Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What caused the rise of English as the way of doing business in India?

It is tough for us Indian’s to write ‘Proper’ sentences in the English language. It is painful sometimes to see your colleagues, friends, and your own self sometimes struggle to compose error free communication. And I am not talking about spelling mistakes but words, sentences and paragraphs that make no sense or mean literally the opposite of what the writer wishes to convey.

I wonder why is it that English came to be the language of choice for business communication. One apparent reason could be the rise of personal computers, which are used to compose messages. Despite the availability of delete and backspace buttons we end up writing in a language that is not ours. Our minds are not wired to write in the Queen’s language. However if you are reading this the chances are your PC only has Roman letters for inputs and not Devanagari or any other Indian language. Mobiles, with virtual key pads are lucky as the software now enables choice between different input languages but form factor has an equally detrimental impact on whatever language you want to write in.

Monday, October 03, 2016

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Monday, January 04, 2016

To speak or not to speak: #Pathankot

I am deeply pained by the attacks on Pathankot. However, once again it seems the terrorists may succeed in derailing the talks between India and Pakistan. The popular commentary in media is to get Pakistan to go after terrorist outfits that target India before engaging them. Here are my thoughts/questions in my mind
  • How do you get them to eliminate terrorists that target India when it is unable to target terrorists that are targeting Pakistan?
  • Every time the dialog process moves one step further, these terrorist organizations attack India. Isn't it clear that these organizations feel threatened by the India - Pak engagement. By stopping talks are we not playing into their hands? By putting preconditions that we know cannot be met by the Pak government what are we trying to achieve.
  • If Pak military controls these rogue elements and military is not under the control of their government, why are we engaging with government only and not with Pak military directly?
  • What incentive are we creating for Pakistan government and military or people who can exercise influence to act against India based terror organizations?
  • Also, salute the brave soldiers that are fighting to keep us safe. Why are they not equipped with latest weapons and safety equipment? eg Why do operations have to stop at night. Why did we not deploy thermal scanning, night vision - disclaimer being this perception is based on limited information?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Alkem and Dr Lal Path Lab IPO allotment - Is there a scam in allotment to retail category?

Had applied for 17 lots of Dr Lal Pathlab and 9 lots for Alkem lab under the retail category. The issues were subscribed 4.24 and 3.17 times respectively in the retail category. Should have been allotted at least 4 lots of Dr Lal PathLabs and at least 2 lots of Alkem (rounded down - assuming all applications were valid)

However have got just one of each. Given that these IPO's are expected to list at a premium is there some bungling done in the allotment process? The bank through which I applied (Kotak) would not respond on this.

Needs to be examined by SEBI


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What ails Skills Development in India and how to resolve this?

The government and various agencies such as NSDC are making a lot of effort for skills development, including the launch of the Skills India and Digital India programmes in mission mode. A lot is being done, but the pace is way below India’s aspirations. So what ails skills development in India? 

Consider the following:

  • As per GOI, the requirement for skills training is over 400 million till year 2022, across 37 identified sectors. This includes 112 million fresh entrants the workforce and over 300 million workforce to be retrained.

    • This implies 50 million to be trained per year. Current pace is a fraction of this requirement

    • At 20 thousand rupees per person on average, this would costs 8 lac crore (or about 123 billion dollars).
    • Clearly the government does not have this money to spend on skills development alone or event if it had, is not going to spend this much
    • The industry is already spending where it can – post hiring, and the pace is only going to go up organically. Again too slowly. Therefore the only scalable solution is if individuals start paying for training.
    • However there is not much demand. This is due a mix of the following
    • Low training capacity in the country so training is not available
    • If its accessible, the quality if found wanting
    • People don’t know of the benefits of training as they have either never experienced this before or the community had a poor experience because they were earlier duped by promises of job after training or training quality itself was poor and therefore did not lead to a job.
    • People do not have money to spend on training or if they have money, culturally education is much higher priority than skills development (although education itself is poor with high drop-out and no link to jobs and outcomes). There is no pride to being a skilled master carpenter over even taking up a third rate engineering program which provides no skills and no future
    • People do not want to leave education to experience skills development because it’s a huge risk as once you leave education there is no going back  
    • While CEO’s cry for talent, their hiring managers still have a checkbox in the recruitment for which asks for a formal degree and therefore no job without formal college degree even if the degree is not worth the paper it is printed on.
    •  Hiring managers want people with certified skills but are not ready to give even a small premium over a person they (still) hire without skills.
    • This may be due to inertia. Low capacity so a local institute cannot fulfil entire demand, so unskilled are still hired in larger majority
    • Lack of standards and need for customization means fresh batch of recruits still needs to be put through training program by the company - assuming everyone has no-skill
    • More importantly hiring managers have average starting salary as a performance parameter without assessment of skill levels
    • Therefore a person considering training sees that he can still get in without spending on training (time – 3 months and money – 15-20 thousand)
    • The opportunity cost is not only training fee but also 3 months salary @say 10 ke per month – Total opportunity cost is 20K  + 3x10K = 50 K
    • What a person does not realize is that work performance/productivity and therefore salary increases are much higher if he gets in with a certified skill
    • Now government is spending 15-20k per person through either vouchers (eg PMKVY) or direct reimbursements for training programs
    • This is counter-productive, because even in areas where people are willing to pay for training – say IT for example, students would see this and stop paying for programs leading to market distortion and impacting companies that do not need this government dole
    • Also learners have no skin in the game leading to poor motivation and therefore less than desirable outcomes
    • The government may be seeing this as market catalyst (like online retailers offering discounts) - getting people used to training and seeing the benefits. But needs to watch out for long term, unintended consequences

