Cerebral Shangrila

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bangalore Tiger

The Indian Outsourcing story gets more attention. This time a whole book dedicated to it. Steve Hamm , software editor at BusinessWeek has written a book titled " Bangalore Tiger " about Wipro. Corporate biographies are rare in India and even less so in the IT Industry.

I am quite curious by the choice of Wipro though. Steve claims Infosys was extremely secretive and since BusinessWeek is owned by McGraw-Hill there was a conflict of interest in profiling TCS due to Tata's partnership with M-H.

Here is some excerpt from the book. Looks interesting.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Twist of fate - The language issue

Idealism makes wonderful theory ; pragmatism is how the world works. Jerry Rao (Founder of Mphasis Software and currently VP,EDS) writes a wonderful article on why English language might be the best ticket to employment for the millions of jobless striving to find employment in the services sector.

He writes in the Indian Express, " The familiar adage is that there are many Indias. Given our ancient Indic obsession with pairs of opposites, our academic and popular journals are full of bi-polar descriptions. Rich vs. poor, rural vs. urban, Bangalore’s silicon plateau vs. Bihar’s badlands, Gurgaon’s sleek shopping malls (islands of consumerism) vs. Vidarbha’s crop-less farms (islands of death), soaring stock markets vs. barefoot children, spiralling real estate values vs. horror-stricken slums, new-found materialism vs. eternal spiritual values... the list goes on.

I’d like to make my wise sage-like contribution to this litany. We have two labour markets. One where wages increase at double digit rates, where mobility is the name of the game (if you don’t switch jobs every year there is something wrong with you), where resumes gain in value each month, where placement agencies make a fortune. The other where joblessness is an endless fate, where years of despair pass you by as you keep waiting for a job that never turns up and you fill your life with inane activity, not with fruitful employment, an environment where real incomes shrink, savings erode and where you are left as a mere spectator watching the ‘other’ India pass you by.

There is only one differentiator between the two worlds: knowledge of English or lack thereof. You may have flunked high school, but if your English is passable, you are on to the ladder of upward mobility. You may have a master’s degree or even a doctorate, but if your English is poor or non-existent you are for all practical purposes excluded from the ‘shining’ India. Even more than engineering degrees or MBAs, the English language is the great divider.

And all of us know this in our heart of hearts. Pandit Nehru’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren attended English medium schools, as do those of most leaders. Vociferous adherents of Hindutva and Marxutva are great patrons of the much maligned missionary schools and foreign institutions when it comes to their own children. Where is the elementary justice, let alone the logic of arguing that English is good for ‘our’ children but not good enough for the children of ‘others’ — for the children of our servants and our ever-present poor. Everyone gets it; the poor get it, their children get it and yet we carry on with this charade that what is obvious to all is not the basis of public policy. "

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rainbow Quiz - Identify the personality - Week 12

Here is the next weekly "Rainbow" quiz , where I would be giving 7 clues (Hence the name Rainbow) about a personality. Try to discover the person in the least number of clues . You can either leave the answer as a comment / email me . Feedback/ suggestions welcome. Googling is not preferred but then its just for fun and so go ahead if you need to.

This week's personality is an author whose works I admire immensely for the cause that it stands for. His books have deeply influenced my thoughts on freedom and liberty.

clue # 1 : X was born in Motihari, Bengal (modern Bihar), in India, when it was part of the British Empire under the British Raj.

clue # 2 : His family could not pay for university and he had no prospect of winning a scholarship, so he joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma. He came to hate imperialism and decided to resign and become a writer.

clue # 3 : During second world war, X took up a job at the BBC Eastern Service, mostly working on programs to gain Indian and East Asian support for the United Kingdom's war efforts. He was well aware that he was engaged in propaganda, and wrote that he felt like "an orange that's been trodden on by a very dirty boot".

clue # 4 : X finished his anti-Stalinist allegory Y (name of the book), which was published with great critical and popular success.Y is a magnificent book that is a satire on totalitarianism.

clue # 5 : After world war 2, he published his best-known work, Z (Name of the book). Z was originally titled "The Last Man in Europe", but his publisher suggested the change ( Z is one of my favorite books - a phenomenal work ).

clue # 6 : He died unfortunately due to TB before he turned 50. He is well known all round the world by his pen name.

clue # 7 : His most famous novel was made immortal through a brilliant ad for Apple's Macintosh Computer.

Who is X ? Also name Y,Z .

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Photo of the Week - Graha Makmur- Malacca, Malaysia Posted by Picasa

I took this photo during my Trip to Malacca, Malaysia. This is the office of the City Municipal Council. Whoa. Who wouldn't pay the utilities bill if one has such a beautiful office ?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Roger Federer - In search of competition

Rohit Brijnath writes a wonderful article in The Hindu on the dominance of Roger Federer and constructs an imaginary player with the "best-in-class" shots of the best players .

