Cerebral Shangrila

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Deepavali !

Wishing you all a very happy Deepavali ! May the festival of lights bring joy and happiness to everyone .

P.S : I have 1.5 days holidays for Diwali ! No office today afternoon on account of diwali and of course tomorrow is a public holiday in singapore too on account of Diwali .

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A series of unfortunate events

First it was the massive rains and floods in mumbai a few months ago. Last week saw massive flooding in Bangalore & Chennai. Early on yesterday , a train capsized in AP killing 150 people . Then came the worst. A series of blasts rocked the busy market places of Delhi yesterday evening. An act of terrorism & cowardice.

If you ask the question , can all of these have been avoided ? Perhaps, the answer is no. But they could definitely have been mitigated in terms of damage caused. As we reel under distress and mourn for the souls of the innocent victims, its time that we review our internal emergency response and security. Afterall, what is progress if we cannot guarantee the lives of innocent civilians ?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Will CSC be bought over ?

Before I came down to Singapore for an MBA, I used to work for CSC (Computer Sciences Corp), an IT services giant . Was surprised to read news reports that CSC might be a target for buyout by private equity firms.

The Wall street Journal first reported this news on Wednesday. Reuters adds :

Defense company Lockheed Martin Corp is part of a consortium angling to purchase Computer Sciences Corp, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Lockheed is working with a group of private-equity firms, including Warburg Pincus, Blackstone Group and Texas Pacific Group, these people said, on a plan to split CSC, which has a market capitalization of $9 billion. Their buyout plans remain in the early stages, the paper reported, citing the unnamed sources.Structuring a deal between Lockheed and the private-equity firms won't come easy, in part because the most valuable part of CSC resides in its years-long military contracts, the paper said.

The Big three IT services giants (IBM,EDS,CSC) dominate the Outsourcing business with considerable presence across the globe.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

It's the oil stupid

It's the oil stupid.No Industry has come to dominate the econo-politic landscape as the oil industry in the 20th century ( The best book to read on this topic is "Prize by Daniel Yergin ", which won the Pulitzer prize and is an awesome read on Oil) .Wars have been fought , nations have risen , businesses have prospored -- all on account of oil.

With crude oil prices still reigning in the low 60's, oil companies are minting money. Exxon Mobil , the world's largest oil company, announced record results yesterday. Exxon's 3rd Quarter revenues were US$ 100 billion ( oh gosh !) and net income was close to US$ 10 billion. This is the first time in the history, a company has managed to reach the $100B revenue mark in a Quarter.

With the current oil reserves predicted to last for another 50 more years, mankind's race for alternative fuel has just begin.
Will the Hybrid's be eventually successful and manage large scale adoption ? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rosa Parks -- A remarkable woman

It was Shakespeare who said " Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them" . Rosa Parks was a great lady by any standards.

Here is the Editorial from Boston Globe :

IT WAS Dec. 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., a city where segregation and racism danced freely and legally in the streets and blacks were supposed to sit in the back.Thanks to Parks, who died at home in Detroit on Monday at the age of 92, the back of the bus has never been the same. Now people sit there because they want to or because there are no other seats. This change helped free America from its worst self.Parks was arrested that day.Parks's arrest became a spark for a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus service, a hard fight waged by Parks, Nixon, Martin Luther King Jr., the grass-roots Women's Political Council, and others. In 1956, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery's policy was illegal.

So if ever anyone fools you that leaders are born, don't believe it. We all can aspire for greatness , if we have right character & attitude. I think that is the lesson to be learnt from Rosa Parks, who died day before yesterday. I don't even know that lady but I salute her courage !

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The new Fed Chairman

I somehow thought he would never retire. Greenspan has always had that aura of immortality surrounding him. But now the most powerful man on the planet (or the second most powerful depending on whom you listen to), has decided to retire. The new appointee , Mr. Ben Bernanke , is currently the chief economic advisor to US Govt and if approved by the Senate, will take over as Fed chairman from early 2006.

The expectations will be sky high. Afterall being a successor to superstars Paul Volcker & Alan Greenspan isn't an easy job. Bernanke seems to have the right pedigree though ( Degrees from Harvard,MIT and academic stints at Stanford,Princeton). Also like Greenspan, Bernanke believes that the primary role of Fed is " fighting inflation" .

The business community seems elated by Bernanke's nomination and so are the markets . Welcome Mr.Ben Bernanke !

