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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Key Learnings from Breakout Nations

All Thanks to Ruchir Sharma for his splendid book : Breakout Nations.

1) The old rule of forecasting was to make as many forecasts as possible and publicize the ones you got right. The new rule is to forecast so far into the future that no one will know that you got it wrong.

2) Goodhart's Law (Coined by former Bank of England, adviser Charles Goodhart) : Once an economic indicator get too popular, it loses its predictive value.

3) It is said that it takes money to make money, but for nations to grow rapidly it is much easier to be poor - the poorer, the better.

4) Typically it is difficult for any nation to expand the manufacturing share of its labor force much beyond 20 % , and China is already at around 23%.

5) "Low context", in contrast describes societies like United States and Germany in which people are individual oriented, care about privacy and more likely to stick to timelines and their word. Both India and Brazil are "high-context" societies, a term popularized by the anthropologist Edward Hall. It describes cultures in which people are colorful, noisy, quick to make promises that cannot always be relied on, and a bit too casual about meeting times and deadlines. These societies also tend to be particularly family-oriented, with tight relationships even beyond the immediate family, based on close ties that are built over long periods of time. In an environment this familiar, there is a lot that goes unsaid — or is said very briefly — because values are deeply shared. By the same token, much is implicitly understood from context. The spoken word is often flowery and vague. Apologies are long and formal. In that regard, Indians and Brazilians are a lot more like Italians than, say, Germans.

6) There are three layers of life in India : the increasingly cosmopolitan cities, the faceless towns and often the desperate villages.

7) Demographers traditionally expected customers to start asking for non essential "aspirational" goods like deodorant and hair conditioner only after they entered middle class.

8) The commodity windfall is fun while it lasts, but it also carries seeds of its own destruction

9) They say money talks and wealth whispers but in Moscow wealth dances on the bar.

10) A rich country need to make rich things to keep growing.

11) In the 1980s the late Vaclav Havel, at that time only dissident Czech writer, put the call to counter revolution well; he wrote that people living under Communism yearned for a normal life, free from communist call of 'permanent revolution', the unceasing efforts to turn themselves into model socialists.

12) Local authorities will start competing for growing pot of investment dollar by lowering prices of bribes and tips. Since the bribes collected locally are spent locally, the decentralization of corruption tilts the upside of even ill gotten gains away from Jakarta.

13) When everyone's a victim, its wonder anyone ever had the confidence to invest in the economy.

14) The basic idea that rich foreigners are always first to run in crisis is widely accepted. The truth is that the first to flee are most often the well positioned insiders.

15) To take the pulse of the global economy, look in Seoul. The numbers are fast, accurate and reliable.

16) At a certain point, when an apparently unconventional approach is working, you have to rethink the conventions, not the approach.

17) The Korean experience backs up the argument that the strongest corporate model is family owned but publicly traded and professionally managed. The family gives the company an inherent focus on the long run, while selling stock on the open market forces the family to keep the books clean, to put experts in charge of day to day operations , and to keep the loopy cousins out of the corner offices.

18) Some times it appear that South Korea has cultural blindness to the value of the services.

19) At zero on Gini scale everyone has same income, and and at 1, just one has all the income.

20) But moderation while preferable to chaos, is no longer in the post crisis global environment of less easy money and tougher competition.

21) Most workers in the informal sector have learned to live with what they have, and learned to live with quite little.

22) The arbitrary management of arbitrary rules is hardly the main risk in the fourth world frontier.

23) Markets are especially bad at foreseeing the financial implication of the war and hey are also weak at recognizing the benefits of peace.

24) The future must be decided based on what works, not on the ideological debates that retarded SriLanka's growth for so long.

25) Political systems don't impact growth for better or worse; political leaders do.

26) Even a small dose of market logic can produce dramatic results in a backward communist state.

27) A general rule for spotting credit bubbles is that if bank lending expands by more than 20 percent a year for five straight years.

