Sunday, November 18, 2012

FDI in retail..are we looking at the wrong problem?

I do feel concerned about our retail markets, should MNC giants enter the India market and drive consumers away from small retailers. Increasing ownership stakes and easing entry will only compound this issue. Surely, one would question the TRUE REAL need for allowing MNC giants free entry in our markets. Its not as if we have a badly shaped retail system, or that the demand market isnt organized. Both these components are sound, well established and abundant. In fact, it is this domestic system- domestic demand and supply- that were the main drivers behind India's strong survival and emergence through the 2008 sub prime recession. Questions therefore are warranted. Why would we like to disrupt this amazing ecology by bringing in foreign players, take away jobs of millions of retailers, increase inflation tendancies, and lose the tightly bound local control? 

But there are some fundamental facts also, that need to be looked at, in the way they exist in India. By nature, a walmart is not competition to the local provision store or retailer. Instead, a walmart or tesco, with their big department stores and walkins, shopping carts, bill counters, sections, and ofcourse, low prices, are more similar to the likes of Big Bazaar, Magnet, Reliance mall etc. The fundamental nature of such a business model is bulk purchase- high volumes, low prices and less frequency of buying. Consequently, I believe this is not a big major shift in the India buying and retail patterns. The likes of BigBazaar, Magnet etc already exist in good tandem with local retail, and such business models and purchasing trends are already in place. If anything, therefore, i'd think its these big retail malls that need to be more cautious and wary of MNCs than the smaller retailers should be. Plus, the nature of buying at a small retail store is more frequent, trigerred by the mandatory short value purchases either over phone, or by a quick walkin. Walmart, or tesco or magnet, this will never really change or go down with time. 

Ofcourse, this is not to mention the retail sector will not be impacted at all. In fact, it is really difficult to predict exactly how much the entry of a particular segment can impact the incumbents, unless that really happens. And, in a huge huge country like ours with such diversity and complexity, it is futile to conclude anything at this stage. FDI in retail does bring out concerns, but it also brings with it, due investments, better products, choice and health in the system. And lets not forget the incremental benefits it promises to bring in to our farmers by way of providing more buying choice/buyers for their products.

What concerns me though, for our retailers,is not the FDI, but things that happen on the ground..Cheaply imported sub-standard goods have been flooding our markets since a long time ago.. On every festive occasion, we see such goods flooding our markets and affecting business of local retailers,,,Not just here, even on an everyday basis, we need a system where our retailers at the smallest level get good values for their products...And frankly, I dont believe FDI can impact this any more negatively or positively. Lets give that a try, but lets also look at the real problems on the ground. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thank God- for them, and for you

Here are 4 people, I thank God for...

1) Vidya Balan: The hindi movie industry today has 2 parts to it- the first part is the semi-porn industry that features the serial kisser club. These movies, and the ensuing success represent the sheer sleaze that we crave for as audience. The other part of the industry is the ridiculous movies, the noise, the various re-makes, and absolutely every other piece of nonsense that is churned out as a movie to get the audience in. Somewhere in between the two lies Vidya Balan, the one person club. In an industry where linkups, cat fights and famous boyfriends dominate, Vidya Balan represents a wonderful change, a lovely breath of fresh air. Never one in controversy, common media hype, never one to be spotted in famous parties or camps that dominate her work universe, movie after movie after movie,Vidya reporesents the much forgotten adage- do good and move on to do more good. She remains the single sane element today in this industry

2) Yuvraj Singh: In a team that consists primarily of T20 products, Yuvraj Singh (along possibly with Zaheer Khan and Sehwag) is the last player from the Ganguly era- an era that knew cricket as a sport where winning mattered the most, when passion and aggression meant looking the stronger opponent in the eye and giving a tit for a tat. Yuvraj Singh's return, and hopefully a longer stay, from a sucessful fight against cancer (that personifies him erstwhile), is just the best thing to happen to our team right now. Apart from the sheer talent and gut that he brings along, he represents a nice classic school change to the IPL infatuated generation today- a generation that is increasingly looking at cricket as a money making career rather than as a sport they are passionate for. Everyone remembers the six that Dhoni hit over the long on off the last ball to win us the cup. But fortunately, what everyone also remembers is that Yuvraj Singh had consistently performed throughout the tourney, both with the bat and the ball. The only difference between him and the other legend of the game, Dravid, is that in donning the multiple hat, Dravid kept wickets in 2003, while Yuvraj Singh bowled in 2011. Thank God this new generation legend has survived, and pray to God he will continue to stay on the field for some more time. 

