Monday, April 28, 2014

AAP - Media Bias and Double Standards

India is going through a very difficult time right now. Most politicians are complaining that media is misquoting them, giving false information and promoting an agenda. People who follow news closely too are feeling miserable seeing the way Indian media is handling news. Media is acting like a Mafia doing whatever it feels like, knowing well that they can get away with it. Media has become the king maker today. 

We soon might have to introduce some laws to regulate media and to ensure that it is held accountable for atleast the facts published if not the opinions. But as of now, we expect people of influence to not encourage cheesy headings and misinterpretation of quotes. 

While Arvind Kejriwal has spoken openly against media bias and the way news is being handled in India, I find it strange that he himself has no problem when the same style of Journalism is used against his opponents. I am well aware that there was a phase when Indian news channels were telecasting rubbish against Aam Aadmi Party. That was unfortunate. But having been a victim itself, I was hoping that AAP would not indulge in such cheap tactics of misleading people. 

Whenever the verified account of Arvind Kejriwal or AAP shares a news article which is very misleading, it saddens me. This is because the youth of India (Including me) have a high amount of respect for AK and AAP. It saddens me because it looks like he is encouraging media to publish groundless data, without worrying that he is breeding a monster which would some day come back to haunt him. 

These are some of the examples. All the screenshots are taken from the timeline of respective VERIFIED accounts and you can check them on Twitter/Facebook. 

1) BJP is using Google Ads extensively to publicize itself. Google shows ads based on user's browsing history and the content on the website. In one such case, some users might have seen BJP ads on www.dawn.com which is Pakistani news portal. You can see such ads on any website of the world which uses Google Ads. Either Kejriwal was not aware of this before retweeting the content, which would mean he does not understand simple things like Google ads and just retweets anything which looks anti Modi OR he was aware of the system and willingly tried to misguide his followers. 

2) Modi's Interview on IndiaTv clearly said that Vadra should be punished on the basis that judiciary feels he has done something illegal and not just because he is 'Vadra' . We can not go about throwing people in jail because they are close to the opposition party (witch hunt) and instead we must follow the judicial process. 

If the verified and official account of Aam Aadmi Party Uttar Pradesh shares such misleading news without actually watching the video then this is very unfortunate. I am in no way suggesting that other parties do not follow such cheap tactics.




3) Wal-Mart Pvt Ltd runs 20 wholesale stores under the Best Price Modern Wholesale brand. These are cash and carry wholesale stores and can not be considered as retail stores. AAP can always oppose FDI in wholesale as well. That is acceptable. But saying that Gujarat has allowed FDI in retail is misleading. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Microsoft, The Biggest Beneficiary of Piracy

“The actions of the pirates have merged with the interest of Microsoft to create a near monopoly in the operating systems market for the PC.” - Dagens Politik
Microsoft seems to be fighting hard against piracy and claiming huge losses due to piracy. But the fact is that the biggest beneficiary of software piracy has always been Microsoft. Some of the reasons below will help you see through this claim.

1) Piracy is okay. Indifference is not.

The biggest fear of any company is that nobody cares enough about it’s software to steal it. While the ideal scenario would be to have 100% of the target market becoming paying customers, we don’t really live in an ideal world.
The next best thing would be to have a lot of users and then hope to convert them to customers one day. Piracy helps Microsoft have a huge user base which eventually drives revenues. This is what happened in China and India around the year 2007.

Microsoft Piracy

2) Price discrimination

Piracy helps Microsoft achieve a very effective price differentiation strategy. Instead of down pricing/going open source to avoid loosing customers, it can simply choose to ignore piracy.
Corporates/users who are able and willing to pay the steep price of Microsoft softwares become paying customers. Those who can not just use the pirated copies.

3) Maintaining Monopoly

It is extremely difficult for any company to sell a product slightly inferior to Microsoft’s at even half the price. The users in emerging market or the value conscious users tend to buy the pirated copy of the real stuff for a couple of dollars instead. This has also helped Microsoft, to some extent, counter the attacks from open source softwares.
“It’s easier for our software to compete with Linux when there’s piracy than when there’s not,” – Bill Gates

4) Corporate sales

Imagine how much pain it would be for large companies (non-tech) to move to open source operating systems. All the employees will have to be given basic training and the productivity of each employee would take a dip.
This is because employees themselves are used to using windows all their life. Piracy has ensured that most people are very much familiar with Windows and in most cases only Windows.

5) Adoption. Third party applications.

