unviable option for most of our citizens. Though stock markets have given better returns, Gold wins in terms of the consistency. If we draw a graph between stock and Gold, the growth of Gold will be more linear and stock market would be filled with crests and troughs.

Gold is considered more liquid compared to Real estate. It also doesn’t require huge investment. Typically, it is said Peasants are the largest consumers of Gold. It protects them from Inflation. It is said to the best Hedge from uncertainties. It has been found that for every 1 % increase in income, gold consumption increases by 1.5%. India’s Golden period also happened between 2003 and 2010 when the GDP growth was spectacular and the per capita income increased tremendously. Also the MNREGA scheme increased the income of Rural masses and their primary investment turned out to be Gold.

Why has this become a big issue all of a sudden? To know this, we need to know what Current Account Deficit is. Current Account is the difference between a country’s Total Exports to Total Imports. If we have more exports compared to imports, we have Current Account Surplus. If we import more, we have Current Account Deficit (CAD). If we have CAD, we need to use our Forex reserves to settle and in the process, we deplete the Forex reserves. If it continues, in the long run we might not have money to get imports.

From 2007 to 2012, CAD has increased from 1.3 to 4.2% of GDP. Net Gold imports has increased from 1.1 to 2.7% of GDP. Net Gold to Current Account Balance has hovered around 70%. Gold export as percentage of Gold Import has decreased from 41% in 2008-09 to 29% in 2011-12. Gold has remained as one of the chief contributors to CAD. In brief, if we stop importing gold, our CAD would become 1.2% of GDP.

India imports three things mainly – Crude Oil, Cooking Oil and Gold. The first two are essentials. Gold is considered to be Non-essential. So our Government wants to reduce the import of Gold. There are many shortfalls in this appeal.

We do not have a safe investment medium compared to Gold. As I mentioned above, it is so easy to buy and sell Gold. People do not trust the other alternatives. The increase in import duties and other restrictions, increase the scope of smuggling. It has already increased. The difference between prices in India and Nepal is 750 Nepalese Rupee per gram (which is nearly INR 468). Recently, 35 kg of Gold has been caught when it smuggled from Nepal into India. Pakistan’s gold imports have increased all of a sudden. Sri Lanka has mirrored India in the Imports Duty rate due to fear of Smuggling.

I read another interesting perspective a few days back. If the investment in Gold goes down, the consumption in Economy increases. It leads to higher liquidity in the economy. The inflation goes up. This is mainly due to the lack of investment interest in other alternatives.

In the short run, Government should aim for decreasing other non-essential imports. Here are values (in Rs. Crore) of some of the non-essential imports published in the Economic Times 2 days ago. Apples: 1152, Booze: 1150, Cashew: 5433, Dolls: 431, Mobile Phones: 25835, Spectacles: 366, Cosmetics: 2173, Almonds: 2105 among many others. Government should try and increase the domestic production of these goods. It could create employment, curb imports and boost exports.

Increase in Gold Imports has been a trend over the past few years and stopping it all of a sudden is not possible. Government should try and create alternatives for Gold in the long run. Otherwise, people are not going to stop buying Gold just because the Finance Minister is saying.

Happy Reading!!!

P.S: Though I have referred many articles for writing this post, the main reference is a RBI report on Study ofIssues related to Gold Imports. You will find many informative data and graphs in this report. If you want more insight, read this report. The URL is

August 12, 2013

4 and Growing! Thank you once again!!!

Hi Guys,

Birthdays are always special and I actually feel my blog’s birthday more special than my Birthday! Maybe, because it’s my creation.

4 years – 212 posts – 132000 + views. This is a short snapshot of my blog stats. When I started my blog, I never dreamt of achieving these things. I thought it was just a hobby. I thought it was just fun. I never thought I could sustain it for this long. I never thought it would become a passion.

Thanks to each and every one of my readers for supporting my blog. You believed in me, more than what I believed in myself. The amount of confidence you guys instilled in me was a great source of energy.

Things have changed over time. I no longer write blogs sitting in front of my Desktop at home. I write in my Laptop sitting in my Hostel Room or at my college’s Resource Centre. I am no longer a student of Mechanical Engineering. I have become a Mechanical Engineer and a student of Management studies. I no longer write whatever comes into my mind. I have to think long about the consequences before touching on a post – one of the reasons, the number of posts have shrunken. The typical work filled days of B school life are also a reason for the reduction in number of posts.