3) Amitabh Bachchan: No one took the screen so much by storm. And I am referring to the small screen, not the big screen where he was, is and will remain king. The whole thing about Amitabh Bachchan is simple- humility, modesty and connect, are the most effective and instant ways to charm the audience. In the TV sphere of today, where someone's misery is sold off as breaking news, undeserving people are rewarded with reality shows, young boys and girls spend more time waiting in a queue for an audition rather in the queue for educational admission, and where lust and sex, not love, are found instantly in TV shows, Amitabh Bachchan with his sincere earnest, happiness, humility, and the best of them all, speech, represents a mirage in the desert. To me, his offscreen person and conduct always matched his onscreen charm and acts. Thank God for this one, he has taught so many things to so many generations. 

4) Ganpati Bappa: Says Bappa "If the above 3 dont solve your problems, I will". The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi has always romanced the spirit of Mumbai. The 10 days of Ganpati are filled with colours, lights, fun, sound, and a general goodness and positivity. It just feels so good to prepare for Bappa, welcome him, to see him off till the next year, and to worship him till then. Thank God for himself!!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Signing off 20s...

 I am about 2.5 hrs from turning 30!!! Yes, 30!!!! i don't  know what to jot down....i only know blogs are supposed to provide a medium to express what you feel or think...20s was super,,,last year was especially amazing!! i got married!! things have settled ,,,life is on a different plane..

i am not going to write more here... just wanted to record this moment, while i am still 29!!! i only wanted to express my feeling that i am turning 30!! super...thats a different domain, senior domain,,and looks so much fun!!

cheers...good bye 20s..... 30s, here i come!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rain rain, please don't go away

Dear Rain Gods,

There is little difference between the mood in my country today, and what we generally call 'filth'. As I write to you, Team Anna has shut shop for reasons known only to you. As I write to you, our olympic teams have lost another stab at a medal and some more money has been siphoned off somewhere.

Last month was a bad month, where all the negative benchmarks and levels were crossed. Assam was burning in riots and drowning in floods. The whole of North India and 30% of the population were subjected to power failure for 5 to 6 hrs on end. Life was badly disrupted, to say the least. 

Inflation is at an all time high and your absence isnt helping anything. Rupee levels are dismally low and that has made life miserable. Our farmers continue to commit suicide after after finally succumbing to the pressure of huge loans they cannot repay. Population, pollution and corruption continue to remain loyal to us

Shitty movies, tv shows and shitty people continue to mint money. There is absolutely no substance in the gazillion things that are churned out today. TV, internet and radio all have more ads, many more ads and absolutely very little substance. And of whatever is actually shown, 89.9 % is garble. 

And in all of this bad news, the one thing that could have cheered (and resolved most of these issues), is missing. Rains! Every year, after burning and sweating it out in the hot may summer, India waits for the rains with bated breath. The first time when it rains, around the 7th of june, the heat takes a backseat and the air becomes sweet. Lovely drops of water settle down on grass blades,on tress, on the windows, and on the ground. Things become so much clearer, so much better, the air becomes so quiet, cool and bearable. Birds, animals seem to suddenly become so peaceful. For once, the sound of frogs is tolerable, and brings with it,the signs of good times ahead. Office travels become much more difficult, yet so much more pleasant. A trip from Mumbai to Pune is no longer just that. It is a lovely journey that passess through the lush green hills of the khandala valley. 