    Watch out for discussion on solutions in a subsequent post.  I don’t claim to have all the answers so request you to leave your suggestions in the comments section

    Monday, April 20, 2015

    Rajat Gupta

    Fallen heroes are still heroes. The fact that heroes are not infallible proves that they are also human and can sometimes make mistakes. So is it fair that we treat them as untouchables after the mistake?

    How many of us can keep a hand on heart and say that we have never made a mistake, broken a law when no one was watching, or pushed the boundary of our own version of truth or integrity.

    A minor infraction is still an infraction. How do you think the world would react if all of these infractions were to appear on the front pages of newspapers around the world. How would you want the world to react to that? Would you like it that the world forget all the good things that you did and treat you like a common criminal if you really through that the infraction was just pushing at the boundaries and had no mal intent or had a moment of weakness.

    The law should and will take its own course. It must, to discourage others from doing the same mistake. However that does not mean that the rest of us have stopped respecting or admiring you for what you have done aside from this infraction.

    Writing this for Rajat Gupta for all the good that he has done for countless that he has not even personally met.

    Why India needs a reformed Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act?

    Consider the following

    Roads, factories, houses, dams etc need to be built for development. India needs to create better infrastructure for development of the country and provide higher the standard of living for all Indians.

    Think of the NH1 (National Highway 1) connecting Delhi to Amritsar or any other highway, and the enormous prosperity that it has brought to the people and cities located along the way.  Roads cannot be built on thin air (at least not yet) and such development requires acquisition of land by the government to enable construction of roads. This road construction if often outsourced for a fixed price or for a toll fee to be collected over a period, to for-profit private entities. For profit is not a bad term. It creates incentive for private entities to become more efficient, creates competition thus creates development. If the government does not own a continuous stretch of this land for the road it needs to acquire this from the land owners, who in most cases and inevitably are farmers. 

    The farmers’ livelihood is dependent on these lands. They are not necessarily skilled in any other work and depend on the land for a living and cannot survive if this is taken away from them. 

    How to address both these concerns. In theory, the farmers would agree to sell for a fair compensation that takes care of their livelihood and they can use this compensation to relocate and continue to enjoy at-least and perhaps and better standard of living than before.

    However, in reality this is not efficient and both parties can take advantage of this situation

    Farmers fear that government would not give them a fair compensation and kick them out of their livelihood and place of living

    Government fears farmers would take undue advantage and hold out on selling leading making the projects considerably expensive if not unviable and delay development

    Therefore a balanced law is needed to ensure concerns of both parties are met and an environment is created to ensure faster development.

    Now, India already has a Land Acquisition Act that was passed in 2013.  However, the government feels that the current act has led to constraints on speed of development and wants to amend certain provisions to speed things up. Does that necessarily mean that farmers would be worse off, is not clear, but that certainly seems to be the impression that opposition parties have managed to create,  leading to a negative farmer sentiment against the revised proposals.

    Here is the summary of proposed changes versus the current Act and my analysis.