Sunday, October 23, 2005

specific theory on employment,jobs and career

I know its a poor imitation of John Maynard Keynes. When I entered the MBA program 15 months ago, all I wanted to become was either an Investment Banker or come back to IT Services Industry in a Biz dev role. However, early on in the MBA , I realized that Finance was not my cup of tea and switched to strategy.

The job search process wasn't too easy either. I understood that with loads of experience it was very difficult to shift to something drastically different from what I had been doing before. I finally ended my MBA with three offers .

The first offer was from a Technology Giant ( A firm I really admire ) as a Solutions architect based in Singapore ( A non-technical role where I research on verticals and help the sales team in solutioning and closing deals). However, since the firm is undergoing a lot of restructuring now, they had to defer my offer and I couldn't wait forever.

The second offer is from a leading Market research & consulting firm. My role is as a " Senior research Associate" , where I would be doing technology research in the sectors of IT security & storage(My fav areas !) . The Job would involve market research and consulting to Clients in Asia-Pacific based out of Singapore.

The third offer ( Rather sudden one which just happpened in the last 3 days) is from a "Big 4" Auditing firm . My role would be as a IT auditor working predominantly in areas of IT controls and SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley) compliance. This role would be based out of Hyderabad with me having to spend most of the time on-site in the US.

I have decided to take up the second offer and hence would be joining a research & consulting firm and would continue to remain in Singapore.

Although three offers looks good on paper, its a been a last few weeks of struggle,disappointments & perseverance . Because strangely the last two offers got finalized only this week .

So its back to Corporate life from next week but this time I have vowed to remain a lifelong student and I hope that curiosity and thirst stays with me forever !

Friday, October 21, 2005

The MBA experience

The student life is coming to an end soon. By next week I would have completed all my MBA classes and by Mid-Nov (if I pass all the subjects !!) , I should be an MBA. Its been one heck of a journey over the last 15 months. I have learnt a lot in my classes most of which has shaped the way I think. I have learnt more outside the class from my Profs,co-students and of course from my best friend in Singapore -- The Library. My deep interest in economics has spawned a new rational thought process in my mind and I am deeply thankful to the MBA for that.

When I look back, I am amazed that I took this risk of doing an MBA after working for almost seven years.It has been worth the time ,effort & money.

So where do I go from here ? I shall answer that question tomorrow.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bear Rescue centre -- Agra

I just have to rewind my life by two years. In September 2003, I was travelling on a weekend from Delhi to Agra with friends. We did a fast paced tour of Vrindavan,Mathura,Agra & Bharatpur (Bird Sanctuary) and were returning to Delhi when we witnessed this heinous act all along the highway.

This is what I wrote about it then in my Blog : " The sad thing that you will notice on the way to Fatehpur Sikri is the Cruel domestication of Bears to entertain the Tourists & for Spiritual Practices.. The bears are chained and expected to perform tricks & dance to amuse the tourists. Please desist from encouraging such despicable acts & I sincerely hope the Wildlife Organizations & the Govt of India puts a full stop to this heinous crime" .

I was scanning through the "India Today" magazine when the article about an NGO which rescues bears in agra , caught my attention. Here is some excerpt (Courtesy : India Today) :

Kartick Satyanarayanan, the 30-year-old chairperson of the NGO Wildlife S.O.S., has set up a Bear Rescue Centre in Agra in collaboration with the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department. There are 78 sloth bears- young and old, some blind and a few just rescued from poachers and cowering at the sight of human beings.

That happens in 17 hectares of forest land in the midst of Sur Sarovar Bird Sanctuary. It is den and workplace for Satyanarayanan's team. Wearing "I love bear" tees, they go about their agenda-rescuing bears from poachers and kalandars who make them dance on the streets, tending to the wounds, feeding them and giving them a taste of freedom. They decided on a three-pronged approach: give the kalandars alternative employment, rehabilitate the bears and stop poaching. Help came from around the world: the state Wildlife Department, One Voice, France, and International Animal Rescue, UK. On 2002 Christmas Day, the centre got the first cub. One by one, the kalandars came up to surrender their bears for the Rs 50,000 on offer to start a new vocation. Now the resettled nomads instruct others that bear dancing is a crime while some are active in the anti-poaching cell, Wildlife Watch.