In a nutshell, the best opponent to Federer should have the Forehand of Lendl,Backhand of Edberg,Serve of Sampras, Return of Agassi, Volley of McEnroe and mental toughness of Conners.

Brilliant piece of writing that has inputs from Nirmal Shekar & Ramesh Krishnan. This article is a treat to tennis fans.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Happy Diwali !

Happy diwali everyone. May the festival of lights bring prosperity and joy to all.

I am going to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the next 4 days on a holiday and hence won't be updating the blog until wednesday.

This is one holiday that I guess I won't enjoy. With the haze from the forest fires in Indonesia surmounting Singapore & Malaysia , this looks like a very dull holiday. The pollution level in the air is extremely high often bordering near the "unhealthy level" and only rain can bring some respite. I could not cancel the holiday since it was booked much before the haze problem. It looks like Boghi instead of Diwali.Life ain't easy .......

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Amazing Kid

wow. This is amazing. Watch this 2.5 year old child prodigy playing the tabla with the ease and confidence of an expert. Here is a Bhajan and the famous Naushad-Rafi song " O Duniya ke Rakhwale" played by the prodigy (Courtesy: YouTube).

As one of the commenters has aptly said , " This is Alla Rakha reborn".God bless him.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Third wave of Globalization

Its perhaps a Neil Armstrong moment. " A small step for Tatas but a giant leap for Indian Globalization (efforts) ". Tata's bold $10 billion acquisition offer to buy Corus Steel (UK's largest steelmaker) could be a testimonial to what many believe is the "third wave of Globalization" . They may or may not succeed in this acquisition but the soaring ambitions of firms in developing nations is there to stay.

The International Herald Tribune says, " Across much of the world, India is still known as a land of elephants and maharajahs. But one day, it might be known for Tata.

You may never have heard of the Tata Group. But there is a fair chance you have sipped a Tata drink, put on Tata shoes or slept in a Tata hotel in New York, London or Sydney. Your company's software may be made by Tata. The ball bearings in your power drill may be from Tata. When you last checked e-mail, telephoned Beijing or used Skype, Tata's 60,000 kilometers, or 37,000 miles, of deep-sea cables may have connected you.

And all this was before Tata made a bid of $10 billion including debt on Tuesday to buy the Corus Group, a British-Dutch steel maker. If completed, the deal would make it one of the world's top producers and nudge Tata closer to the status of global household name. Corus said Tuesday that talks were ongoing and that it was too early to comment.

The world has gotten used to the notion of India as an outsourcing powerhouse teeming with low-cost labor. But India is now emerging as a new kind of powerhouse: a fount of the next generation of global megacorporations.

"This is the third wave of globalization," said Arindam Bhattacharya, a director at the Boston Consulting Group in New Delhi and co-author of a recent study on emerging multinational companies. The first wave was colonialism, he said, and the second wave was the penetration of developing countries by multinationals from the United States, Europe and Japan.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Rainbow Quiz - Identify the personality - Week 11

Here is the next weekly "Rainbow" quiz , where I would be giving 7 clues (Hence the name Rainbow) about a personality. Try to discover the person in the least number of clues . You can either leave the answer as a comment / email me . Feedback/ suggestions welcome. Googling is not preferred but then its just for fun and so go ahead if you need to.

The personality for this week is a human being who has fought for social justice and well-being of the poor and diseased. A person of utmost simplicity and determination. If you don't know him yet, its time to know.

clue # 1 : X organised lawyers to take up the defence of the imprisoned leaders of the Quit India Movement in 1942 and was imprisoned for his attempts.

clue # 2 : Deeply influenced by Gandhi, with whom he had spent some time at the Sevagram Ashram, he left his lucrative law practice to join the freedom movement.

clue # 3 : He is more famous by his nickname which when translated into english means "father".

clue # 4 : X's most famous project is Anandwan [The Forest of Joy],a self-sufficient sprawling rehabilitation centre for leoprosy patients that has its own university, hospital, orphanage, technical units, dairy and farmlands.

clue # 5 : In the 90's, X left Anandwan to live along the Narmada river to fight against social injustice to local inhabitants affected by construction of dams.

clue # 6 : X has been awarded the U.N. Human Rights Prize, the Magsaysay award, the Templeton Prize, the Gandhi Peace Prize, and many other humanitarian and environmental prizes.

clue # 7 : His pioneering work with leoprosy patients made Dalai Lama exclaim that this was "practical compassion, real transformation; the proper way to develop India".

