Monday, December 19, 2011

The Rupee Fall

The RBI is in a soup. For the past few months it has been trying to tame Inflation by increasing the repo rates (The rates at which Banks borrow from RBI) and CRR (The amount of money banks have to keep with RBI). It hoped to reduce the amount of money flowing in the economy, thus reducing demand and dousing out inflationary fires. It is well on its way to achieving this but the past few weeks have given them a new headache. The never ending troubles in the Euro Zone, and India’s insatiable demand for Oil has led to this mess. Let us simplify the situation.


(1) Troubles in Europe: Economies in Europe are toppling one after the other. The famed European Lifestyle, extravagant spending and low taxes have led to a situation wherein the government is not able to pay its dues. It started with Greece and has moved on to Spain, Italy, Portugal etc… The acronym PIGS does suit them. As an investor in global currencies, when I see that the Euro is not doing too well, I am forced to shift to other currencies. The first name that comes is the Dollar. This mad hunger for dollars has caused a shortage of dollars in the world and India, being a majorly importing country is suffering from it.

(2) Imports of Gold and Crude Oil: India being a developing country, has a huge energy bill. Since we don’t have enough to feed ourselves, we are forced to borrow. We borrowed lots of Crude at high prices which has increased the country’s debt. We have a huge dollar bill but not enough dollars to pay them. So we need more rupees to borrow dollars.

(3) High Inflation: Say there is X amount of Rupees in the economy. At times of Inflation, we are paying more for a particular product. Indians will demand for cheaper products. These products will come for other countries therefore demand for rupee falls.

Possible Solutions:

(1) We cannot really do much Europe but what we can do is make sure our Economy is performing well. For that we need to make investments in Infrastructure, Public Spending has to increase and this will attract foreign investors to India rather than other countries. To increase public spending, the public should have money to spend. The public gets money from banks who get it from RBI. If RBI keeps its rates high, then people won’t be able to borrow; so an appropriate rate cut is required without releasing too much money into the economy. Rate cuts are double edged swords, lower rates mean higher Inflation and Higher rates mean low demand.

(2) We need to attract more capital into the country from our own brethren. Increasing deposit rates of NRO, NRE accounts will make Indians earning in dollars to invest in India rather than anywhere else. This allows an injection of much needed dollars into the economy.

(3) Open up FDI in various sectors. Everyone loves to invest in a booming business and India’s growth story is well known. Putting FDI in Retail on the backburner was a bad move and in hindsight, we might just regret it.

(4) Another possible move is to put a cap on Imports. The rate at which China is sucking Gold out of the economy, there may not be much left for others. A cap on Gold imports for time being might be a good idea. Increasing our debt bills will cause an unpleasant Europe like situation. The Investments have to match up with the revenues else India could face the Payment crisis of 1991.

(5) The current policy paralysis which has hit the UPA government doesn’t augur well for the economy. Investor’s confidence depends on how well the Government performs and this could be the wakeup call for Congress to push key reforms.

I am no economist but what I have suggested are basic and logical solutions to a problem which is fairly well documented and well known. It’s not an unknown virus with strange symptoms but a disease more akin to a common cold. I believe India is in safe hands as we have the World’s best bankers (probably not the best politicians) and they know what they are doing.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

India Down Under

It’s that time of the year again, when all things move south and what better place than Australia. The Christmas period is upon us and the traditional Boxing Day test awaits us. Watching cricket in Australia is a different experience all together; massive grounds, large crowds, sporting wickets all make viewing a pleasurable experience. I sometimes wonder how strange it must be for Australians to celebrate Christmas during Summer time. I guess Santa in Australia doesn’t come on a Sleigh, a Ferrari perhaps to beat the heat.

After the bitter disappointment of the England Series, the Indian fans are expecting a much better show down under. I believe that they have the right team to do the job. The WI series has given the key players some good batting practice and this should help in their performance. The team which I think India should put out for the Melbourne Test is,

(1) Virender Sehwag

(2) Gautam Gambhir

(3) Rahul Dravid

(4) Sachin Tendulkar

(5) VVS Laxman

(6) Rohit Sharma

(7) MS Dhoni

(8) R Ashwin

(9) Zaheer Khan

(10) Ishant Sharma

(11) Umesh Yadav

Looking at the top 6, except Gambhir, everyone else has been among the runs. The true wickets at Australia will help Gambhir get his touch back, all he needs is a little time at the centre. The whole world is expecting Sachin to complete his centum here and what better place than the MCG and what better occasion than the Boxing Day Test.

I guess India has two big decisions to make in their selection of the final eleven. One of them is Rohit vs. Virat and the second is the choice of the third seamer, a tossup between Umesh, Mithun and Vinay. I think the 2nd dilemma is an easy one with Umesh clearly the leading choice. His performance against the Windies in the two tests has amply demonstrated his caliber. His ability to clean up the tail would come in handy and his extra yards of pace could make a lot of difference to the final outcome.

The question of Rohit and Virat is one for the ages. You can’t ask for two players more similar, matched in temperament, skills and all round abilities. One factor which differentiates them could be Rohit’s ability to play with the tail. His experience in getting India out of difficult situations will be useful in case the top order fails to click. He has also played in Australia before and his technique of playing short balls is better than that of Kohli’s, although both have a lot to learn in that area. If Sharma does get a chance to play, then it would be his maiden test. He also has a triple hundred in first class cricket, so he has the capability to construct a long innings. He is definitely Indian Cricket’s investment for the future, someone who has promised a lot but has always been on the threshold of greatness.