And to top all of this, the lakes start smiling. Having been made to overwork, tire and slowly shrink, the lakes themselves are parched to the point of disappearance than humans are. Hitherto dry river banks start swinging and make for such pretty sight. In all of this, man is at the receiving end of all your blessings. The problems of food, water, heat are taken care of for one more year. For one time, although window seats in trains are empty because they are so wet, i love travelling by train. I know this is temporary but much needed, for the rain Gods are taking care of me.

But this year, you havent blessed us as much. The negativity in the air is not so much due to human intervention as it is due to your non-intervention. Man knows, but does not realize, that he has so much blame himself for your absence progressively every year. Yet, in his whole daily business of "going about things as usual", he does not realize how much he needs you.

How much he needs you this year, more than anytime else, India needs you dear rain God. Please come down and bless us. We need you, not so much for the water, but for all garble we have created since you last left us. We need you to come and help us clear this mental filth. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

The power of incrementality

Small things make a big difference. But sometimes, they dont. Size does matter, calories do matter, but sometimes they dont. 

The rainy season always brings in more troubles and issues, and consequently, newer solutions. The most common NEW solution amongst all is the LONGER-BUT-HAS-LESS-TRAFFIC-AND-IS-LESS-TROUBLING-ROAD that we take to avoid peak traffic jams in the rains.Essentially, we opt for the longer route because it will have less traffic, less potholes and therefore will be a better ride. And in doing that, inevitably, we think about how much EXTRA fuel we consume and how it affects our budget for that month..Don't tell me we dont think about it coz we do. In doing so, and in fretting about the extra fuel, we forget a couple of things. First, the amount of  extra (INCREMENTAL) fuel that we spend, is too negligible when compared to the total fuel we have spent in the entire trip. Yes it costs us a little more, but just a LITTLE more. Secondly, and more importantly, we forget the peace of mind it gives us in avoiding all the traffic, potholes, and in reaching the destination on time. Small may not make a big difference after all.

Take another instance when  EXTRA, MORE, or LESS hardly matter. Those who are regulars at the gym know that obsession with the treadmill and handling that obsession well is the single biggest factor in determining  the effectiveness of the workout. A treadmill of about 20 mins helps us shed around 250 cals. Now, I know people who fret over the extra 1 minute or the less 5 calories. If such a person tread for 19 mins, he is bound to fret about the fact that he will lose less calories. Less how many? Lets find out. When we hope on the treadmill, the first and last minute lose less calories, since the body is either warming up or is cooling down, respecively. Typicall, one loses about 7 calories in each of these 2 minutes, and about 230 calories in the next 18 minutes, a little over 12 calories per minute. Therefore, by not working in the last minute, the person saves only 7 calories, or about 3% of the total 250 calories!! Why fret for the one minute  when you have burnt 243 calories anyway??? Why fret for 3%??

Now, let us take look at situations when small indeed is big..

The best example of small things giving rise to big ones is the case of a savings bank account or of a recurring deposit. With small amounts deducted each month, a recurring deposit hardly does any harm for the time period. However, at the time of maturity, the big lumsum comes as a pleasant surprise, much like an oasis in a desert,  or as a wave of fresh air in a crowded place. Good example of small things making a difference.

In another instance, consider the case of income tax. When you dont pay taxes on time, and delay them, you incur a fine. If for some reason tax is not deducted at source, but if you are eligible to pay tax, then you will have to pay it all at once, at the end of the year. This is so much worse than paying much smaller TDS amounts every month. The same holds true for credit card and other bills. This is a classic case of size mattering.