     LARR Act, 2013
    Ordinance/LARR (Amendment) Bill, 2015 (as introduced)
    Bill as passed by Lok Sabha
    My Comments
    Consent (Proviso to Section 2(2))*
    The consent of 80% land owners required for private projects. The consent of 70% land owners required for Public-Private Partnership projects. No consent is required for government projects.
    The Bill exempts five types of projects from this provision. These categories are: (i) defence, (ii) rural infrastructure, (iii) affordable housing, (iv) industrial corridors, and (v) infrastructure and social infrastructure including PPP projects where the government owns the land.
    Removes social infrastructure from the 5 exempted projects. Specifies the definition of industrial corridors as those set up by the government/government undertakings, up to 1 km on either side of the road/railway of the corridor.
    The categories defined are very open ended and can be misused. Almost all projects can be classified in one of these categories and while the government’s intent is right, the open ended nature of these categories makes this the most controversial change.
    The government needs to define these better eg Defence projects where government ownership is >51%. Public Infra such as roads, hydro power projects that cannot be  set up elsewhere without leading making these projects unviable.
    However, coal power projects for example that can be set up elsewhere need not do away with the consent provision.
    Government can also consider lowering the consent limit to say 50% for some of these categories of projects rather than doing away with it completely.
    Social Impact Assessment (Chapter II)
    SIA is mandatory for all projects except: (i) in cases of urgency as outlined in Section 40 or (ii) for irrigation projects where an Environmental Impact Assessment is required.
    The Bill allows the government to exempt projects falling under the five categories mentioned above from this provision, through a notification. Therefore, an SIA need not be conducted if the government issues a notification stating this (on a project to project basis).
    Adds that before issuing the notification, the government must ensure that the extent of land being acquired is in keeping with the minimum land required.
    Why should there not be a social impact assessment? The fear perhaps is that any SIA report would make projects a political hot potato and cause unnecessary delays. The act should instead make provide for SIA to be done in a timely manner and scope SIA of this needs to be clearly defined.
    Irrigated multi-cropped land (Chapter III)
    Irrigated multi-cropped land cannot be acquired beyond a limit specified by the government. The acquisition of agricultural land for all projects in a district/state must not exceed the total net sown area of the district/state.
    The Bill allows the government to exempt projects falling under the five categories mentioned above from this provision, through a notification. Therefore, this limit need not be adhered to if the government issues a notification stating this (on a project to project basis).
    Adds that before issuing the notification, the government must ensure that the extent of land being acquired is in keeping with the minimum land required.
    Should be okay other provisions are better defined.
    Compensation & rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) provisions of 13 other laws which govern land acquisition (Fourth Schedule)
    The Act exempted 13 laws (such as the National Highways Act, 1956 and the Railways Act, 1989) from its ambit. These laws also govern the process of acquisition of land for specific sectors. However, the Act required that compensation and R&R provisions of these laws be brought in consonance with it by January 1, 2015.
    The Bill seeks to do this, that is, to bring the compensation and R&R provisions of 13 other laws in consonance with the Act.
    No change.
    Should be okay. Needed to simplify compliance and speed up projects.
    Return of unutilised land (Section 101)
    If land acquired under the Act remains unutilised for five years from taking possession, it must be returned to the original owners or a land bank.
    The Bill changes this to state that the period after which unutilised land will need to be returned to the later of: (i) five years, or (ii) any period specified at the time of setting up the project.
    No change.
    No need for this amendment.
    Retrospective application (Section 24(2))
    The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 will continue to apply in certain cases, when an award has been made under it. The LARR Act, 2013 will apply in case an award has been made five years or more prior to the commencement of the LARR Act, 2013 but the physical possession of the land has not been taken or compensation has not been paid.
    The Bill states that in calculating the time period for retrospective application, any period during which the proceedings were held up: (i) due to a stay order of a court, or (ii) for a period specified in the award of a Tribunal, or (iii) for any period where possession was taken but the compensation is lying deposited in a court or any account, will not be counted.
    Changes ‘account’ to ‘designated account’.
    Should be okay with this change.
    R&R award (Section 31, Second Schedule)
    The Act provides the option of employment to one member of an affected family as part of the R&R award.
    No change.
    Adds that employment to ‘one member of such affected family of farm labour’ must be given.
    Farmers should be okay with this. However employed to do what and at what salary levels. This needs clarification
    Change from private ‘company’ to private ‘entity’ (Section 3(j))
    The provisions of the Act are also applicable when land is acquired for public purpose for private companies. A company was one included in the Companies Act, 1956, or under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
    The Bill changes the term ‘private company’ to ‘private entity’. A ‘private entity’ is an entity other than a government entity, and includes a proprietorship, partnership, company, corporation, non-profit organisation, or other entity. The Bill changes the Companies Act, 1956 to the Companies Act, 2013.
    No change.
    Okay with this.
    Change to hearing by Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Authority (Chapter VIII)
    The Act provides for the establishment of a Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Authority which may be approached in case a person is not satisfied with an award under the Act.
    No change.
    Adds that the LARR Authority must hold its hearing in the district where the land acquisition is taking place, after receiving a reference from the Collector and giving notice of this reference to all concerned parties.
    Okay with this change
    Offences by the government (Section 87)
    If an offence is committed by a government department, the head of the department will be deemed guilty unless he can show that he had exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.
    The Bill deletes this provision.
    No change.
    This is probably much needed amendment if we want our bureaucrats to be able to function and to create a development focused environment and remove red tape. People make genuine mistakes, they cannot make any decision if they have to go to jail for every mistake..
    The Bill adds a provision to state that if an offence is committed by a government employee he cannot be prosecuted without the prior sanction of the government, as provided under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
    Replaces this to state that a government employee can be prosecuted as provided for in Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
    Survey of wasteland (No provision)
    No provision.
    No change.
    Adds a provision that the government must conduct a survey of its wasteland including arid land, and maintain a record with details of this land, as may be prescribed by the government.
    Pragmatic change. Government should consider using wasteland/arid land before acquiring land from farmers.
    Acquisition of land for private hospitals and private educational institutions (Section 2(1)(b)(i))))
    Excluded the acquisition of land for private hospitals and private educational institutions.
    The Bill allows the acquisition of land for private hospitals and educational institutions.
    Removes this provision. Thus, the acquisition of land for private hospitals & private educational institutions is excluded.
    No change here but aren’t private hospitals and private schools also necessary infra. Especially Schools, since they are not for profit by law. But that is a discussion for another time.