If you were to check both the teams Man to Man, India would probably win hands down. Clarke seems to be the only batsman in form but Ponting, Hussey and Watson are not people to take lightly. Bowling wise, Australia is definitely weakened with the absence of both Mitchell Johnson and Cummins. Johnson always had the ability to take wickets in groups something which Australia would sorely miss. James Pattinson would probably be the person who will support Siddle in the fast bowling department. He performed admirably against NZ, moving the ball both ways in helpful conditions. In the spinning department, I doubt if Lyon has the credentials to trouble the Indian Batsmen. He does give the ball a good tweak but turning it a long way won’t get him too many wickets. He has got to develop variations to sow doubts in the minds of the Indians.

Overall, you do get the feel that this could be India’s series to lose but you can never underestimate the Aussies. A good start by India at Melbourne would set the stage for a wonderful series. The key factor in the series would be India’s bowling which needs to take 20 wickets. We have the required firepower but planning and execution could be the difference between a win and loss. My prediction, India to win 2-1 and Sachin to get his elusive hundred at the Sydney Test.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why this Kolaveri (F)DI?

“1 kilo onions do” (Give me a Kilo of Onions). The neighbourhood sabjiwala from Kerala was busy gathering vegetables when he asked me, “Bhaiyya, ye FDI kya hota hai?” (Brother, What is this FDI?). Surprised I turned towards him; Not that I was astonished at the question but why me? Does he know I am an “yum-bee-ay”? Anyways I started explaining to him what FDI means and how it works. After I finished my rumbling, as if I was pitching to a client, he nodded with a smile in an assuring manner. He asked “Mere dost bolte hain ki agar bahar ke log aayenge tho humara nuksaan hoga. Who log bade bade dukaan kholenge aur yahan ke IT log sab wahi challenge. Phir humara kya hoga. Aapko kya lagta hai?” (My friends tell me that FDI would mean that foreigners would open up big outlets and drive away us small retailers. All the IT people would start going there, then what would happen to us?) This piece of conversation got my brain cells in overdrive as I started to think about how an ordinary Indian will convince one of his own as to the benefits of this move. Now I know why they say sitting in power is tough. Even a good deed needs convincing. Sometimes even educated people don’t see the benefits. It’s the change philosophy. No one likes it even if it means life becomes easier and better.

Let us first understand what Retail really is. It’s a medium of distribution which reaches right to the customer’s doorstep. Thanks to small time Kirana shops, you don’t really have to walk more than 100m to reach the nearest shop. So convenient and easy. The major point of opposition to the FDI bill is that they would send the mom and pop stores to oblivion. Let us not complicate the answer to this by saying FDI would improve Supply Chains, Reduce food wastage etc…The most important thing to understand is the psyche of the Indian customer. We are simple, lazy people. We love the options of home delivery. Isn’t this why Domino’s is so successful in India. Even if Walmart were to sell things 20% cheaper, we would still prefer the nearby Kirana which will offer us a home delivery. The neighbourhood shop would also treat you with respect and remind you if you forget to buy something. He probably knows your home needs better than you do. We are not the type of people who will make a list and plan our shopping. We are impulsive buyers; we buy things as and when we remember or see them. When was the last time your family bought your monthly groceries all at once. It is so easy for mothers to just step put of the house and find the nearest sabjiwala. Sometimes he might come in front of your house with his rhythmic screams, “Tamatar, Aloo, Bhindi..” Who wouldn’t buy from him?

Taking the case of a city like Bangalore, Walmart would open at the most 2 or 3 shops, somewhere in the outskirts where real estate is cheap and in plenty. In MBA they always talk about value added to the customer. The value you get from a Walmart is basically cheaper goods. Quality is something which I believe would be the same throughout. The pains which you would take to commute to the shop, then carry all those bags back might just equal the return you get. Once you come back, you realize you have forgotten something. Nothing worse than that.

The point is there is nothing wrong in giving more options to the consumer. Its always better for us to have everything under one roof. Its easier to find stuff and plan. Since the big chains source directly from the botton of the supply chain, the prices you get would be better and in order to maintain the quality there would be improvement in the logistics aspect. WSJ once reported that nearly 30% of the country's fruits and vegetables perish due to a lack of cold-storage facilities, while thousands of tons of food-grain spoil in ill-equipped warehouses. A collosal waste for a developing country like ours. Foreign players would definitely solve this problem leading to lesser wastages and better prices for farmers. The elimination of middlemen would reduce jobs is another argument against FDI. Although this is true, but these people can venture into other areas which would open up due to FDI. There would be a large scale requirement of Warehouses, Material Handling Equipment, Transportation vehicles etc… Each store would employ by the thousands as they would be needed for billing, guiding customers, movement of goods, back end operations, accounting etc… All in all this is a win win situation for the country. If anyone has any doubts then they need to remember the effect which Retail chain like Food World, Reliance Fresh etc… had on the Indian Retail scenario. No one lost their jobs or no kiranas closed due to this.

Like we enjoy the benefits of KFC, Pizza Hut, etc… in India, let us also open up in retail. This is a move in the right direction and the benefits far accrue the losses. As for my sabjiwala, he says, “Bhaiyya, aap tho mere paas hi aayenge na” with a smile.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Trip to ISKCON

I happened to go to the ISKCON temple at Bangalore on Sunday. For the uninitiated, ISKCON stands for International Society for Krishna Consciousness; They are the proponents of Gaudya Vaishnavites form of worship.