28) Sometimes just modest reform or the arrival of a dynamic new leader can unleash growth, particularly in the frontier market.

29) The later a nation develops, the more opportunity it has to learn from nations that came before, and to leapfrog entire development steps in the process.

30 )Saying anything outrageous is considered a badge of merit among leaders on the frontier market.

31) The first rule for a successful oil state is :"Thou shalt not steal."

32) No bubble is a good bubble, all leave some level of misery in their wakes.

33) Cheap money policies also tend to fuel what the research firm GaveKal Dragonomics has aptly called "the worst kind of bubbles", because zero interest rates encourage investors to pile into assets that are priced on scarcity (gold, fine wines, collectibles, trophy properties), not on productivity (tech, machine tools, ships). When bubble pops the capital is simply destroyed and society is left with no more gold diamonds or fine wines than when it started. Atleast the tech bubble helped wire the world and left behind a whole new range of Internet tools and services, which have grown more valuable since.

34) The author George Goodman , best known by his pseudonym, Adam Smith, captured the closing moments of all manias perfectly in his book The Money Game, written at the height of a market boom in 1967 : "We are at a wonderful party, and by rules of game we know that at some point in time the Black Horsemen will burst through the great terrace doors to cut down the revelers; those who leave early may be saved , but the music and wines are so seductive that we do not want to leave, but we do ask, 'What time is it? What time is it?' Only none of the clocks have any hands.

35) George Orwell once observed, “Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.”

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Development in a Trimester of rural management - 4

An IRMA Prof. Arunathan always ask a very profound question on poor and rural managers : “Why we are here and why they are there?” There must a greater emphasis on individuality and questioning the status quo in very academic program. Continuing from the 3rd part of the Development series in RM , I will move towards the 4th part of the learning in the field of Rural Management. Here in 10 points what I learnt in last 3 months:

1 - RM student could barely handle the stress when the pile of assignments came to them. They devolve from sensible students to the frenzy morons looking for their grades.

2 - The exposure to the American just do-it culture can produce entrepreneurs rather than a MBA degree. MBA is only as mandatory prestige tag for sure success in industry.

3 - Everything that we do, revolves around the singular concept of landing up with a great job. And the fact is no matter what we do, we will end up with a decent enough job in a corporate environment.

4 - Marketing is not expensive, merely frightening. The best way to learn marketing is to do marketing. It require talked to people of different temperaments at their mental level.

5 - When bulls fight, crops suffer. Such is the politics of professors and college administration.

6 - Donor mentality in reconstructing lives of poor can have a loophole that poor may become accustomed to depending on foreign aid.

7 - Business is not a science that can be learnt from textbook but it can be absorbed a little a time and learning process can go on infinitely. The encounters with men/women of different attitudes and bargaining power provides one an insight of the crux of the business. And same holds true for tracking companies and market with much more complex business ecosystem around them.

8 - Today our villages are languishing due to the lack of – political will, availability of resources and most importantly abject neglect by the intellectual capital of the country. In words of Arvind Kejriwal: All the government schemes are made in Delhi where one Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, a non-elected representative, makes schemes and allots Rs 30,000 crore to implement them across the villages of the country. The needs of each village are different from the other.

9 - When a society boast about how glorious they have been in the past, it is an open indication of how defensive they are currently in their mindset. Such is the scenario of Indian society. And only exposure to real-life data helps students of this society in being better prepared in their professional careers.

10 - To be poor is to be denied the opportunity to participate in social, economic, and cultural transactions. Poverty is not created and recreated in a social vacuum; it is produced and reproduced through practices that are both relational and unequal. Lack of tenurial security and lack of appropriate development inputs are among the reasons why Naxalism has spread so much in the country.