Since piracy ensures that Windows OS is the most widely used operating system around, most developers take all the pain to make their offerings perfectly compatible with Windows. This is true even for web developers. This trend in turn makes Windows even better and makes the job of its competitors even more difficult.
As much as Microsoft likes to crib about piracy, piracy is it’s single biggest weapon against open source. To quote Matt Asay, the COO of Canonical (company behind Ubuntu),
To hold its lead, Microsoft may well need all the piracy it can get/afford. The question is, how much is that?

Monday, February 10, 2014

10 Marketing Lessons From Narendra Modi’s Chai Pe Charcha Campaign

‘Chai pe Charcha’ is the latest campaign by the Bhartiya Janta Party with a target of reaching two crore people.
The campaign unfolds at a very crucial time with the Lok Sabha election just a few months away. As part of the campaign, Narendra Modi or any senior party leader would interact with people through special video conferencing using internet and custom TV monitors.
The one of the biggest ‘hangout’ would take place through 1000 tea stalls located across 300 cities.The locations are strategically chosen from all the constituencies where the party plans to contest elections. The campaign plans to have 10 rounds of tea-time discussion separated by an interval of 5 days each.
The ‘Chai pe Charcha‘ campaign along with the ‘Statue of Unity, iron collection’ campaign will act as the 2014 version of the earlier public outreach programs like ‘Rath Yatra’.
While this has, for sure, attracted a lot of attention from the people interested in politics, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt for marketers as well.
I have jotted down some of key lessons from the campaign.
Image

1. Bring-in outside perspective

Citizens for Accountable Governance or CAG is the organization behind the campaign. Though the professional support group defines itself as “not-for-profit organization to build a substantive and purposeful engagement with various establishments in the country and engage the youth in a movement to further strengthen accountable governance in India.”, the organization can be treated as a task force for the Modi Campaign. CAG is guided and mentored by Prashant Kishor, one of the behind-the-scenes Modi strategists and former UN mission chief in Africa.
The setting up of CAG was in itself a marketing master stroke. Any business / organization trying to find innovative ways of positioning itself better should include people from outside the industry to bring fresh perspective to it’s marketing. Experts from other industries bring with them ideas and processes which not only seem radical but also help organizations unshackle themselves from age old mentality and conventions. CAG serves this purpose extremely well.
CAG has 70+ members from IITs, IIMs etc and have strictly no prior association with any political outfit. The members come from diverse backgrounds such as journalism, law, consulting, investment banking, technology etc.
After its formation, CAG created multiple marketing and outreach programs like Young Indian Leaders Conclave, Manthan, Samvad etc. These programs were possible only because of the fresh perspective of CAG and no amount of political experience within BJP could have resulted in such initiatives.

2. Understand your target audience

The campaign hits the nail right on its head when it comes to the target audience. The BJP is known to have a strong support from educated middle and upper middle class. The party also has a strong backing from upper caste Hindus. But the party has always struggled when it comes to low income groups and uneducated masses.
The ‘Chai pe Charcha’ campaign might turn out to be the best solution for the problem. The campaign will allow the party to reach the lower income and uneducated population easily and directly. The format of the campaign too is simple and inclusive with higher chances of appealing to the audience than the format of conventional rallies.

3. Choose the right platform

The platform you choose for communication is always of utmost importance. It makes absolute sense to advertise an MBA college at CAT/GMAT forums or at career fairs. This is because people are already discussing about the pros and cons of certain MBA colleges and often form their opinions on such platforms.
Similarly, tea stalls have always been the preferred platforms for discussion related to politics, weather, cricket and everything else which is not personal. You often see people debating at tea stalls about the current state of economy and the performance of current government.
People influence others and get influenced here. Opinions get formed about political leaders and generic issues are discussed at length. This makes tea-stall the perfect platform for such a campaign.

4. Reach your audience. Do not wait for them to reach you

Another key learning from the campaign is that it is extremely stupid to wait for your audience to reach you. If your audience does not read newspapers or does not watch your speeches on Youtube, you do not ask them to change their behavior. You do not wait for them to start caring about you and get interested in you. Instead you get outside your comfort zone and reach them in theirs.
Live QnA is never the comfort zone of any politician. They always prefer to give monologues instead. But when it comes to marketing you need to do what best helps you reach your audience and do it with conviction.

5. Embrace Technology

No matter what your product is, no matter what your educational background is, in this era you can not be excused for being ignorant about technology. Technology can enable you to reach your audience effectively and if you don’t embrace it, your competitors certainly would. Also, if a 63 year old politician can be open minded to technology, you and I certainly must.