This is the 5th time I have been to this place and I have been itching to write this article ever since. Located in Rajajinagar close to the Mysore Sandal Factory, the temple complex is huge and well planned. South Indian temples by design are large and occupy huge tracts of land, sometimes forcing me to ask the question if the land could have been better used. I am sure Lord Krishna wouldn’t mind a small temple. Anyways once you enter the temple complex, you pass through small temples before reaching the Sanctum of Lord Krishna. I love the steps at the beginning of the temple where a devotee has to chant “Hare Rama Hare Rama, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna” 108 times before visiting any of the shrines. This creates a very vibrant atmosphere and fills you with a sense of sanctitude.

The main Gopuram containing the deities of Krishna, Balram and Radha is as large as an auditorium. The roof of the sanctum sanctorum resembles a collage of paintings which depict various situations in the life of Krishna. I wonder at times how people actually paint the roof of a building; reminds me of a certain sardar joke. A story better left for another occasion. The idols are seated majestically on a golden platform. It’s interesting how all the idols whether male or female are always adorned with a sari type of cloth. It’s beautiful nevertheless.

Once you have had your darshan and leave the main temple , you then come to know for what ISKCON is famous. I consider it the Amway of Spirituality. You encounter a book stall first where you would find posters depicting the offers on Bhagavad Gita. I doubt if any pious Hindu would look at an offer for a Bhagavad Gita before buying one. You would be fooled into thinking that the people who sell these might have originally worked for an FMCG company. They seem to know what they are doing. Maybe Yum-Bee-Eh is compulsory in ISKCON !! To be honest selling religious books in India is not that tough as the scriptures are very close to our hearts.

I believe that after having the darshan of Lord we should all be treated to Prasadam. It’s a birthright of every devotee. Strangely in ISKCON, the prasadam is served right at the end, close to the exit, much after the shops which sell Samosas, Kachoris, Rasnas, etc… Never seen a temple where people roam around with Kulfis and Sodas. Any devotee would be fooled into thinking this is the Prasad. They even serve Gobi Manchuria !! Talk about catering to all segments. They must have Yum-Bee-Eh’s in ISKCON. Much before the food mela you see stalls selling shirts, coffee powders, stuffed toys etc… all bearing Hindu Gods. Being an MBA myself, I would suggest ISKCON diversify into the following products,

(1) Toothpaste. What better way than to start a day with a Lord Krishna Toothpaste.
(2) Toothbrush. Unbreakable bristles. I would recommend Hanuman as the brand ambassador.
(3) Mouse Pads. The large IT crowd of Bangalore would definitely love this.
(4) Tissue Papers. This would be for the foreigners.

We can start with the above and based on customer feedback we can launch other products or more variants of the above. Did someone say Commercialization?

You guys would be glad to know that ISKCON is constructing a Krishna Lila park on Kanakpura Road in Bangalore. Sort of Wonderla. Who are we kidding, It’s a wonderla basically with a temple inside. There are roof side and pool side temples complete with water slides for kids. I never thought I would associate those words with a temple. Who says spirituality ain’t fun. No kid would ever say no to a trip to ISKCON from now. Temples for the oldies and Slides for the kids and for the parents; well the parents can choose between the two. Kudos to ISKCON, they are changing with the customer needs and demands. I think this novel concept of theirs would be a crowd puller.

At the end of our journey, and as we come near the car parking, we see two people handing out Prasad. After all the shopping, you do find the Prasad refreshing and very tasty if your stomach is not already filled with puffs and mirchi bhajji’s.

Whatever means ISKCON might be using to make money, I personally feel they make some of the most beautiful temples in the world. After the age of Cholas and Pandyas, rarely have Indian temples lived upto our heritage. I salute ISKCON in that aspect. I hope and wish that they continue to make more such grandiose temples and start selling stuff outside the temple premises.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thoughts on Traffic

India should seriously think about stopping vehicle registrations. It has worked in a few places in the world. Our country might be doing well in terms of growth and all but the infrastructure is way behind. So give the Infrastructure time to catch up and then allow the vehicle population to expand again.

Charge high registration fees. This will prevent people from buying vehicles and would make more people use public transport. The high fees can also provide the required money for improving public infrastructure.

Stop selling 2 wheelers in India. They are the biggest traffic nuisance as they squeeze in and out from no where and rarely adher to traffic rules. They are also the reason for many accidents and for large scale underage driving.

Charge High parking fees in the city. This will prevent people from taking their cars out for every small thing. I have seen people going in a car to the nearby kirana shop or supermarket. It’s a colossal waste of resources especially petrol.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tryst with my Manager

It was just another day at work. The usual routine, check mails, spend some time chatting on Gtalk and Communicator, check mail again, visit all the food courts through the course of the day, etc…The routine was interrupted by a call from my manager, someone who was a non entity for the past two months. He said lets discuss the ppts you made. My initial reaction was ppt?? what ppt, I never did anything for you. I replied in a cool way, “Sure Sir, when do you want to discuss?”. “We will talk at 4 PM”.

I switched to overdrive mode. Where did I keep those damn ppts. After a few minutes of outlooking, I found the ppt. I had made these presentations with screenshots which my boss sent of some random excel sheets. I remember making these ppts in around 1 hour as my team mate had said “make what you feel like”. 5 words with profound meaning; this would haunt me later.