    Monday, April 06, 2015

    RBI Keeps Key Rates and CRR unchanged

    In the RBI policy meet today, the reserve bank has decided make no changes to Repo / Reverse Repo rates which is as expected after making two surprise rate cuts this year. A section of the market although had expected some tweaking in SLR or CRR. However RBI decided to leave these unchanged as well. Repo Rate remains at 7.5%, SLR at 21.5% and CRR at 4%

    Rajan is probably waiting to get more clarity on Fed moves and also worried about the impact of the unseasonal rains and the impact that may have on food inflation and therefore on targeted inflation levels.

    Repo rate is the rate of interest at which RBI lends to commercial banks


    Tuesday, March 31, 2015

    Airbnb Promo Code India

    Are you planning to try out Airbnb? Invite you to sign up with this link to get free credits of 25 US Dollars or 17 GBP or equivalent in your home currency (eg in India this would be almost 1600 Rupees). This credit can be used in your first booking for an Airbnb hosted home. If you are looking to rent out your own home or place you will get $75 USD or 51 GBP as credit. That's a sweet deal for signing up using this link

    Here you go : 


    Saturday, March 28, 2015

    Why Firspost should be careful who they they call Kaminey? #JustThinkingAloud

    Have been reading firstpost’s account of the latest sting on Arvind Kejriwal with some amusement and some frustration. Here are my thoughts

    a)      I am amused because of the following:


    FP thinks the colourful language used by Arvind is okay for run of the mill politicians the kinds that he despises (or in other FP would have you believe pretends that he despises) and by using this language when he is angry shows his class and true colors. According to FP this language is unbecoming of an intellectual like AK and IITian, IRS officer and anti-corruption crusader and is almost Virat Kohliesque (FP should be more careful here in what they are implying, as in another article which they get an easy target in terms of Times Now and the #shameontimesnow episode…) . 

    a.       In my view AK never pretended to be an intellectual

    b.      He will tell you that he is only an aam aadmi

    c.       He is an aam aadmi with a singular mission ( at least above all, to wipe out corruption from Indian politics and will take no prisoners in his fight against the same)  

    d.      In fact, the writer appears to be following some Victorian way of life where he has never been in touch with the aam aadmi, IITians much less IRS officers. I have seen a few from close quarters. As great as there are their language when frustrated can be quite colourful that too in East Man Color.

    e.      He invokes Gandhi as an ideal for use of language, Tough to argue with that. But I could have said 2+2 = 4 and it would have been tough to argue with that too.

    f.        If anything the language only shows his frustrations with the two people in question and makes him sound like a common man. Much like the rest of us not pretending to be any different


    b)      I am also a little frustrated, which made me write this ( and I don’t claim to be great at writing)


    I am a regular reader of FP. But I am frustrated that every now and then editorial slack allows them to put forward arguments that will stretch any logic beyond logic. Remotest of links and (even alliterations J) are used to sensationalize matters. Any person can see through this creative license that writers use to twist facts just to make a point. FP is guilt of the same type of bad journalism that they have pointed out (opportunistically at their rival channel Times Now) and saying that cricket fans have matured.

