Cerebral Shangrila

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New kid on the blog - Abhi

Abhishek , my classmate , has started a Blog dedicated to Movies,music,arts ( Afterall he is a torchbearer of the Bong culture ! ) . Music & movies are my passion and hence I always enjoy my conversations with him on arts,music & cinema. Abhi is extremely knowledgable on these topics and hence I am sure lovers of Indian arts will find his blog informative & entertaining.

Here is his wonderful post on his top 10 Hindi film soundtracks. I couldn't agree more with him and my personal top 10 would have at least 7 or 8 from his list . Welcome to blogging Abhi !

Monday, August 29, 2005

The other side of the coin

Life is like a coin. There are two sides to it. There is affluence and sadly there is poverty.

Watch this video ( Click on the underlined word , might take a few seconds to load) . It makes you think .

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Singapore Diary -- Outlook India

The recent issue of " The Outlook" has the " Singapore Diary" on the last page. Its fluffy as usual with the typical outsider's view of Singapore. Did I expect too much ?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Economics -- Books of interest

Despite the famous J.K.Galbraith quote that " Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists" , I got interested in economics. Well, it isn't tough to see why ? Afterall, topics like Inflation,GDP,Productivity , International tade -- have a ring to it . Everyone has a right to sound intellectual and I seized my right .

Economics, amidst all chaos, sounded like the only pure science in an MBA. So I began my quest for nirvana in the confused world of economics. I am not a keynesian,adam-smithian,monetarist or a socialist yet and perhaps will never be. I am just a clumsy student and will always remain as one .

Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to read up as much as possible on Economics and my quest has taken me to the following books :

Books that I have Read :

1. Priniciples of Economics by Gregory Mankiw ( My textbook)

2. Capitalism & Freedom by Milton Friedman

3. Free to Choose by Milton Friedman & Rose Friedman

4. Capitalism , Socialism & Democracy by Joseph Schumpeter

5. Pop Internationalism by Paul Krugman

6. Accidental Theorist and other dispatches from dismal science by Paul Krugman

7. In defense of Globalisation by Jagdish Bhagwati

Books that I am planning to read :

1. Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

2. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money by J.M.Keynes

3. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time by Jeffrey Sachs

4. Confessions of an economic hitman by John Perkins

5. Freakonomics by Stevel Levitt & Stephen Dubner

Folks, please do suggest other interesting / good books in this genre. For starters, this list might be a good place to start !

Thursday, August 25, 2005

India's economic agenda -- Interview with PM

Mckinsey Quarterly (Registration might be required -- its free though) has an interview with Indian PM, Dr.Manmohan Singh. Rajat Gupta, past MD of Mckinsey & Co, talks to the PM about Indian economy and reforms. I like our PM's direct approach in answering questions .Its no rhetoric and instead laced with pragmatism .

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bollywood & remakes

What is it with Bollywood & remakes suddenly ? (No, I am not talking about the hollywood rip-offs or "inspiration") Perhaps, Devdas started the trend (SRK trying to enact the tragic hero which had been immortalized by the "tragic king" , Dilip Kumar). Ram Gopal Verma announced his intentions of remaking "Sholay" with Abhishek playing "veeru" , Amitabh playing "Gabbar" and Mohanlal playing " Thakur" .

Now we hear Farhan Akhtar plans to remake "Don" with Shah Rukh & Kareena. Hope they don't do to these movies what the "remixes" have done to the great old hindi songs !

Monday, August 22, 2005

BusinessWeek -- China & India Posted by Picasa

The latest issue of BusinessWeek is a special "double issue" on China & India. The issue is a very comprehensive report on India & China with in-depth analysis on the Asian phenomenon. The article beyond business, also discusses about cultural transformation,education,youth and women ( Though it gets silly at times like saying Ally Macbeal is an inspiration for Indian women ! ). This is a must read for an avid Indo-China watcher and am sure will generate a lot of interest in the Western world.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Mahatma Gandhi & Nobel Prize

While scanning through the Landmark Quiz - 2005 questions , a question on Gandhi got me thinking about this. Its most surprising that the embodiment of peace & non-violence (Mahatma Gandhi), was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Though he was nominated 5 times , he never got it .

I found this really interesting article on the Nobel Prize official website which talks about why he missed out everytime. His best chance was perhaps in 1948 but unfortunately he was assasinated in the same year and the nobel committee decided against giving a posthumous award. In fact the 1948 Nobel Peace Prize was not given to anyone as there was " no suitable living candidate" . The article also suggests that had Gandhi been alive he would have most likely won the Prize in 1948.

Some people become great because of the Prize bestowed on them, some prizes become great because of the people who receive it .Nobel Prize lost that chance .

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Love Story -- Book, Movie and the Soundtrack

I love the book , like the movie and adore the soundtrack.I watched the movie " Love Story (*ing Ryan O'Neal & Ali Mcgraw ) recently.