I entered the room confidently turned on the projector and loaded the ppt on the system. I looked at my boss and he gestured me to get started. I entered my MBA mode of ppt presentation where you speak nonsense with total confidence as if you have done a PhD on them. No sooner had I started that my boss interrupted saying “What is this that you have done”.

“PPT Sir” I said tongue-in-cheek. (Wrong time for sarcasm huh!!)

“See Sriram, (Don’t know why he calls me that. Its pretty clear that my name is Srikanth assuming that you are literate of course.) Don’t get me wrong. You haven’t understood anything. I am not sure if I wasn’t clear in my expectations or you have some problem understanding but do you know what you are talking about?”

“You asked me to make a business case on BVA for two Banks. I made as much as I could understand from the screenshots you sent me.”

“Don’t give me excuses, you could have googled it up. (The project I was working on is known only to the three of us and this guy expects google to have the answer. It has become a fashion to ask people to google up anything which they don’t know. ) See Srikanth Sriramagiri, (I hate it when people use my full name. It reminds me of how long it is.) when the company pays you 1 rupee they expect 3 rupees from you. Am I right or not?”

I nodded obediently like a dog expecting a pedigree in return.

“You have 9 hours and 15 minutes everyday at Infosys. Atleast spend sometime working. See how much me and Maveli (Name of my team mate. Name altered due to obvious reasons) work everyday. We come at 9 AM and leave at 10 PM sometimes. I don’t even get time to go the loo. (I started feeling sorry for him now.) Atleast I get time to have Tea ( The guy has no time for Loo but for tea he has. Taking more liquids and not releasing them is not such a good idea Sir) but Maveli here doesn’t even have that luxury. See Srikanth Sriramagiri, I am not asking much from you. It took me 12 months to come up with this, I have given you 2 weeks and still you are not able to follow up. (What the !!! 12 months of your shit I have to understand in 2weeks. I am not Einstein, dude) Anyways Let me tell you my expectations again.”

He rumbled non stop for what felt like eternity while I could see the colourful Friday evening crowd rushing away towards the exits.

“……Have I made myself clear?” I woke up from my dream just when it was getting to the good parts. We should have an option to pause our dreams and restart them. I don’t know how many good dreams I have lost due to the lack of this feature.

“Yes, I understood”.

“What about the other excel sheet I sent you?”

Again brain goes into search mode, which excel is he talking about…”It was related to change from version 7 to version 10.”

“That excel, I have just gone through it once but I didn’t understand anything”

“See Sriram, It has been 3 months since you have joined and you know enough Finacle to understand it. That excel was made by an Intern. Don’t misunderstand me, She was from Duke University, Fuqua School of Business pursuing her MBA. I am not comparing or anything, she just had 14 years of banking experience and some basic understanding of Finacle and she could understand it. I think you should be able to do better than this.”

“Anyways I haven’t approved one single swipe of yours. You can’t forget like this. I havent forgotten once in 4 years (Not even once !!! I think he carries the swipe machine also in his pocket.) and you have already done it once.”

“I was in a hurry to catch my train to Hyderabad and I forgot. Its an honest mistake and can happen to anyone.”

“Ok. I will let it go this time. You are coming to work tomorrow (It was a Saturday. Some Client commitment crap and they make us work on Saturdays) right?”

“No Sir. I will be going for my convocation. I have applied for leave.”

“You didn’t tell me you are going.”

“You approved the leave.”

“Is it, Then its fine. If I approved it means I have seen it.” (Duh !! He has a memory of an Elephant and this he forgets.)

Another manager walks by into the cabin and they start talking in Tamil. Probably my manager was giving gaalis to me. Anyways he suddenly turns to me and says,

“Srikanth, you know I sit from 8 AM to 8 PM. Reply to all the mails and go. Do you think I need a Blackberry?”

I had a blank face. How should I respond to this? The other manager was busy on his BB. I decided to play safe and smile make it look like he was passing a snide remark on his colleague. (Evil Grin !!)

“See Sir, I am not telling you to not buy Blackberry. I am saying I am happy with this phone. I don’t need anything else.”

He was telling me all this as he didn’t want to say this to his colleagues. Smart fellow. I doubt if he knows what a Blackberry does.

“Ok Sir, You can go now. Come back with a detailed plan on how to move forward.”

“Yes Sir”

I walked away as quickly as I could from the cabin and the building. Clearly he was trying to show who is the boss. Koi nahi. Mera time bhi aayega. Phir dekhte hain kaun bada hero hai.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chaos over nothing?

Why all this fuss about a JanLokpal Bill? We already have enough bills and laws to protect us. The problem isnt the system completely, its us. Cmon people smell the coffee. If you are so against corruption then don’t show it by wearing T shirts or badges which say “India against corruption” or for that matter “I love Anna Hazare”. Start by doing small things. For example, next time don’t bribe the police guy, or learn stand in a line to submit forms in a government office. These small but effective changes if implemented by the citizens would be more effective than another bill. In India it’s the middle class that has to rise to the occasion. They are the ones who suffer the most and have the ability to change the system. The poor will continue to be oppressed and its easy for the political class to convince them by showering them with money. The rich don’t care about the government and who runs it as they are friends with everyone. This leaves the middle class with powers which are unknown to them. This power is enough to cause a change in the way India thinks and the way it runs. If every middle class Indian did simple things right, there would be no corruption in this country, no dishonest officials and no more fasts. Let this decade be the rise of the middle class, an honest uprising where we stick to the ideals which make this country great and a nation that we are proud of.