6. Make marketing a two way process

Gone are the days when marketers could just grab people and tell them about their products. Nobody cares about monologues and communication can no longer be one way. Organizations must include their customers in the process of innovation and interact with them constantly.
The ‘Chai pe Charcha’ campaign focuses on allowing people to talk, listening to them and making them feel that they are a part of the effort towards rebuilding India. This is vastly different from political rallies and even TV interviews where only a selected few get to be a part of the debate.

7. Focus on subtle branding

The campaign also serves a very important purpose of reinforcing the image of Narendra Modi of a man who sold tea in his initial days and rose to power from a very humble background. The campaign very effectively and subtly focuses on the branding which BJP considers important to win some additional seats. It uses the right symbol of tea in its communication so that it would not have to explicitly publicize about Modi’s chai-waala origin.

8. Integrate various communication channels

It is high time that marketers stop treating individual channels separately and instead try to create strategies to exploit synergies among different channels. They can not continue to differentiate between online, offline, conventional and new age channels. Most successful campaigns integrate all channels to get maximum impact.
The ‘Chai pe Charcha’ campaign takes the advantage of on ground kiosks to gather people in the offline world, connects them to party leaders and people from other towns using cutting edge technology and broadcasts the discussion to millions using new age media. The TV and print media would then talk about the discussions and further increase the reach and visibility. This kind of integrated campaign is what most companies need.

9. Associate your brand with things people already care about

Coca-Cola tried to associate itself with the word ‘Thanda‘, Maruti tried to associate itself with the phrase ‘Kitna deti hai‘, Oreo associated itself with the dunk biscuit before eating ritual. All companies have tried to associate themselves with something people are already familiar with.
Discussion over a cup of tea is something every Indian can relate to. And hence the campaign makes a lot of sense in this respect as well.

10. Do something which people will talk about

I am not sure how many suggestions related to national issues would emerge from the campaign nor am I confident that Modi would be able to communicate his agenda to the people, but what I am sure of is this:
There would be a lot of charcha about this ‘Chai pe Charcha’ and in the times like now, charcha is good. Charcha is ‘people talking about you’. Charcha is ‘trending’.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Aam Aadmi Party: Branding, Communication & Inconsistency

AAP. There is no denying that the word itself gets people interested. There is so much content being produced and consumed about the Kejriwal team, that no blogger craving for a larger audience can afford to not write something about AAP. Having given a hint about the purpose of this blog, I would like to go ahead and make it clear that I am not anti AAP or anti Kejriwal. The promise of a transparent and corruption free government is bound to make every Indian excited, and I am no different. In fact, for the first time since I started taking interest in politics, I am finding myself with the luxury of choosing between two leaders who deserve to lead the country. This is exciting news. Because so far, India has always seen the problem of lack of choices rather than the problem of making a difficult choice.  





Equally satisfying is the fact that for the first time, my generation has started taking active interest in politics. We are no longer indifferent. We are debating on key issues. Issues like malnourishment in a state and the economic growth under a chief minister. We are talking about the transparency in a party and the merit of candidates. We want to hear the opinion of PM nominees on key issues before we cast our vote. For the first time we are monitoring the steps taken by a CM during the first two weeks at office. This I think is the biggest success of both NaMo and Kejriwal. These are the signs of a healthy democracy. 

Now let me mention a few areas which I find concerning. I will exclude all the issues which are already being discussed in the mainstream media. I will also avoid commenting on the policies which were announced post the results of Delhi assembly elections. 


1) Target Audience: Who is Aam Aadmi? 


The AAP team has repeatedly focussed on the fact that unlike other parties, they are here to serve the common man, the aam aadmi. But who is a aam aadmi? From the public statements of party leaders, it seems almost everyone is an aam aadmi. From riksha waala to doctor. From an IT engineer in Bangalore to a professor in Jaipur. AAP's definition of aam aadmi includes everyone whether BPL person or someone earning 2 lacs per month. 

This surely does not look like a niche to me. From my experience of talking to VCs and entrepreneurs, I can say one thing for sure: If you say that you will cater to a segment which is unserved to by your competitors and in the same breath you say that your target audience is 95% of all users, you will be kicked out of the meeting room within five minutes. 

Why does not the party simply say that it aims to serve all Indians equally instead of focussing on the word 'Aam Aadmi'. Isn't this misleading. 

Though I can understand Kejriwal's point that other parties are corrupt and criminals, I know for sure that they can go to any extend to get votes. I fail to understand Kejriwal's claim that these vote thirsty parties are intentionally ignoring 95% of the voters. Does not make sense. 