My heartfelt congrats to the NGO, Wildlife S.O.S. I always end up with a pang of guilt when I notice injustice or atrocities towards wildlife / humans but in most cases my approach is to either write to concerned authorities (which in most cases doesn't elicit a response ) or blog/write in online forums about it. I would love to start or join an NGO someday , but that day I know is very far away .

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The World is Flat

I recently happened to read the book " The world is Flat" by Thomas Friedman. Its a hugely popular book and Friedman is one of the most respected names in International affairs. ( I think therein lies the problem , Friedman has excellent knowledge of middle east and foreign affairs but somehow I find it difficult to digest when he writes an economics based book on Globalization). Nevertheless, the book is a nice leisurely read.

Friedman says he got the idea for this book when interviewing Nandan Nilekani ( CEO , Infosys). Interestingly, I was watching CNBC last week and Nandan was talking about Infosys' quarterly earnings and guess what he said " The World is flat " .

So what is driving a flat world -- Globalization, Free trade & of course Technology.

Also happened to read Nandan's interview in yesterday's New York Times , a few interesting Q&A ( Courtesy : New York Times) :

Q. Are you worried about the outcry over outsourcing in America?

A. What's happening is pretty fundamental. If you go back to the 1830's, India and China were 50 percent of the world's G.D.P., and then they missed the entire revolution of industry. So if you take a long view of this game, it's just part of the process.

Q. Does it feel odd to find yourself lecturing Americans on the joys of capitalism?

A. You guys told us for so many years to cut out this socialist rubbish and go to free markets. We came to free markets and now you're telling us, "Stop, don't come."

Monday, October 17, 2005

The invisible heart : An economic romance -- Book review

This book is unique for a lot of reasons. First, MIT press has published a "romance" book ( Though its really economics sugar coated with romance) . Second, its broken the fallacy that economics cannot be told in simple words (that too using a romantic backdrop) . Third, its short & sweet.

The hero of the book is a free market champion who falls in love with a neo-socialist (Left of center -- whatever u call it ). The arguments they have form the "economics" of the story. Its a very simple story very cleverly told and sugar coated with free market economics. The hero is an idealist and always at loggerheads with the society for his progressive views (Aren't free market guys perceived heartless ??) .

If you are looking to start with a easy to read book on " Adam Smithian" free markets , this is the one. The author of the book is Russel Roberts ( a committed Hayekian ) , Prof at George Mason Univ. Thanks to Spark for suggesting this book !

Friday, October 14, 2005

Video iPod

Apple calls it the "evolution of revolution" . " Witness the evolution of the revolution. First it played songs. Then photos. Then podcasts. Now iPod plays video, changing the way you experience your music and more. Again. In lighter, thinner 30GB and 60GB models starting at $299, the new iPod is music to your eyes."

Apple seems to be giving a new meaning to "Differentiation" . The innovative firm has introduced a slew of highly successful , differentiated products in a short span of time and seems to be setting the bar higher everytime. iPod is not merely a music player but a cultural icon and an object of envy.

Fortune claims that the video iPod rocks .
The new iPods, which come in the owner's choice of snow white or ebony black, are thinner than current models but otherwise look the same—until the user clicks the menu for video. Then the 2.5-inch color screen rocks with music videos downloaded from the iTunes Music Store ($1.99 each, from a selection of about 2,000 currently offered for sale); or short movies from Jobs's other company, Pixar (maker of
The Incredibles and other full-length animated movies); and even the latest episodes of Desperate Housewives, Lost, or three other TV shows from Disney's ABC network.

Apple knows how to fight in a commodity market. Innovate , differentiate and move higher. Hats off to Steve Jobs !

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

25 must see bollywood movies

Indiatimes has compiled a list of "25 must see bollywood movies". Movies evoke different passions in different people. While some worship movies , there are others who profess disdain for movies. As someone who belongs to the "Worship" club, here is a quick comment on the list.

Here is the list : Black, Lagaan, Satya, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Mr. India, Jane Bhi Do Yaaron, Arth, Deewaar, Sholay, Bobby , Garam Hawa, Pakeezah, Anand, Padosan , TeesriManzil, Guide, Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam, Mughal-e-Azam, Pyaasa, Mother India, Do Aankhen Barah Haath,Devdas, Do Bigha Zameen, Awara.

I think the list is pretty well balanced and chronologically evenly spread out.While there are some surprises ( like Garam Hawa,Mr.India) , there are also some classics which missed out.