Monday, August 8, 2011

AP and China

Andhra Pradesh in India and China may well share something peculiar. I think there is a shared connection between AP’s Education System especially in high schools and the way Chinese mass produce goods. Andhra Pradesh is known for producing Engineering students by the cartloads and is also responsible for majority of the seats in premier institutes like IIT’s, NIT’s, BITS, etc… They have achieved this through carefully planned out teaching pedagogies where students become machines with an unimaginable ability to rote stuff. Concepts, Logics are put aside and the only objective is to obtain a good seat. Clearly AP has monopolized the Engineering stream and I don’t see any competitor close enough.

Coming to China, known for mass production and the ability to produce things cheap, they have become a global behemoth in manufacturing. You can see the similarity as one produces students and the other goods. Both share similar problems with respect to quality as AP students have been known to struggle once they enter Engineering colleges as it calls for systematic learning and understanding rather than memorization. The quality of Chinese goods is always questioned and every sub quality product is always labeled as a ‘chinese maal’ in India.

On a broader context, we can even compare the human rights issues. China has been known to abuse human rights and have tough labour laws and work conditions. It wouldn’t be completely wrong to call the way students are treated in AP as inhuman. Asking a student to study from 8AM to 8 PM with a few breaks in the middle to have lunch and tea is being insensitive and cold hearted. Ideally at this age students should have the right to play, explore the world and try and carve out a career for themselves.

I guess the solution to AP’s problems lies in better information being provided to parents and students regarding other career options. I guess the government will have to look at such education drives as this will help in getting a more varied pool of youth who would be better equipped to take the state forward rather than producing a million of the same kind. After all we are talking about people here not goods.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Last Week

Last week has been an eventful one for me. I have come across information privy to a few. A chance update on a popular social networking website has opened me to a world unknown. It is interesting how you appreciate a person without actually meeting him. I have learned a lot from just reading his blog. It once again has enforced within me that I am capable of starting something on my own. Passion driven business is something I aspire for. Ideation is currently in fever mode but nothing concrete has come out yet. Time is on my side.

I have also realized in the past week that human nature is difficult to predict. When you think you have understood someone completely, that person surprises you with a new development. Once again re emphasizes the point that you can never know anyone completely. Maybe it’s time I tell that person what I feel.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why am I living my life for others??

Every now and then I feel I am living for someone else. That’s not such a good thing when the other person gives a damn about you. I need to learn to say no and not care about hurting others feelings. I have started feeling alive in the past few months and have found a new zest for life. This speed breaker is not what I need. Just let it go buddy, let it all go. It was not right the first time and its not right now either.

On a side note I loved watching the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It taught me to enjoy every moment. It’s very rare that I watch a Hindi movie twice in a theatre. I hope this movie has come at the right time for me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dashed hopes

The day couldn't have begun any better. Got two fantastic ideas, something to keep the day from stalling. The sooner you think you have found your El Dorado, the faster it runs away from you. Maybe its a Mirage. Maybe I should not have chatted with her. But then again I would never have known the reality. It's great to fall once again, but rise I shall. A phoenix never accepts defeat. Sometimes things strike you late, sometimes they are too early, sometimes you dont know its the next big thing. You just need to keep waiting and fighting. The great Michael Jordan comes to the rescue,

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed"

Tomorrow is another day and I will be there.

Monday, July 18, 2011

India vs England

As India head to the Blighty, a mouth-watering treat awaits us. The big news coming from India is the lack of fitness of Sehwag and the possibility of him missing the 2nd test and the entire series perhaps, rumours floated by a much favoured Hindi channel in India. Sehwag being out of the first two tests might actually do good for India. He has never been known to be a great player of the swinging ball and all the more considering the fact that he hasn’t played since his IPL injury. The first two tests will be at Lords and Trent Bridge, two historic English venues where the cricket ball performs ballets and you can expect Anderson to be the chief orchestrator. In such conditions India would need more assured openers, someone who can let the new ball go through to the keeper. If the going gets tough, Gauti is always there to counterattack and keep the English bowlers from entering into a rhythm. Imagine Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman entering after a good platform, its Doomsday for the bowlers. The number 6 and 7 could be crucial positions for India in England. As it happens more often than not in foreign conditions, the top order packs up early on a seaming wicket and a rescue act has to be done. Dhoni will sleep well knowing that Raina and Laxman are in prime form and he himself is a tough nut to crack in difficult conditions.

Graeme Swann vs Harbhajan Singh has been the contest which people are looking forward to. It could turn out to be a dampner if Harbhajan forgets to flight the ball. Recent years has turned Bhajji from a wicket taking machine to a containing bowler, T20 Effect perhaps. Swann on the other hand has never been scared to flight the ball, he generates just enough drift to keep the batsman from using his feet and is capable of giving the ball a good tweak. The differentiating factor in favour of Harbhajan is the amount of top spin he is capable of generating and on good bouncy wickets he can be a handful.

I think Praveen Kumar can be a differentiating factor in England if Sreesanth doesn’t bowl to his capabilities. England haven’t seen Praveen and his ability to swing the ball late and both ways can be crucial. Plus he has an uncanny ability to pick wickets with ordinary deliveries.