(On a lighter note, I find it strange that the Shobha Des and Mayawatis of the world have not called Kejriwal sexist yet. What about the Aam Aurat? Why is she excluded from the party name) 


2) Merit: What Are The Metrics?



As a transparent and democratic party, shouldn't there be more details regarding the metric for selecting its candidates? Unlike AAP, other parties have been in existence for years. There is supposedly a system in other parties where either family members of prominent leaders or businessmen with spare money to put into campaigning or party workers who over the years show there mettle in politics are given the ticket from specific constituencies.


Tata Tea - Neta ke job ka qualification


The metric made public has been that we will give ticket to honest people who want to serve the country. Both these parameters are not only subjective, but also have a ceiling. One can only be 100% honest, not more than that. I am sure that the party would claim that all its members are 100% honest. So how do you choose from so many honest people? 

Though you can personally talk to some shortlisted people and understand their past work, But with the loksabha nomination form available online, there are bound to be many applicants. How would AAP do the first screening? CGPA cutoff? GMAT score? Aptitude test? 

Aptitude test would be good start considering we would never want to have an honest yet foolish person leading our constituency or state or nation. 


3) Inclusion vs Autocracy


I love the AAP agenda of inclusion in politics. It sounds good that everyone will get a chance to represent his/her people. It also sounds good that all party decisions will be taken in a democratic way keeping the opinions of key people in mind. But somehow this promise contradicts what I see on the AAP membership form and on the loksabha nomination form.

Take this for example: 


Screen shot of clauses in the AAP membership form
Screen shot of clauses in the AAP membership form


What if I am an honest and patriotic citizen of India who wants to see his country grow, but I believe in some cause which conflicts with the Party objectives and want to continue working towards that cause? Am I not allowed to join AAP? 


Or take this for example:


Screen shot of clauses in the AAP Loksabha nomination form


What if I sincerely believe that acquiring land for the greater good of the society is a necessary evil and do not not want to bring laws which can impact this process? Should I forget about joining AAP and instead join the corrupt parties? 

How is this democratic in any way. A bunch of you guys have defined the party ideology and now new people will be added to that bunch only if they agree to your ideology. How will the party have any meaningful internal debate in future if everyone in the party has exactly the same ideology. Are you not creating too much selection bias? Stuff your party with people who have all left of centre views? 


Screen shot of clauses in the AAP membership form


The one above too is debatable. What if someone who has been convicted of a crime, served his sentence and is now a changed man. Is he not allowed to participate in your 'Aam' movement. Even after serving his sentence, he has lost his democratic rights? 


4) AAP Supporters: What Is Your Stance? 


I wrote a blog post long back where I tried to give my analysis of NaMo as prime ministerial candidate. Soon the NaMo and Congress fan brigade started abusing it though I was being as neutral as possible. This is exactly what pisses the neutral people off who are trying to have a healthy debate. Are AAP fans doing the exact same thing now? 

Whenever anyone criticizes AAP, the fans would start giving example of other parties and how they are worse. That is meaningless. We have already agreed that there are problems with the existing political system and AAP gives us hope that they will be different from the existing players. So when someone says that AAP is doing politics of appeasement, I do not expect a counter argument that even others are doing it. 

Also, if AAP stands for aam aadmi and making them our representative, why are we rejoicing when CEOs of investment banks, editors from paid media, owners of companies are joining AAP? How are these people different? Every party has industrialists and journalists as its members. Does it mean anything? 


5) Means vs Ends


Kejriwal wanted to get the Lokpal bill passed. He also wanted to implement some other policies which he believed in. I will not start a debate about those policies, but I find it commendable that he seeks power to introduce his policies. It is a good stance. 

But the AAP team must understand that we support them because they seek power only to implement their policies. If it starts looking as if AAP is implementing certain policies, just to get in power, then the cycle is reversed. 

The clarity of means vs ends needs to remain intact. AAP is here to serve the nation, not to win elections.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Want To Save The Indian Economy? Get Married

If you are of my age then you would probably empathize with me. Every time I login to Facebook, I see the wedding pictures of some or the other friend of mine. Though I had anticipated this scenario long back but I could have never anticipated the fury with which it would strike upon me. If you are not going through this phase, then brace yourself. Because sooner than later, those pics are coming. It is bound to happen. With 1.25 billion people and almost 50% of the population below the age of 29, the 'wedding pictures flood' is unavoidable. So sit tight, coz as they say, winter is coming. 

But it is not just about the wedding pictures. After a couple of weeks, people follow it up with the 'honeymoon pics' post. These posts are like 'click baiting'. I click on the pics, super excited, only to see a fully dressed couple with mountains/sea/highway/FatUncle in the background. Not much of a view if you ask me.  