Who is X ?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Indian Fisherman, Cell Phones and reduction of Poverty

The Washington Post has a very interesting article on how the proliferation of mobile phones are helping poor fisherman in increasing productivity and profitability. The story is very much reminiscent of the ITC e-choupal story. Information asymmetry is ceasing to be (albeit slowly) a weapon to exploit the poor.

Some excerpt ( Courtesy : The Washington Post) " PALLIPURAM, India Babu Rajan pointed off the starboard bow and shouted: "There! There!"

In choppy, gray seas four miles from shore near India's tropical southern tip, Rajan spotted the tinselly sparkle of a school of sardines. He ordered his three dozen crewmen to quickly drop their five-ton net overboard.Within five minutes, the cellphone hanging around his neck rang.

"Hallo!" he shouted, struggling to hear over the big diesel engines of his 74-foot boat, Andavan. "Medium sized! Medium sized!" he said, estimating the haul for a wholesale agent calling from port, who had heard by cellphone from other skippers that Rajan had just set his nets.Minutes later Rajan's phone rang again -- another agent at a different port.

The cellphone is bringing new economic clout, profit and productivity to Rajan and millions of other poor laborers in India, the world's fastest-growing cellphone market.That explosive growth has meant greater access to markets, more information about prices and new customers for tens of millions of Indian farmers and fishermen."This has changed the entire dynamics of communications and how they organize their lives," said C.K. Prahalad, an India-born business professor at the University of Michigan who has written extensively about how commerce -- and cellphones -- are used to combat poverty.

"One element of poverty is the lack of information," Prahalad said. "The cellphone gives poor people as much information as the middleman."For less than a penny a minute -- the world's cheapest cellphone call rates -- farmers in remote areas can check prices for their produce. They call around to local markets to find the best deal. They also track global trends using cellphone-based Internet services that show the price of pumpkins or bananas in London or Chicago.

Indian farmers use camera-phones to snap pictures of crop pests, then send the photos by cellphone to biologists who can identify the bug and suggest ways to combat it. In cities, painters, carpenters and plumbers who once begged for work door-to-door say they now have all the work they can handle because customers can reach them instantly by cellphone."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nobel Peace Prize 2006

Worthy cause and a worthy individual. The Nobel peace prize for 2006 would be shared equally between Grameen Bank and its founder Muhammed Yunus. The nobel citation reads , " for their efforts to create economic and social development from below".

A pioneer in micro credit, Grameen has helped disburse tiny loans to millions of poor people who would have otherwise never gotten a loan from elsewhere. It now has more than two dozen organizations in the Grameen family.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Gandhigiri in Display

Indian Express reports that , " Flowers and placards were the order of the day when Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss visited AIIMS today to meet dengue patients.

In a protest inspired by the film Lage Raho Munnabhai and its exposition of “Gandhigiri”, some students and resident doctors representing the Youth for Equality displayed placards that read “Get well soon Ramadoss” and “Get well soon Ramu” along with bouquets of red roses at the hospital entrance. Explaining the rationale behind today’s protest senior AIIMS resident doctor Kaushal Kant Mishra said: “The Health Minister has been behaving strangely and we want him to get well soon... and get his priorities right. We are protesting against the minister’s actions with regard to AIIMS. Our protest is based on the principles of Gandhiji and inspired by the movie Lage Raho Munnabhai.”

Did he notice them ? No one knows. Perhaps he doesn't watch movies without tamil titles.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Rainbow Quiz - Identify the personality - Week 10

Here is the next weekly "Rainbow" quiz , where I would be giving 7 clues (Hence the name Rainbow) about a personality. Try to discover the person in the least number of clues . You can either leave the answer as a comment / email me . Feedback/ suggestions welcome. Googling is not preferred but then its just for fun and so go ahead if you need to.

His ideas have deeply influenced the governance in nations around the world.

clue # 1 : His stint in India was the inspiration for his first book, a brief mono graph on "Indian Currency and Finance" published before the first world war.

clue # 2 : X had a brilliant record as a stock investor even after taking a massive hit during the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

clue # 3 : After the great depression , he urged the US president FDR to do more deficit spending , a term much unheard during those days. FDR commented that "X must be a mathematician rather than a political economist".TIME magazine famously later commented that " His radical idea that governments should spend money they don't have may have saved capitalism."

clue # 4 : As the world embraced his ideas, he made it to the cover of the TIME magazine almost 20 years after his death.

clue # 5 : X was a formidable debater. Bertrand Russel commented that " Every time I argued with X, I felt I was taking my life in my hands".

clue # 6: His expression "In the very long run we are all dead" is still popularly quoted.

clue # 7 : His magnum opus, Y (name of the book) laid the foundation for the branch of economics termed "Macroeconomics" today (At least most of it).