Enough has been said about Strauss, Cook, Pietersen and their batting abilities but I believe India’s challenge lies in getting Trott and Bell out. Their batting techinques date back to a more orthodox and conservative style and they lack flamboyance and elegance which has been a hallmark of great English batsmen such as Gower or Atherton. Trott is self assured on the wicket, rarely plays a bad shot and is the go to man for England in a crisis. Ian Bell never gets a chance to show his worth by virtue of him batting lower down the order but there is a sense of grittiness about him which would irritate India if they manage to rip through the top order. Raina vs Bell should be another battle to look out for.

Man for Man, India looks better but on present form England might be up a notch considering they are playing at home and have played a good series against Sri Lanka. Cant wait for it to start.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A long way to go for Team India

Not so long ago, the Indian supporters would run with joy and celebrate the fact that we have won another test series that too in a foreign land. But Indian Cricket is not the same anymore. We have a bold captain leading a talented set of players who believe nothing is impossible. Considering this fact it was surprising that India chose to “Shut Shop”. 86 runs of 90 balls were required. A gettable target under easy batting conditions especially playing against moderately talented bowlers. This is a challenge which I believe the present Indian team has thrived upon in the past. Being the number 1 side in the world naturally raises expectations but even if we weren’t why would you want to throw away an opportunity to win a series 2-0. We boast of having the best T20 and ODI players in the world and surely less than run a ball is not a big ask. If India wants to stay on top then they need to develop the Killer Instinct and the hunger to win dead rubbers. Lack of innovative thinking from the bowlers allowed Fidel Edwards to “Setup Shop” in Dominica. Why do we always end up trying for Bouncers and Yorkers to get tail enders out. Everyone can bat nowadays, and its important sometimes to stick to bowling the ball in the right areas to even the lower order. It bodes well for Indian cricket that the press chose to criticize the fact that India didn’t flex their muscles in the chase. Imagine the chill down Strauss’s spine if we chased the target down. We would have had a psychological advantage in England considering the fact that our big guns weren’t available in WI.

In the end we played a dominant series and emerged victorious in all 3 formats. Well played Team India and Best wishes for England. You need all the wishes you can get. Continue making us proud.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A fresh new Djokovic

Novak Djokovic has always played under the shadow of Nadal and Federer, two of the greatest players in the Open Era. Little did he know that 2011 would turn his fortunes. The “Hand of God” is upon him and the Djoker has laughed his way to two Slams, the Australian Open and the Wimbledon. He has been in sublime form this year; forehands kissing the touchlines, backhands played at angles with a surgeon’s precision and aces at crucial points, hallmarks of a legend in the making. Here are some views of mine on how Djokovic has turned the tables on his opponents.

(1)Djokovic has always been someone who plays on flatter trajectories and likes hitting the ball at a ferocious pace but this year he has managed to hit the ball a lot deeper allowing him to put his opponents on the backfoot and take charge of the point. This is also the reason why the points are shorter with smaller rallies.

(2)There was an interesting stat in the Wimbledon Final which showed that Djokovic won 70% of the points on Nadal’s second serve. A direct corollary of this statistic is that once the point begins clearly Djokovic is the favourite to win it. Another pointer towards a better all round game.

(3)Fitness levels of Djokovic have improved considerably in 2011. There was a time when he had to pull out of matches sighting fatigue as the reason, (happened in Australian Open against Murray). He is more athletic now, anticipation levels have risen and you won’t be surprised to see him pull out some amazing points. The point against Nadal where Djokovic was on the baseline and reacted to Nadal’s drop with a cheetah like sprint and after reaching an impossible drop, he still managed to pass Nadal who was left watching like a policeman in the middle of the road.

(4)I have always noticed a direct correlation between a player’s backhand and the kind of form he is in. You would notice how Federer always messes the backhand, sometimes they end up in the crowd, on those rare occasions when he is out of touch. Nadal’s two fisted backhands which look like a frontfoot drive in cricket end up going long when things are not going his way. Djokovic has his own unique backhand, two fisted like nadal but with less spin imparted to the ball, which allows him to carve out angles and crosscourt winners. This aspect of Djokovic has been a delight to watch.

(5)Since Andre Agassi left the game, I believe there has been no better returner of serves than Djokovic. His closest competitor would be Murray with those long arms streched to meet any ball. Federer is lazy in chasing serves as he knows that once the ball is in play he would be the better player. Nadal puts the effort in reaching balls but the returns are on the slower side as they invariably have a lot of sidespin and topspin. The trademark of a great returner is the positioning on the baseline and the fleeting sideways movement which allows you to reach balls down the T and on the corners. Djokovic possesses both these skills and combined with his attitude, it adds up to a lethal combination.

We can continue to expect more chest thumping action from the Serbian in 2011 and he would do well to add to his titles given the form which he is in because “All good things must come to an end”.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Raina: India's Hussey?

Two dashing lefthanders, both indispensable members of their teams and possibly future captains of their countries. One started early whereas the other, in a true traditional Australian style, was brought in late. Both are heavy run getters and come from domestic teams which aren’t their country’s breeding grounds for talent. Not to forget, both play for the Super Kings and have been hugely responsible for their amazing success.