     #JustThinkingAloud FP may soon realize that it is not just the cricket fans but their aam aadmi reader who has also matured and FP may soon need to be glued to their twitter stream as well

    Friday, March 27, 2015

    #JustThinkingAloud -Why are we so shocked by YY and PB being side lined out of AAP?

    Organizations need alignment and singularity of purpose to succeed. This does not mean that there no room for dissent and difference in opinions. On the contrary, organizations need dissent and debate. But there is a time and place for that. Successful organizations need to put dissent behind them when it’s time to execute and importantly the difference in views should stay hidden from the external view to inspire confidence in its customers and shareholders, and they know what to expect from the organization at all time. Sure, organizations can change their focus or direction, but at any given point of time the messaging needs to be coherent.

    Equally important to this alignment on goals and objectives is to have coordination between its all units and departments. Anything that hinders proper coordination to achieve common goals impacts strategy execution, thus leading to frustration, escalation and/or duplication of effort and general failure to meet objectives leading to missed commitments to customers.
    If AAP were a company, would we not be okay with the company censuring YY and PB and projecting the CEO i.e. AK is the know all leader.

    What is wrong if the AAP, the political party does the same. After all, are we more worried about upholding idealism or its ability to put an end to corruption and transparent governance and driving growth for the country.  Why is the aam aadmi worried if the company in which they are all shareholders and also customer ‘appears to have a single supreme CEO’?

    Monday, March 23, 2015

    #JustThinkingAloud -Are E-Commerce/Digital Companies being Anti Competitive and Unethical?

    Ecommerce digital industry is right now a land grab operation, in coercing users to their online platforms or marketplaces to buy goods and services. While the idea is to get users hooked on to the convenience of transacting online but many are selling these goods and services below cost, think Amazon in India (even if it is a few items and limited inventory during mega sales) or even Ola losing money on each ride.

    Would this not be considered anti competitive and unethical if regular firms were doing this to each other in mature markets. This is impacting ability of brick and mortar companies, that have made huge investments already, to compete on a level playing field.

    While, tech companies passing on efficiencies due to better use of technology is fine but this 'land grab' operation funded by money from private equity funds is being unfair to the traditional players.


    Wednesday, January 07, 2015

    Best Place For Organic Food In Gurgaon

    Ordered Organic food today from Delivers  Organic Food all over Gurgaon. Food is cooked with Organic Veggies and Free Range Chicken. Delivered in 35 minutes and came in neat packaging. A friend had recommended their chicken falafel wrap and chicken biryani. Was delicious.

    The website is cool and easy to use. Was surprised (and happy) to see the large range on their menu. The menu includes multiple vegan options as well (not that I am vegan).


    Saturday, November 22, 2014

    Android Lollipop: Whats the whole fuss

    Android kids may be swooning over lollipop (android version 5.0), however, I fail to see what the whole fuss is about. My phone recently upgraded itself from 4.4 to 5.0 (its a google nexus 5) and I have failed to see how it changes my life except that, and predictably, it is now slower than before, albeit by a small amount not to cause any alarms. Sure there are a few tweaks but by and large could have lived without it as well.

    Which made me seek out what others are saying. Just read the top 10 features that Lollipop has that Kit Kat did not here. If this is really it then its a big {Yawn...}

    Update: People are reporting that phones have actually become slower. Also not only is the picture Gallery missing, the camera app hangs occasionally as well

    The only worthwhile improvement has been that incoming phone calls don't take over the entire screen and can be dismissed while continuing to play games instead of everything else being stopped. As sign that phone is increasingly becoming a convergence device and not simply a smart phone with additional features.


    Sunday, November 16, 2014

    Internal resistance to new ideas in companies

    Internal resistance to new ideas is a function of number of employees raised to the power of management levels. Quickest way for many organizations thus would be to collapse /simplify their hierarchical reporting structures 

    Saw this on my linkedin stream. So very true...

    Saturday, November 15, 2014

    OLA Promo Code for India: Get Free Rides in Luxury Cars

    Now get Rs. 400 worth of OLA credits for  free rides across town. Use the promo code: G7P3GJ to get Rs 200 off and current scheme gives you 50% off on rides making it free rides of up to Rs 400.

    How to avail download the discount of Rs 400:
    • Download the OLA app from the Google play or iTunes store
    • Enter promo code G7P3GJ when creating your account 
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    • What are you waiting for, this is applicable in all cities that OLA operates. At the time of writing its available in the following 40 cities
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