IMHO, the ones that missed out are Golmaal,Chupke Chupke , Dil Chahta Hai, Masoom,Ardh Satya,Koshish,Aandhi,Jagte Raho,Khamoshi (The old one) , Bandini.

So If you are new to bollywood movies, this is a nice list to start with !

Monday, October 10, 2005

Earthquake in South Asia

It was deeply distressing to see the news footage of devastation wrecked by the Earthquake in India & Pakistan. As fate would have it, the epicentre of the quake was just under the LOC . May the soul of all those departed, rest in peace.

The Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and now this earthquake emphasize the evanescence of life. This earthquake re-iterates the inanity of war when there are other challenges threatening mankind. If all that mindless defense spending had been made in areas of Education,Healthcare & Infrastructure , the world would be a better place.

An eye for an eye only leaves everyone blind.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

World XI

If people are asked to choose a World XI (Eleven) , to run the world , whom will they elect ?

BBC conducted an online poll to choose a team of 11 to run the world from a list of around 100 of the most powerful leaders, thinkers and other high-profile people on the planet.

Here is the chosen World XI (according to the number of votes) : Nelson Mandela , Bill Clinton , Dalai Lama, Noam Chomsky, Alan Greenspan, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Archbishop Desmond Tutu,Richard Branson, George Soros, Kofi Annan.

The Clear surprise is Noam Chomsky at No.4 ( Not that I doubt his capabilities but never knew he was this popular across all sections of people !) & Richard Branson ( Amazing that despite his maverick,playboy image he has made it ) .

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cricket -- Competitor on the Horizon ?

While the BCCI is fighting a losing battle by calling for a truce between Saurav Ganguly & Greg Chappell, a new cricketing rival (potential ?) has started quietly making plans. Forbes reports that China held its first Cricket Development workshop last month.

Thirty handpicked sports coaches from universities in Beijing and Shanghai, along with a number of schoolchildren, took part in the first cricket development workshop held in China. For six days in September, coaches from the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) and Cricket Australia took the participants through the rudiments of the game. China's Sports Ministry plans for the game's development in China calling for the country to have 20,000 trained players, 300 umpires and 2000 coaches by 2015. Schools in Beijing and Shanghai have been instructed to start playing the game. Schools in Guangzhou, in southern China, which has a climate more conducive to a longer playing season than in the north, will follow.

I feel this might be a great news for cricket. At a time , when cricket is struggling to go global , what can be better news than a nation of 1.3 billion people deciding to play it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

World Animal Day

Today (October 4th) is the World Animal Day .

Wildlife in most parts of the world face habitat loss,unscruplous hunting & poaching . Scientists predict that "we are entering the first episode of mass extinction [of species and ecosystems] in 65 million years—the first ever since human beings came into existence."

"Of the 1.7 million species, the United Nations Environment Programme's Assessment of Biodiversity reported that between five percent and 20 percent of some groups of animals and plant species are threatened with extinction."Ecosystems are a complex linkage of interdependence and hence scientists do not know which species we can do without or what losses might result from the extinction of any one species. With that in mind, some scientists conclude that humanity cannot afford the extinction of any species" .

What can we do ?

1. Recycle everything you can: newspapers, cans, glass, aluminum foil , scrap metal etc
2. Don't buy products that come from endangered animals.
3. Don't keep "exotic pets".
4. Volunteer your time to conservation projects.
5. Teach children to respect nature and the environment.

Having personally been involved in wildlife conservation over the past few years, I can vouch that nothing can be more fulfilling.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Google proposes free Wi-Fi for San Francisco

This is unbelievable but might become true. Reuters reports that Google has proposed to provide free wireless Internet services across the city of San Francisco.

The Web search company said it has responded to a request for information by the City of San Francisco to test local Internet services via Wi-Fi, the short-range wireless technology built into most new laptop computers."Google has submitted a proposal to offer free, wireless Internet access (Wi-Fi) to the entire city of San Francisco," Google said in a statement.The Wi-Fi access could be funded through online advertising, a Google spokesman said.

The service aims to test a range of new services and applications around the hilly city, which is home to more than 700,000 residents.Offering free wireless communications could thrust Google into competition with entrenched local suppliers of broadband Internet access, including telephone network SBC Communications and local cable operator Comcast.The company began sponsoring a Wi-Fi "hotspot" in a downtown San Francisco shopping district in April, working with a start-up outfit called Feeva.

Having worked in downtown San Francisco for almost a year, I sure wish I was back there.