Hussey is renowned the world over for finishing matches with a plomp. He never sweats under pressure, shock absorber for Australia and rarely misses the plot. Raina seems to be following a similar path. He has truly become a trustworthy number 7. As a testimony to his prowess, He bailed India out twice in the World Cup against Australia and Pakistan with remarkable rear guard action considering the fact that he hadn’t played before that in the tournament. It also led Gary Kirsten to remark that it was Raina who had truly won the World Cup for India. A huge statement but a deserved one.

Limited overs are truly the forte of both players but their ability to play with the lower order has rubbed onto the Test arena as well. Hussey has had some remarkable partnerships with the tailenders; Jason Gillespie against Bangladesh comes to mind. The recent WI test comes to mind where Raina performed a rescue act with Harbhajan to save India. Another proof of how similar their game is.

Age is the competitive advantage which Raina has got over his counterpart. The India Australia series will be a spectacle between the two, as I am sure there would be countless situations where they would be called into action and who knows, they might even be asked to roll their arms over as they can be handy with their off spinners. Mouthwatering treats await us.

Hussey has proven his worth in Tests without any shadow of doubt. The England series could be the turning point in Raina’s career. Playing against the moving ball in helpful conditions will be a challenge he would never have encountered. I think he has got the skills in his repertoire to succeed in England and establish himself in this Indian test team. Raina along with Kohli and Gambhir hold the future of Indian Cricket.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Sometimes in Life situations look promising but the end seems so unfortunate. I have always felt my life has somehow been based on this philosophy. “So Close yet so far”. Hopefully this phase of life augurs better results. I have always cherished these two quotes from "The Alchemist", these lines put life in perspective;

(1)“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.”

(2)"People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don't deserve them, or that they'll be unable to achieve them."

I have always dreamt big in my life but never worked that much. I have returned a cropper so many times for various reasons. I believe someday I will get what I deserve in this life or the next. The last few words have been borrowed from the inspirational lines said by Russell Crowe in Gladiator.

I am embarking on a new mission, something which I have always wanted to do. I am seeing signs everywhere that I should follow it passionately. Hopefully my meeting with my Uncle and one of my good friends bodes well for the future. The last thing I want is to fail in this. I need to forget what I was and look at what I can be. I have all the equipment I need for this journey. Sometimes I doubt my passion, it leaves me when I want it the most. I need to cling to it like a monkey clings to its mother. Hopefully my learning’s from my previous encounters have made be battle ready and I already feel like a warrior.

The last few months have shown me the importance of freedom, both financially and personally. My last experience taught me the importance of stopping things at the right moment. There was no future in that direction and as any good strategy student would tell you, no point in wasting resources. There is no better gift than the identification of a lost cause when you see one. If it was meant to be, it would come back to you wherever you might be.

Its time to open the gifts with which I have entered the mortal world else generations to come would criticize me for being a coward in the face of never ending opportunities. I will end this note with another one of my favorite quotes once again from the eternal book “The Alchemist,

“Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him.”

I think I am close to finding my treasure. Godspeed

Monday, May 23, 2011

Last week in Politics

Whenever I come home, my Political genes get turned on. The last few days have seen monumental changes in the Indian political scenario amply demonstrated by the thrashing of the Left in Bengal. The Mamta Magic has finally worked and Left was left hoodwinked. They knew it was coming, and still they didnt take it well. 34 years have filled with them a false sense of arrogance and pride and the fall from the perchy tops to the ground (Ironically Trinamool means Grassroots) will be the toughest journey they will have made. It always has been a riddle to the best minds of our country has to how a government which has failed to deliver progress for decades still continues to be voted back to power. It's Customer Retention at its best. The stronghold they had over people using both mafia and money power overlived its existence and I think the Election Commission deserves a special mention in this regard. Whatever the outcome of the elections, the EC is a clear winner in all states. Having said this, Mamta has her task cutout. It wouldn't be wrong to say that Bengal might be behind Bihar in terms of development. She should take a leaf out of books of Nitish Kumar, Raman Singh etc...Balancing issues of Agriculture and Industrialization in a state dominated ny Naxal belts will be a monumental task and Mamta doesn't exactly have a track record of good governance keeping in mind the state of the Railways. One thing she has is the undivided love of the people who have given her a resounding mandate and here's hoping she is the answer to all of Bengal's problems.

I just love the way both Tamilnadu and Kerala vote. They give everyone a chance. This way parties are forced to work in those 5 years in the hope that they would get a second chance. South Indians by nature vote for a person more than the party. Thats why it is not unusual for parties to rope in filmstars for campaigning. The leader is always bigger than the party, and authoritarian rulers are common in south. In Tamilnadu, Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi are larger than life people. VS Achuthanandan showed his class by almost single handedly taking LDF to a victory. One thing about governments in South is that the parties might have different ideologies and manifestos but good governance is assured. Second thing is that people are hardworking and honest in nature and carry out their activities diligently thereby moving the economy irrespective of the government. The impact of these states is more at the centre as the assembly polls can dictate how the parliamentary seats would go which in turn would decide the nature of the coalitions at the centre.