I don't read many romance novels but then "Love Story" wasn't a ordinary romance novel . I loved Erich Segal's narrative style , intelligent wit and sharp dialogues. The book was a runaway bestseller selling millions of copies and being translated to more than 20 languages. Its got one of the best opening line for book .

The movie wasn't bad either. The grandiose Harvard halls , Wintery Boston elevated the visual narrative ( The movie was a huge commercial success though panned by critics was being too maudlin and emotional ).

But the best was its Soundtrack. Francis Lai's theme soundtrack is awesome. He won a Grammy,Golden Globe & Oscar ( deservedly so !) for best original film score. What a haunting score , it keeps reverberating in my mind even now !

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Get your name into a Novel

In an effort to raise money for free speech, writers auction naming rights for upcoming works . (For the right price, Stephen King will kill off your mother-in-law -- Says CNN !). Sixteen of the nation's most popular and acclaimed authors will auction the naming rights to a character or place in upcoming works to raise money for the First Amendment Project, the organization said.Here is the auction link in eBay .

The auction includes famous authors such as John Grisham,Stephen King.So, win the bid and your name would be there in the book. Whoa, imagine a paralegal named " Viswanathan Srinivasan" in the next Grisham novel . That sounds fun :-)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) -- What is right ?

I am currently doing a subject titled " Corporate & Business Strategy" in my MBA and we have an active online discussion board . I shall post in this blog some of my writings there .

I have been a big believer in CSR. I believe that companies owe something back to the community and the people they operate in/with . I was the Chairman of our CSR team in my earlier workplace and we did a lot of community service targetted towards the needy and poor.

However,I happened to read an interesting article on CSR by Milton Friedman ( Nobel Prize winning economist and a man I admire a lot ) . Being a free marketian, his thoughts are definitely provocative and radical.

Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) has remained a topic of considerable debate.Do firms have social responsibility ?

Nobel laureate Milton Friedman ( Acknowledged as one of the most prominent economists of the 20th century) wrote in 1970 that the only social responsibility of business is to increase profits . Under Friedman's analysis, corporations have no social conscience and should not be concerned with being good "corporate citizens".In his view its wrong for a corporation to spend corporate profits on social or charitable concerns since the practice of social responsibility applies only to individuals and not to corporations.It is the prerogative of the individual stockholder to voluntarily spend his share of the corporate profits on behalf of social ends.From an ethical perspective,corporations need conform only to the moral minimum (Laws of society).( Here is the URL containing the full text of the article which appeared in New York Times magazine in 1970 )

I am sure this must shock quite a few because it questions the accepted conventional wisdom.Afterall business is a cooperative venture and thus has an obligation to be accountable to all its stakeholders ( employees,customers, suppliers,community organizations,local neighborhoods, investors, shareholders and the environment).Proponents of CSR beleive that companies do not pay the full costs of their impact and if left unchecked would exploit people,society and the environment unscrupulously.

Then there are firms like P&G,Body Shop which use their reputation for ethical behavior as a competitive advantage.

Though I felt very strongly about CSR before, I see the merit in Friedman's analysis. Perhaps its better to take a middle ground by saying " whatever creates long-term value for the firm should be ok (meaning if CSR results in increased willingness to pay by consumers or in better employee retention or in less social costs , the firms should follow it )" .

What do you say ?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Happy Independence Day ! Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Corporation - DVD

I was fortunate to watch this wonderful DVD on the emergence of " The corporation" . The Corporation ( or simplisticly speaking firms / companies) is the most ubiquitous and dominant instituton of our times. This documentary explores the emergence of Corporations, their power and issues of Corporate social responsibility. The documentary features some of the biggest MNC's and denounces the "profit before anything" creed of capitalism.

If you are right wing liberal you might cringe at the tone but the fabian socialists and left wing conservatives have a lot to cheer ( Aren't they the upholders of CSR !) . There are also lively interviews with luminaries such as Milton Friedman, Noam Chomsky , Naomi Klein .

To learn more , visit the official website . Whatever economics you believe in , don't miss this documentary. Its really good .

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Dream debut on NASDAQ - Baidu

The joke during the dot-com boom days in the Silicon valley was , " If a company goes for an IPO with an unprouncable name as a CEO (typically an Indian name which the westerners find difficult to pronounce) , then the IPO debut used to be a great success" . Whoa , the same is now true for company names.

Little known chinese firm Baidu.com , saw its shares going through roof on its ADS (American depositary shares) debut in NASDAQ last week. The $27 share hit $151.21 during intra-day trading ! Google owns a tiny stake in the company and the general bullishness about China has resulted in such a high valuation. Who said dot-coms are dead ?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Singaporeans -- Happy National Day

I just came back after watching the spectacular fireworks at Marina Bay , Singapore. It was awesome. Today is the National day (Independence day) in Singapore. Wishing Singapore a very happy 40th Birthday !