Free Tip : Unless you are planning to post some indoor pics, do not imagine too many people getting interested in your honeymoon pics. 

Also, what is with people going on wildlife safaris and trying scuba diving on honeymoon. Din't they have an overdose of adventure recently. Do they forget that they just got married. And is watching tigers eat, in company of a guide and 20 other people, even considered romantic? 

The fact is, if you are having too much 'fun' on the beach or on the hills, then the trip is less likely to serve its true purpose. Get the priorities straight.    

Anyways, enough of introduction. This post isn't really about couples and wedding pictures. Its more about the economics of it. Recently, I read an article about online matrimony classifieds space. With players like Shaadi.com and BharatMatrimony, it is poised to become a Rs. 1500 crore industry. This got me curious and I tried to read more about the Indian wedding industry. And this is my conclusion:    


If you think you should do something about the sorry state of Indian economy or want to help in the fight against poverty, then this is what you should do


Get Married Now. Make it Grand. Do it as often as you can. 


If, because of such behavior, your spouse kills you one fine day, you will die a martyr.

Apart from enjoying the obvious benefits of having multiple life partners, a 'serial' groom or bride does a big favor to the country. Well we all know how important is the rotation of capital for any economy. The faster money changes hands, the better it is. But also, its important to understand that weddings probably have the highest multiplier when compared to other government/private spendings. The amount of activity induced by every rupee spent on a wedding is staggering. Let me tell you why.  

Let's see some simple facts first. 

Indian wedding industry is worth $25.5 billion (Almost INR 158062 Crore). This is more than the GDP of Afghanistan and 20 times of the Indian cloud computing industry.

  • No. of Indian marriages in a year: Approx 1,00,00,000
  • Gold and diamond jewellery market worth: Rs 60,000 crore
  • Apparel market (wedding) worth: Rs 10,000 crore
  • Durable goods market worth: Rs 30,000 crore
  • Hotel and other wedding related market worth: Rs 5,000 crore 
  • Pandal and venue decoration market: Worth Rs 10,000 crore
  • Wedding invitation card market : Worth Rs 10,000 crore 
  • Bridal Mehendi market in India: Worth Rs 5000 crore
Source: IndianRetailer.com


And guess what, this this is just the tip of the iceberg. These figures only indicate the amount of money spent by the families of groom and bride. But we all know how much preparation guests do before attending a wedding. 


An invitation to a wedding invokes more trouble than a summons to a police court. - William Feather 

Remember the cute girl who swept you off your feet at your cousins wedding? Well that kind of cuteness does not come for free. There is a lot of preparation that goes into it. Everyone tries to look their best. Money spent on looking good in someone else's wedding is an investment they say. (I tried this at my brother's wedding. No ROI yet)

Add to it the boost to tourism which wedding related travel provides. Apart from pilgrimages, no single category boosts tourism more than weddings. Travel agents make a killing and traveling by bus or train becomes an adventure sport. 

Then there is the gifting market. Largely due to the concept of giving return gift to close relatives. Though its going out of trend fast, it still beats valentines day and other such festivals hands down.


And we've got a toaster and everything. So there is no reason for the wedding. - Karl Pilkington  

But the numbers only tell you half of the story. The fascinating thing about a wedding is the number of people involved in the event and the number of lives it touches. 

If we try to create a list of all people involved, it will take forever. The 'tent house waala', florist, eunuchs, match makers, wedding venues, event manager, DJ, caterer, bus operator, car rental guy, IRCTC, everyone who makes money on railway stations, beauty saloons, clothing stores, accessories stores, fragrances stores, pandits, printing press, mithai waala, Ghodi Waala, band baaja, dhol, dance trainer, stage decorator, electrician, gardner, camera man, hotels. 
The list can go on and on.

And this is exactly what makes weddings so special. This is what gives it a huge multiplier. The fact that the money goes to so many different people. The fact that many industries rely fully on the wedding season. The fact that the industry is recession proof. The fact that the nature of the wedding season is cyclic yet not uncertain. 

So go ahead, celebrate consumerism, raise a toast to the 'big fat Indian wedding' and keep it coming.  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Why Family Owned Businesses Are More Sustainable Than We Think

Few weeks back I read a book by Devdutt Pattanaik where he touches the debate between family owned businesses and the, now more acceptable, professionally run businesses where we do not necessarily have an owner but instead a CEO who can be fired by the board anytime. This led me to write the below post and explain why the former style creates more sustainable businesses than we think.