Who is X ?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Edmund Phelps wins economics nobel prize

Globalization has to wait. Edmund Pheps wins the economics prize for his work on the trade-off between inflation and unemployment .

Sunday, October 08, 2006

2006 Economics Nobel Prize - and it goes to......

Thomson Scientific one of the leading book publishers, does some crystal ball gazing to predict who would win the Nobel Prize in economics this year. Unlike most other prizes ( perhaps except the peace prize), the economics nobel prize is closely tied to the contemporary political ideology and business climate.

So, here are the predictions. The top favorites are Jagdish Bhagwathi,Avinash Dixit and Paul Krugman (all three combined for their contributions to international trade theory). I have read "In defense of Globalization" by Bhagwathi, lot of Dixit in my MBA and of course most books by Krugman ( Who I believe is an amazing economist because he writes with the mind of an economist but with the pen of a common man ) . Krugman is also well known as a NYT columnist. Globalization is the hot topic today and hence I wouldn't be surprised if they win.

Btw,It would take just a few more hours to know how good the prediction is...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Golden Buddha Posted by Picasa

(Click on the image to view it in full size)

I took this photo during a visit to the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery in Singapore. This statue is absolutely huge,magnificent and serene .

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Rainbow Quiz - Identify the personality - Week 9

Here is the next weekly "Rainbow" quiz , where I would be giving 7 clues (Hence the name Rainbow) about a personality. Try to discover the person in the least number of clues . You can either leave the answer as a comment / email me . Feedback/ suggestions welcome. Googling is not preferred but then its just for fun and so go ahead if you need to.

This personality needs no introduction to Indians. easy one.

clue # 1 : X was born in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.

clue # 2 : Due to the early death of X's father, X started acting in movies at a young age of 12.

clue # 3 : X composed music for a few marathi movies under the pseudonym "Anandghan" in the 60's.

clue # 4 : X has also produced 4 movies till date. The last movie that X produced had music by X's brother and was released in 1990.

clue # 5 : X hobbies include watching cricket and photography. In fact X is considered an expert photographer with intimate knowledge of cameras, shutter speeds etc.

clue # 6 : Satyajit Ray & X are the only two people to have recieved both the Bharat Ratna & Dada Saheb Phalke award.

clue # 7 : The Madhya pradesh government in the 80's instituted an award in X's name and has been awarding it to luminaries of indian film music.

who is X ?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai - S.D.Burman's 100th Birth Anniversary

October 1st is the 100th birth anniversary of my favorite hindi film composer - Sachin Dev Burman. In a career spanning three decades, he composed an eclectic medley of folk,classical and westernized numbers to carve a niche style. The man remained "in demand" from the early 50's to his death in the mid 70's. Dada Burman was one of the few composers who appealed both to classes and the masses .

Here is my tribute to him . A selection of my favorite 10 SDB songs in ascending chronological order :

1. Yeh raat yeh chandni phir kahan ( Film:Jaal, Singers : Hemant,Lata, Lyrics : Sahir)

2. Ankhon mein kya ji, rupahla badal (Film:Nau Do Gyarah, Singers : Kishore, Asha, Lyrics : Majrooh)

3.Chand phir nikla magar tum na aaye (Film:Paying Guest, Singer : Lata, Lyrics : Majrooh)

4.Jaane woh kaise log the jinke pyar ko pyar mila (Film: Pyaasa, Singer : Hemant, Lyrics : Sahir)

5. Jalte hain jiske liye,teri ankhon ke diye (Film : Sujata, Singer : Talat, Lyrics : Majrooh)

6.Poocho na kaise maine rain bitaayee (Film : Meri surat teri ankhen, Singer : Manna Dey , Lyrics : Shailendra)

7.Tu kahan yeh bataa is nashili raat mein (Film : Tere Ghar ke Samne, Singer : Mohd.Rafi , Lyrics : Hasrat Jaipuri)

8. Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai ( Film : Guide, Singer : Lata , Lyrics : Shailendra)

9.Megha chaye aadhi raat,bairan ban gayi nindiya (Film : Sharmilee, Singer : Lata, Lyrics : Neeraj)

10. Loote Koi man ka nagar ( Film: Abhimaan , Singers : Manhar Udhas, Lata, Lyrics : Majrooh)

P.S : "Sachin" Tendulkar was named so in honor of SD Burman. Tendulkar's dad was a big fan of SD Burman and named his son in honor of the great composer.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ecstasy & Agony

Ecstasy is when on a saturday morning you run a five km jungle trek in under 30 minutes and finish second among 40 odd participants in a jogging race.

Agony is when on the sunday you can feel all the 206 bones in your body and you are down with a fever.

Nevertheless, I am happy . What a beautiful jog it was on a early morning in a lush forest !