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Remembering Rafi

I hear his voice everyday that its tough to believe that its 25 years since Mohd.Rafi , one of the greatest singers of hindi film music, passed away. Versatility was Rafi's forte. Be it the zany songs for Shammi Kapoor or romantic numbers for Rajendra Kumar / Shashi Kapoor / Dev Anand , Classical numbers done under the baton of Naushad or the comedy numbers for Johnny walker / Mehmood , sad songs for Sunil dutt / Dilip kumar --- he has done it all.

I was a rabid Rafi fan when I started listening to hindi songs, ( Though I later gravitated towards Kishore & Hemant kumar ) completely bowled over by his singing style and voice. On July 31, 1980 he passed away suddenly because of a cardiac arrest. Its been 25 years . He still lives amidst us with his immortal songs like " Zindagi Bhar Nahin" , " Abhi na jao chod kar" , " Main pyar ka rahi hoon" , " deewana hua baadal" , " chaudavin ka chand" , " Sar jo tera " , " Mere mehboob tujhe" , " suhani raat " , " khoya khoya chand" , " Tu kahaan" , " Main zindagi ke saath " , " O haseena zulfon wali" and countless more ..........................

Here is a nice article on Screen , where 25 luminaries from Hindi film music share their views on Mohd.Rafi. As they say , " music is immortal and the song goes on....."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Business Buzzwords That Make You Gag

The business world is full of jargons ( Which is why the academics hate it ) . The Fortune magazine has a column " Ask Annie" and here she lists the " Most Annoying Business Lingo words (Voted by the readers) .

There are the usual suspects like : (My comments in the bracket )
1. Touch Base ( sounds like that KPS Gill types ??)
2. Value proposition ( If you dont understand , at least confuse)
3. At the end of the day ( If it matters at the end of the day , I am sure it should even at the starting of the day ! ) ",
4. win-win ( If everybody wins all the time then we are in spirtualism not business !)
5. Bleeding edge ( can you please put a band aid to stop it ? ),
6. No brainer (becuase if it involves brains we wouldn't be talking about it)

But the winner is " New paradigm" ...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Indian musical events @ Singapore

Indian music lovers in Singapore have a lot to cheer. A galore of Indian artistes are visiting singapore in the next few months.

1. 11th August , 7.30pm at Esplanade -- Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh

2. 13th August, 7.30pm at Spore Indoor Stadium -- Asha Bhosle

3. 21st August,7.30pm at Esplanade -- Dr L.Subramaniam & Pandit Anindo Chatterjee

4. 4th September , 700pm at Esplanade -- Mamata Shankar --Indian Ballet Fusion ( Mamata is the daughter of famous dancer Uday Shankar and niece of Pt. Ravi Shankar )

5. 24th September,8pm at Singapore Indoor Stadium -- A.R.Rahman

But the sad part in most of the concerts is that the minimum ticket price is more than S$50 . I definitely cannot afford at that price . Got to find out if there are any student discounts .

Of all the events , the one I would love to attend is the Ghazal concert of Jagjit Singh . Mesmerizing voice !

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Oracle buys a majority stake in i-flex

Oracle, the world's second largest software firm, has acquired a majority stake in i-flex solutions . It will buy-out the 41% stake of Citi for $593 million (Rs 800 per share). It will further buy another 20% from the open market for Rs.882.62.

What is interesting in this deal is that i-flex's stock closed at Rs.897.25 on NSE yesterday. So why is Oracle offering the VC's (Citi) and investors far less than the closing price ?

i-flex is the most prominent "product" company in India and would continue to be run independently after the acquisition. Here is an article in BusinessWeek on the strategic fit of i-flex in the Oracle empire.This is what Rajesh Hukku (CEO,i-flex) had to say ""This is a validation that one of the world's largest software companies has chosen an Indian software company," . "It's a validation of the quality and complexity of Indian software, and it's a shot in the arm for other Indian software product companies."

So will we be seeing more tech acquisitions in India in the future ?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Adidas -- World's first intelligent shoe

Adidas claims it has developed the world's first intelligent shoe. The Shoe has a sensor and a microcomputer to sense,adapt and deliver the exact cushioning to give you perfect level of shock absorption at all times.

Wanna see the ad and how it works ? Visit this URL .

Monday, August 01, 2005

SMS - Nice one !

I am not much of a mobile phone person. I consider the mobile phone as a necessary evil and hence restrict my usage to bare minimum. Needless to say, I use SMS very rarely .

I get SMS very rarely too. However, this SMS made me "think" for a while . Nice inspirational one !

"haaton ki lakiron par vishwas nahi karna chahiye kyunki takdir to unki bhi hoti hai jinke haath nahi hote hai" ( English Translation : Do not trust the lines of your palm (palmistry) , because there awaits a fate for even a person without hands ) ...