Imagine a CEO of a large organization and what he personally must thrive for. I am not talking about the founder and CEO of the company but a man who has climbed his corporate ladder and then reached the position after years of turmoil and job switching. He knows that that his son/daughter is not going to inherit the position from him. He also knows that he might not remain the CEO of the organization forever. So clearly, his incentives to create a long lasting and ever-growing organization have somewhat reduced. He is less likely to take decisions which will prove valuable only 25 years from now. Instead his first objective would be to prove to his board members and share holders that he can help the company achieve a better growth rate than his predecessor.

Now lets see who the share holders and board members are. Like the CEO, the board members too have a limited tenure. This would mean than it is in the interest of everybody sitting in the board room to prioritize on creating value in the next 10 years rather than in the next 25. The CEO wants to get a larger bonus by improving the bottom line and so do the rest of the employees. Even the investors, be it retail or institutional, want their money to grow as fast as possible. As an investor you don't want the company to shrink today so that it can grow 25 years from now. You would rather exit now and reinvest later. This way even the investors put pressure on the board to show year-on-year growth and fast improvement in bottomline. So for the CEO and the employees, it becomes a must to relentlessly thrive for growth which is better than last year and so on. 

Structure Of Family Owned Businesses


What this leads to is the scary avoidance of steps towards creating sustainable businesses. Power companies would not worry about running out of coal 100 years from now. Mining companies would not worry about protecting the community around their mines. The tough decisions which an owner will take in his company to ensure he passes something valuable to his grand son would never be taken. 

This loss to the ecosystem does not get into the accounting books of any company and does not necessarily affect their valuations. Though we do see organizations giving equity to top management and running the ESOP programs, it somehow does not force you to take those tough decisions. It is probably time that we discuss and rethink the whole structure and come up with a better structure.   

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why I Want Narendra Modi To Win and Why It Has Nothing To Do With The Man Himself

There are thousands of articles floating in the media about the Gujurat CM and about his PMO ambitions. Such atmosphere of debate about our PM candidate itself is an achievement for India and promises of a much more informed voting population than ever before.


In this article I am not going to act like a NaMo fan boy nor am I going to be super secular and talk about him being a mass murderer. I will try to explain why the 2014 election is not just about Modi or Rahuls of the world, why the results will have a long lasting impact with much more at stake than party politics. 



There is more to it than just UPA vs NDA



Lets concentrate for a second on the things stressed upon by the NaMo campaigns. He has turned no stone unturned to inform us about the improvements he has done in Gujurat. There are efficient Public relations companies monitoring each and every post on social media. Millions is spent on managing FB pages and generating content for all forms of media. Gujurati societies around the world are lobbying hard to get him some international acceptance to flaunt back home. Consulting firms are sweating day and night to create a perfect manifesto and great video presentations for him. To back all this up he has the fact and figures supporting him. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the development in Gujarat  has been nothing short of exemplary. 



In such a scenario, if NaMo becomes the PM and rules for a long time, his strategy will start to become considered as a success mantra. Politicians around the country will try to replicate his strategy. Chief Ministers in all states will drive growths in their states to help their cause of becoming national leaders. MPs an MLAs will try to make their constituencies excel in order to gain attention of party leaders and media. The Kejriwals of the country will get encouragement and a hope that growth coupled with publicity in the most lethal combination in Indian politics. We will move towards a country where elections are fought based on development agenda and not false promises of upliftment of Dalits. And with this change in the mindset we will see, maybe, the next election fought between Modi and another leader who is as pro-development as he is secular. We will get a PM candidate who has the track record and the vision to lead a country and still is acceptable to the minorities as well. 



And in a scenario where NaMo loses, try imagining what will go into the minds of his fellow politicians. To them it won't be the defeat of a mass murderer, to them it will be a defeat of an ideology of growth. They will think of a man who did not give free electricity to the farmers and instead tried to give them an economic environment where they will be able to afford electricity. They will think of a man who instead of giving reservations for females, gave them the schools and safety where they would themselves excel and get into the work force. They would think about a man who tried giving more cotton mills and dairies for employment instead of starting NREGA. They would think of man who was more concerned about his image in the public than his image in the party. And they will think of a man who lost the elections badly. They will get reassured that Raja Bhaiya can get them election victories not Ex Mckinsey employees. They will be reassured that distributing liquor gets votes not some fancy presentation by an international ad agency. They will get reassurance that development does not sell in India. 



For the next 15 years we will never again see elections fought on development agenda. No politician would dare to touch it again. We will again have the same manifestos, same reservations, same state of mismanagement which we have started to loathe. You me or the country can not afford that to happen. Inspite of all the shortcomings that he has, Inspite of him not being the perfect man to be in PMO, India can not afford to let Modi loose. 