Congress would be happy with the results of these elections as they have made gains in Kerala and West Bengal but they have a lot of trouble brewing in Andhra Pradesh. YS Jagan is all set to take Congress headon and given his popularity, his father's charisma and the symapthy wave flowing in AP, mid term elections could be a possibility. AP as a state has only gone backwards after the demise of YSR. There have been no major investments in the state; they lost out the VW plant to Chennai and the F1 Race circuit to Noida. There are issues of Land Allocations in Srikakulam which the centre has turned a blind eye to (Interestingly Rahul Gandhi has taken notice of the Noida land problems, probably due to the fact that elections are due in UP in 2012 and this is his way of getting political mileage). The long awaited Metro Rail project got postponed again due to issues of land allocation. To top it off we have a weak CM who is incapable of controlling his party factions. Usually congress as a party never projects a CM candidate in the state elections except AP where they have always had good leaders such as YSR, Chenna Reddy etc... The lack of a strong candidate is hurting Congress in Andhra. The state is headed for troubled times and this could have a huge impact on the centre as Congress has 33 seats from AP.

I think the next 6 months in Indian Politics will be interesting, watch out for these headlines

(1) 2G scam and other corruption cases will be in full steam by then.
(2) Problems in Andhra
(3) Noida Land Allocation issues
(4) DMK-Congress Alliance
(5) Progress in West Bengal (Mamta is more than capable of kicking the congress out of the coalition)
(6) BJP's problems in Karnataka
(7) Maoist problems in Chhattisgarh and Orissa
(8) Global issues of Pak-US conflicts, changes in the structure of UN, India-Africa Summit etc...

An Ode to a dear friend

It's not often that we get this amazing feeling of meeting someone and knowing that its going to last forever. By God's grace this happened to me when I came to India in 2001 and met this wonderful personality. He always came across as someone who knew what he wanted in Life. A rare gift to possess but he used it with great care. There was always this calmness and surety about him that you couldn't overlook. His face carried the same composure when he finally left us.

He was born to be an achiever but the "bad" fate had made other plans. It tore him apart like the careless wind that cuts away a flower in its prime. There were surely other more deserving targets which were of a greater burden to this earth. Good People die young is an oft quoted statement. He was surely better than the best.

The NFS duel's or the campaigns in AOE will forever be etched in my memory. I always knew there was a home for me half a kilometre from mine where I could go whenever I felt lonely or needed to talk to someone. He was forever welcoming in nature, helpful by design and a passionate friend. His love for Metallica and Rock Music was eternal and he could talk about it for hours. Those wonderful debates we used to have on the latest technologies. I will miss playing cricket at his home after college and then fighting over the result. I will miss going to movies with him and then knowing that he would be the one to drop me back home. I will miss his teasings about my kiddish attitude and he behaving as an elder brother to someone who is older than him.

Who will now teach me about Rock Music, Who will I talk and debate with and most importantly Who will now bring me back home. O God thou art most heartless and most merciless that you don't take good care of your children. RIP, My Friend, wherever you maybe, I am sure you are bringing countless joy to everyone like you gave us for 10 years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trip To Bishnupur

Tucked away in a corner of West Bengal is the quaint and charming town of Bishnupur. It's well known in the world for its Terracota Temples dedicated to various Gods and Goddesses. Indian Railways makes it an easily accessible place for tourists and history lovers with daily connections between Kolkata and Bishnupur.

The tour kicked of with a visit to Rasmancha. Unique in its architecture and said to be one of a kind in India, this pyramidal structure consists of concentric galleries which used to be full of images of Gods during olden times.

Here are more pictures of the Terracota temples at Bishnupur.

The picture below is one of my favorite. Have a look at the detailing of the images and engravings which have gone into the sculpting. Scenes from Indian Mythology have been depicted in a vivid fashion. A special thanks is in order to our friends at the Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) who have done an incredible job in helping us relive our glorious heritage.

Dalmadal Cannon (as shown below) was used by the Malla Kings of Bishnupur on the Maratha Invaders. It's 3.8 Metres long and has a muzzle of 29.2 cm. Imagine a Wrought Iron ball of 30 cm in diameter coming at you. Deadly !!

The most endearing part of the trip was the visit to a Baluchari Sari making centre. Baluchari is the most well known Bengali Silk Sari and along with its more Illustrious cousin, Swarnachari (made using golden threads) are the two important weaving techniques of Bengal.
The effort which goes into the design and production of a Baluchari can be well understood by the fact that it takes close to 112 hours to produce one Sari.

The final output turns out something like this, simply exquisite.

A nice piece of history to end this post. We Indians love romanticizing things :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

India More Than Just a Country !

A first attempt at a poem by my brother.

from Kashmir to Kanyakumari
from the bungalows of Juhu to the slums in Dharavi
from BMW to a cycle rickshaw
from a billionaire to a commoner
the place for everyone,
India,more than just a country!

from Gandhi to Lalu Prasad
from Jinnah to Nehru
from Tendulkar to Amitabh
we've had them all,
India,more than just a country!

from Tirupathi to Jama Masjid
from Ganges to Godavari
from floods to drought
from the snowy himalayas to the dry Thar Desert
My country has it all,
India,more than just a country!

from partition to kargil
from Kandahar to 26/11
from 2G to tehelka
from hawala to Underworld
The country has experienced and dealt with it all,
India,more than just a country.

Let me bask in her glory
let me experience life as it is nowhere
let me live the real life
God !,thank you for my Country,
India,more than just a country, A way of Life !

Sunday, January 2, 2011

From a father to a son with love....

"You have always been an underachiever"

"You enjoy other people's success more than they do"

"I cannot believe you are born to me"

"Don't know why God gives so much talent to people who don't know how to make use of them"

"The people who are your true friends are those who criticize you"

"I have sacrificed my life for you in vain"

"People who are inferior to you have gone ahead and you are sitting and laughing. Shameless fellow"