A lot of people come and ask me, ‘Karthick, how did you get so many visitors?’ I wish I knew the answer. As I said in the beginning, I never dreamt of something like this. It has been a puzzle as to how it happened. People think I hide secrets. The reality is that there are no secrets. Many people ask me for tips on writing and it’s another question for which I do not know the answer. I myself consider I have a lot of scope to improve. Of late, I realized that I have become too complacent. For some time, I was not even proof reading the posts after the first draft. I realized it after a few comments and now I try to proof read twice before posting.

Looking at my posts in the last year, I am quite happy. Though the number of posts I have written has reduced to 30s, the content has been quite good. I have written posts relating to some Social issues. I was one of the Runner Ups, in a contest organized by Indiblogger and Surf Excel for writing about Corruption (you can see the badge at the bottom of the blog). It really feels good when people come back and appreciate for such efforts. I have written few book reviews and as a result, I receive requests for Book reviews in times of new releases (I haven’t accept any one so far as I cannot promise to write at the time of release). I receive requests for writing in other websites. It is quite startling.

I hope to continue writing good posts in the future and I hope my readers get something by reading my blog.

Over the past, I have thanked all my supporters over my Birthday posts and I do not want to mention all the names again. A big thanks to each and every one of you! I am posting the links of my previous Birthday posts, so that new readers can enjoy reading them.

At this juncture, I welcome suggestions for my blog. I know there is a lot of scope for improvement. Do let me know your suggestions on my writing or the content or the design of my blog. Write a comment or drop a mail to

Thank you very much for your support! Keep Supporting!

Happy Reading!!!

July 24, 2013

The $300 House Project - Creating Affordable Living for the poor

Hi Guys,

How many people have criticized the presence of slums inside the metro cities? How many people have wanted those areas to go away of the city? But, how many of us have considered a real solution for those people? We have Slum Clearance Boards. But, have these boards done something useful across the years? Either they plan for poor quality homes or unfeasible plans and the slums have stayed across the years. There is a huge bunch of people who do not have any shelter to stay too.

A few people in USA started to dream on the possibility of a low cost house for these type of people and their dreams have come true to a large extent. Christian Sarkar, a marketing consultant in USA started the concept. His idea was based out of the people in Haiti, who do not have proper shelters to live. He approached Vijay Govindarajan, who is a professor at Tuck School of Business. Together they started the $300 House Project.

‘90 percent of the world’s designers spend all their time working on solutions to the problems of the richest 10 percent of the world’s customers’ – Paul Polak

Christian Sarkar explaining the concept in TEDxGateway Mumbai 2012 partnered by Franklin Templeton Investments. To see the video in Youtube, visit

The aim was to build a house with basic facilities that can provide the poor people a safe place to live in. They announced a contest and received exactly 300 entries. Together they built a community. A community that was committed to the development of the society. A community that wanted other Human beings to safe. Together they developed prototypes in different places. As Christian Sarkar describes, they might not have built a house for $300 (currently they have houses built for as low as $800), but they have created the energy, passion and platform for others to work.

This project is being pilot tested in Haiti and certain parts of India. In India a team from Mahindra and Mahindra has built the cheapest home and they have built communities in Bihar for flood affected people and in Pondicherry for Tsunami affected people. What an effective way to create innovation? They call it as Reverse Innovation. When more and more people come in with better inputs, the cost will go down. The possibility of a self-sustainable house for the poor could become reality.

For companies, it’s a great way to go forward with the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as Christian Sarkar says. Being a student of MBA, CSR is a topic that is discussed in classrooms quite often. Whenever the topic of CSR comes, many of my classmates come up with questions like how can a company really concentrate on something like CSR. We have to give 2% of profit and that’s it. As the people from M&M have shown, it’s more than that. When the society has given so much to you, you need to put in your physical efforts and not just money.

‘Companies that are not good corporate citizens – those that… allow the environment and the community to suffer- are really criminals in the today’s world’ - Ratan Tata

One of my friends was saying that the Government should actively participate in the project. The slum clearance boards are finding it difficult to find solution and these type of efforts can be so efficient. It’s difficult to figure out why the Government is not taking any efforts to contribute to these type of initiatives.

Looking across the various videos regarding $300 project in Youtube, you are really impressed. There is a huge bunch of team working selflessly for the project. As Christian Sarkar concludes, you are much better than many people in the world. Help those people those you are below you.

Happy Reading!!!

P.S: This Post is written for ‘The IdeaCaravan’ contest conducted by Franklin Templeton in association with Indiblogger.