Related post: http://www.buffet4thought.com/2012/02/business-of-politics-capitalist-view.html

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Destiny, Big Bang and Why There Isn't Much You Can Do About Your Life

Destiny is a tricky topic and often a boring one too. There are those who believe that all our lives are pre-written and then there are those who think we create our destiny by our skills and hard work. I am not going to get into a debate over this, nor am I going to impose my beliefs on you. I do come from an extremely religious family and happen to be a firm believer of destiny. But in this post I am not going to discuss about the things which I learnt from my grandparents not would I discuss our ancient scriptures. I would stick to the things we learnt in school. I will stick to the laws of motions and the chemical reactions we memorized during our JEE preparation days. I would somehow try to make sense of the things all of us learnt in school and college. Being among the "below average" performers during my college days there might be some loopholes in the below line of thinking and I would really appreciate a healthy debate. (Don't be too harsh on me as I am the only one who has the access to delete other's comments on this blog)

So let me begin with telling you why I think a bunch of smart guys with a few Param computers can predict future. Well we know that whatever we do, whether its moving our hand, picking up a book, watching television, or just sitting is governed by the instructions our respective body parts get from our brain (Spine in case of involuntary actions). The instructions are electric signal which are passed through our neurons. The electric currents are produced in the brain cells as a result of specific chemical reactions. So basically these chemical reactions govern each of our actions. Since a 'thought' too is just and an electric current, even what we think while sitting idle is decided by the chemical reactions in our brain. Similarly the actions of others too are governed by the chemical reactions in their brains. Now to go further, these chemical reactions are governed by the collision of atoms and molecules in our brain. The collision and motion depends on the trajectory and velocity of these particles and also on the external forces applied due to other atoms and molecules. Now if I know the position and velocity of each atom as of now (provided Mr. Heisenberg focuses on my intent and does not play spoil sport), and also know the strength of different field forces applied, then I can predict there velocities and positions five minutes from now. Which means I can predict what someone would think and do after five minutes. This way, by considering the situation as of now and by doing some out of the world calculations, I can successfully predict the future. But the real fun is not in knowing what lies ahead, the real fun is in going backward in time.

Big Bang and Destiny



Based on the above, I can assume that the fact that you are reading this blog could have been predicted 5 minutes ago. And if I take my calculations even further then this could have been predicted even years ago. Infact as long as were are talking in terms of forces and trajectories, we can say that what is happening today could have been predicted at the time of big bang when all the matter around us was put into motion. Looking at the position and velocities of object just after the big bang, someone could have predicted the scene and events of today. Now this scares me. The fact that what I will do or even think about doing was already decided many many centuries ago is a scary thought. What it essentially means is that we have no control on our lives or even our thoughts. It means that it was decided centuries ago that this idea would come to my mind and then I would write about it. The fact that you will be reading this too was decided at the time of big bang itself.


So, the life we are living today is just a movie which was shot long time back. Its just that we are watching it now. The only thing you can do now is to either keep trying to change the movie which was shot long back or grab your popcorn and enjoy the show.


PS: Whether you decide to watch your life as a spectator or not too was decided long back. So don't bother yourself too much with the idea.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Why I Still Use Facebook

Every now and then I hear about how awesome Google's search algorithm is and how it uses infinite parameters to give the most relevant search results. Well to be honest, Google's search results never fail to astonish me, considering the mammoth task of filtering the enormous data available on the web.

On a different note I get to hear about how social networking and in-turn Facebook may soon loose its charm as people have finally learned to resist the temptation of peeping into other's life and that guys are no longer interested in knowing which movie did the hot girl in the other group watch this weekend.

But when you think about it you will realize that "We don't use social networking sites for networking anymore" And the most common use is not to know about other people. Just see the number of jokes, trolls, news articles and review you read while scrolling down your FB home page. We are using FB to filter content. And this is what makes me believe that the Facebook phenomenon may last longer then we expect it to.


Facebook As a Content Filter
Imagine that you are trying to predict what kind of articles I would enjoy reading. You might look at the my reading history and predict that I am only interested in topic xyz. But this approach will fail to predict that I might be immensely interested in an article on movies which somehow also talks about my college but in no way is related to xyz. So the best approach towards solving this problem would be to see what my friends, the people I have consciously subscribed to, are reading or sharing on the web.
I am confident about clicking on a link I see on my FB page because I know that it was read, approved and shared by someone I already know and has something in common with me. Add to that the fact that I can also see how many of my other friends like the same content. This ensures that the content I see is filtered by a group of people who are most likely to think in a way I do. I am in no way suggesting that everything we see on FB is interesting or relevant. But without discrediting the search algorithm, I think that as of now filtering by my friends is still the best way to filter the enormous amount of content on the web.
Hence instead of reading a whole newspaper end to end, I just prefer to login to my FB account and read what is most shared.