So whats the point? Incrementality matters. Even when it does not matter, incrementality matters. There is much power in breaking down values into smaller increments, and then comparing these increments with the overall value. Doing so helps us make a better and informed decesion, and in all likelihood, reduces the pain of that decesion if it has to hit us hard. There is much value in analyzing the power of incrementality.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


 It wasnt raining so much today. Yet, there was toooo much traffic on the road. I did leave later than usual, but not so late so as to be stuck in a bad traffic jam, that caused me to reach office by almost half an hour!! And as Murphy's law said, once something goes wrong, others will too. Sure enuf, today hasnt been a good day at office either...lts just end it there :(

On my way back from office, after a terrible day that began late and ended late, I was once again stuck in traffic. This time, at a long signal, i kept wondering why life was being so unfair. And thats when, something struck me. Just before leaving office this morning, I DID NOT say bye bye to mom. I was in too much hurry and rushed out of the door 20 mins later than usual. Saying bye to mom is something i do everyday. Would there be any relation, AT ALL, between that and the terrible day today?

Naah. Its just a coincidence that on the one day i dont say bye to mom, i have a bad day in a long time. I mean, how does the traffic on the road have anything to do with my mom? Even if i had said bye to her, there would have been as many cars on the road, and the traffic would have been as bad. Things at work would have been as bad as they were. They are independent from what happens at home.

Or are they?

I always wonder how we commonly follow some things under the pretext of belief, rather than of superstition- fasting on certain days, avoiding non-vegetarian on some days, going to the place of worship, praying every morning, following some particular trait that in the hindight, make no sense. I must be honest, every time I see a cat walk across me, i exclaim SOMETHING. I either curse the cat, or i cringe with a "Damn!!" or I do something else that indicates negativity around it. And yet, nothing good or bad has happened before or after that. I also wonder, what would happen if we FAIL to do one or more of the above. How about eating not fasting this time? not praying on a certain day? How about taking it HEAD-ON. See what happens?????

I know I have tried and found it pretty DIFFICULT. Its just too hard to not exclaim or even THINK when a cat crosses by. As educated as i am, i am always aware of the cat. As educated as someone else is, they continue to do their routine. I am not judging or indicating that these are bad or unnecessary things. A lot of people do it our of respect, out of habit or simply because they've been told that that is what is to be done.

But at the hear of it all, isnt it all really superstition? Would terrible things really happen if we didnt do these things once? Would the respect come down in any manner? Would the Gods be affected in any manner if we didnt fast for a day? I know i say bye to mom not out of superstition, but out of personal liking. Is murphys law actually a science-loving-belief-hating version of what is truely superstition? or is superstition a belief-loving-science-hating version of what is actually murphy's law? i.e- whats gonna happen, WILL happen.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Aisa hi hai zindagi ka khel

Aisa hi hai is zindagi ka khel,
Tere haath mein chanaa, mere haath mein bhel
Salary agar badhi toh hoga khooshiyon hi khooshiyaan,
Varna aankhon par patti bandhe, stand in front of the rail

Aisa hi hai is zindagi ka khel,
Begunaah ghum rahe aazad, bekasoor languishing in jail...
Pakde bhi gaye toh no worries for them,
Aaj nahin toh kal mil hi jaayegi bail.

Aisa hi hai is zindagi ka khel,
Exam mein kabhi, there is no option to fail,
Hameshaa lead karna hai, rehna hai aage,
It is always considered bad, if you are the tail.

Aisa hi hai is zindagi ka khel,
Kuch bhi ho jaaye, we want everything on sale,
paise bachaane ko, bus aur train mein sadte hue safar toh karein,
par weekend pe 200 Rs. ki picture dekhne kabhi na honge fail.

Aisa hi hai is zindagi ka khel,
nahi sakte hum for meeting purposes, traveling ko jhel
Therefore, shortcut and virtual ho gayee hai zindagi,
its all about Whatsapp, Facebook, chat and email..

Aisa hi hai is zindagi ka khel,
land ki bhook mein gandey ho gaye hum tooth and nail,
expansiion ki chakkar mein animals ko karte gaye samaapt,
be it tigers, birds, crows ya fir whale...

Aisa hi hai is zindagi ka khel,
many people are trying but barely managing to sail,
Zindagi ho gayee hai sasti, jeena ho gaya expensive,
Koi bhi nahi raha ab, hearty and hale.