22 January 2010

"Twenty20" by Lalit Modi

In spite of various divisive factors created by politics and religion, cricket has always been a unifying factor between India and Pakistan.

Players from Pakistan are heroes in India as well. In a match in Chennai, when Pakistan won by high quality cricket, the Indian crowd gave them a standing ovation. Likewise, Indian players, and spectators, have received warm reception in Pakistan as well.

Cab drivers (from Pakistan) in Dubai/Sharjah have teased me about a match the Indian team lost to Pakistan; but the tone and tenor was always friendly.

Twenty20 represents the best in business. I liked the odd moment when the Calcutta crowd cheered Shoaib Aktar (playing for Calcutta but hailing from Pakistan) when he took the wicket of a star Indian batsman (playing for a different club) and son of the soil Saurav Ganguly hugged Shoaib and encouraged him to do more! That promised hope for the future.

Twenty20 represents a brilliant economic idea. It cannot afford to ignore high quality players. Players from Pakistan represent high quality. Boycotting players from Pakistan would reduce IPL's brand image as "best of breed".

We need to reject the enemity that radicals in Pakistan nurture against India. We should not reject the people of Pakistan; or its excellent cricket stars.

Silly business idea. Poor political strategy.

16 January 2010

"Interview with Eugene Fama" by John Cassidy in The New Yorker

Some books have a big impact on your life.  You tend to read them more than once.  You tend to read them again after a decade. 

For me, Louis Fischer’s Gandhi was one; Ramachandra Guha's India after Gandhi was another.  

“Finance Management and Policy” by James C Van Horne was a "big impact" book.

I subscribed to its value system fully and willingly. That the objective of an enterprise is to maximize shareholder wealth seemed rational (then and now).

Particularly appealing in the book was Eugene Fama’s assertion that the share price incorporates all known factors about the economic fundamentals of the stock (and therefore the enterprise).  For an aspiring young professional, Eugene Fama appeared insightful and reasonable then. With time and experience, that conviction is diluted. Exuberance and fear do have an impact on asset price; on occasions probably in excess.

Eugene Fama does not seem to have understood that yet; and disappointed me three days back in this interview with John Cassidy published in The New Yorker.  It was reasonless identity with an ideology in the face of a reality that differs significantly! Only the Papal inquisition of Galileo exceeds this in absurdity!

Finance shall await a better messiah with more heart than brain; and more reason than belief to explain why the price of an economic asset may not always reflect just the economic fundamentals and why investors should be wary about asset price bubbles!

14 January 2010

"Pongal eclipse" by Repute Infotech

Three miracles fascinate us in perpetuity:  the Universe, birth of a child and death. 

My fascination with the sky started early.  On a solar eclipse day four decades back, my grandmother told me fascinating stories handed to her by her ancestors on how the snake tries to eat the sun; could not handle it and unsuccessfully gorges out after a while.  For a young boy, the spectacle of a snake trying to eat the sun was more enjoyable (and therefore accepted) than my dad’s explanation of planetary motions in the solar system, shadows cast, views blocked and rare ability to observe stuff denied observation otherwise.

My dad and I viewed the eclipse through “soot layered glass” and “black and white film negative” (the glass is certainly not recommended; the negative is probably not recommendable).  I could see the eclipsed sun but was quite disappointed to not see the snake!

Several years later, as a young professional (with astronomy as a rewarding hobby that got me an exchange student scholarship to the United States) I saw the eclipse in a more scientific environment (using a pair of binoculars to get the sun focused on a white board; do not see directly the sun through binoculars or telescope) with brilliant clarity.

We have since graduated to using a Meade Telescope on an equatorial mount that moves just to compensate for earth’s movement and “locates and auto tracks” over 10,000 celestial bodies (and some made by man).

None can beat the experience my wife and I had with our naked eye in a recent Dubai Desert Safari.  After the exciting drive over the dunes, a camel ride, a colorless belly dancing and a tasteless Arabic dinner, somewhere in the middle of the desert, they switched off all lights for 15 minutes and asked us to look at the sky.  We saw millions of stars where a countable few existed just a few minutes earlier.

Losing “touch” with the sky is a big price we pay for lighting up our nights.

On 15 Jan South India (and a few other places from coastal Africa to southern China) would witness a rare annular eclipse (the moon would be right within the sun’s disc leaving a thin ring all round) known as “Kangana gragam” (Bangle eclipse) in Sanskrit.

www.PongalEclipse.com  (brought to you by a Repute Infotech, a business enterprise in my neighborhood in Chennai) provides information about the eclipse in a truly informative and exciting way.  The animation about the progress of moon’s shadow on earth’s surface over time makes it easy to understand.

A long while back an Arab boss of mine (thank you Hikmat Dandan) suggested I should “see with my heart” and not just “with my eyes” when we had a significant disagreement on a strategic issue.  One can twist that to "see with your brain" and not just with your "heart and eyes".  You can see the eclipse with your brain at this site.

Make sure your kids enjoy the eclipse and the site.