PS: You might want to like and share this blog in the interest of your friends who are relying on you to get them the best content from all over the web.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cafeteria Lessons: Sodexo Coupons

Few months back we saw most of the retail giants in the country refusing to accept Sodexo coupons against the items purchased from their stores. This got a lot of media attention and led to some hot debates on the need of such coupon services. I won't  waste too much time repeating whatever has been already published on various websites and would rather like to share my personal opinions about this line of business. But for those who got out of hibernation today, I have included the information available in the public domain as well.

1) Rule governing the issuance of food coupons

The rule says that food perks provided by an employer to its employees will be exempted from tax. This perks can be given in the form of free food on company premises during working hours or through food coupons redeemable only at food joints. The maximum amount (in form of coupons) which will be exempted from tax is Rs 50 per meal. This means the maximum denomination of such coupons can be 50 Rs. It also means that if you work 22 days a month, the amount of coupons you are eligible for in a month is 50*2*22 i.e. 2200 ( Assuming two meals per day). 

2)  Benefits to the company

Companies started offering food coupons to their employees to make their pay packages more attractive. Since the coupons are tax free, companies nation wide promoted this as additional income to their employees. From being a 'good to have' differentiator, food coupons soon became a must have component as all companies started offering coupons to their employees. Employers do not gain or loose much in actual terms other than the administrative hassle involved.

3)Benefits to the employee

2200 of tax free component means a potential saving of 660 Rs if the employee is in 30% tax bracket. The fact that until recently most grocery stores were accepting Sodexo coupons for every purchase and not just food items meant that this was pure extra cash to the employees.

4) Benefits/Losses to retail stores

Now here is the big twist. Retail stores have to share 3-5 % of revenue received through Sodexo coupons with Sodexo. Which means, for every 100 Rs you pay to a retailer with your Sodexo coupons, retailer can claim 95 to 97 Rs from Sodexo depending on the mutual agreement.

Sodexo Money Cycle: Courtesy Kiran Dhanwada



Also, the retailer gets his money only after 20 to 30 days which is a clear loss of one month's credit. 
Now the big question is why do retailers agree to such harsh arrangement. Initially, a few retailers thought of accepting Sodexo coupons as a great idea to drive sales. Since employees all over were looking for places to use their coupons at, accepting Sodexo was a huge advantage for retailers. But gradually as every other store started to accept Sodexo coupons, the advantage is gone. Infact, now any retail store which refuses to accept Sodexo while others are still doing so stands the chance of loosing a good volume of business. 

5) Benefits to Sodexo

  • 3-5% commission
  • 30 days of interest free capital
  • Every Sodexo coupon comes with an expiry date. There is complex procedure to renew the coupons when you fail to use them before expiry date but this option is seldom utilized. So practically speaking, expired Sodexo coupons means a 100% gain for Sodexo.

 Government's stand

One can wonder why would govt allow someone to print currency alternates. Govt argument is that since Sodexo coupons come with an expiry date, they can not be considered as currency. Further they can be used only for buying food items. (We all know this is not true). Taxman further argues that its important that it is ensured that the tax exempted money is actually spent on food and hence the need of Sodexo cards. What I fail to understand is that as long as you know that an individual is spending 2200 Rs on food per month, how does it matter exactly which money is he using. Why can't the govt just increase the standard deduction by 2200 if tax exemption for food is what they want. It is fairly acceptable to assume that any one who has enough income to be taxable, spends at least 2200 Rs on food for his family. Further, when govt can give an exemption of 800 Rs for transportations without checking if its actually spent on transportation why can't they do the same for food. Now this is where I see Sodexo's expenditure - Lobbying cost for such policies.

Why are coupons popular internationally

Lets say the officials of a nation decide to run a program for the homeless people in which the govt would bear the cost of food for all such people. Since the govt wants to actually create income for these people and not just give tax exemption, they might want to give away the income in form of coupons. Coupons would ensure that the people actually spend that additional income on nutritious food rather that buying cheap food and spending left over money on drugs or liquor. In such cases I do see a limited sense in this system. But coupons could be of great use when trying to deal with optional expenditures like education or books (unlike unavoidable expenditure like food).

There is much more which can be discussed about this topic. But I will include that in my subsequent posts.