There is a great anecdote by Prof Arunn that must be embraced for life - During my Ph. D. days a decade back, I met in a conference, one of the original thinker and top performers in my domain of research (heat transfer); over a bar conversation, I was about to excitedly explain an idea that I 'planned to work' and he gently patted me to silence in mid-breath; Arunn, don't tell me what you 'plan to work', work; and publish; and I will know what you did. That response (from a 'gentle giant' with more than 600 papers and 10 books and one of the 100 highly cited authors in mechanical engineering) was a 'slap of advice' that is indelible. It helps now and then to keep oneself busy.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Poetry of Protest - 3

When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. - Thomas Jefferson

Continuing from the series of Poetry of Protest Part 1 and Part 2, we are looking more in the power of protest. Protest is a sign of repression to overlook voice of love, reason and critical criticism. Looking for the identity, dignity, autonomy and culture in current scenario across globe, the inertia of the tradition can only be resisted by individuals of great integrity and confidence. Out of disobedience one starts being an individual.

We live in a arbit society where pregnancies, marriages and divorces of D-type celebrities became the national news but there comes a threshold where the public's right to be informed on the matters like naxalism and corruption takes back seats.With the loss of confidence, the capacity of outrage goes. We are living in the ages where even speaking against Sachin Tandulkar, Shivaji Maharaja and Dr. Ambedkar is considered sin leave aside deemed demigods. The one sided movement of striking a balance between freedom of speech and respecting cultural sensitivities has been a waste effort. History of liberty has preceded repressive culture and will survive them.

Most well-meaning citizens are alienated from the horrible plight of the exploitation, displacement and dispossession region. Even our outraged is selective as eloquently put by Shivam Vij - The Muslims are outraged by Satanic Verses and the Hindus by MF Husain's paintings and the Dalits by an Ambedkar cartoon and in each case we end up with censorship rather than freedom. We choose whose freedom we want to support. We are selective in our support and in our outrage.

How much of our past must we abandon? How much of present is worth carrying forward ? And where is our golden age lying.. in the past or in future.. surely not present with its complex realities. Not everyone can theoretically understand the complex reality but few has undeniable ability to put this in lyrics. To be logical is never meant to be right. That is why we all love poetry as this is full of emotion even playing with words for this. Only poets can write with an invisible, polite, but absolute aura that appeal to our irrational mind. Spirit of poets transcends the fabric of time, spreads through their best and worst times of the civilization. And they will always present to create an unanswerable dilemma for the powerful elders of a community. What people cannot ask and talk with each other, they will google secretly. They will inquire into the origins of power with an audacity of hope.

No repressed individual can be creative. I may sound radical but Pussy Riot's punk prayer or the rap of Afro-American is sign of pure protest poetry against their social and political regime. Even the time of bollywood's pop patriotism is gone with upcoming of new generation. We will track down every bit of words written by Gorakh Pandey, Baba Nagarjun, Muktibodh, Gaddar, Nirala and Dhoomil against our state because great literature rarely goes into oblivion.

1- Poets of Protest : This series delves into the soul of the Middle East with intimate profiles of poets who seek to interpret and inspire.

2- The poetry of revolution : Tunisia's uprisings were started neither by political action nor a military coup, but by a regime of banners and chants.

3- Only people who are very intelligent and very unhappy can write good poems. Poet's ability to shut off their part of the mind even while the world is in turn-moil. This mean that poet had no more connection with the present. The poet seek solace with in the past or future like a ghost.Such a heavy price for a piece of art. Only the purest poet like dervish allow poems in their heart at the time of their revolution. - Orhan Pamuk through Poet 'KA' in Snow.

Sometimes, I crib too much and behave like cynic. Yet, somehow I always feel inside that a voice of protest is more essential than being indifferent and ignorant to the whole scenario. Thanks to Annie Zaidi for quoting a great anecdote supporting my gut feeling from an article written by one of my favorite journalist Johann Hari :  "In 1966, the specialists at the Pentagon went to US President Lyndon Johnson – a thug prone to threatening to “crush” entire elected governments – with a plan to end the Vietnam War: nuke the country. They “proved”, using their computer modeling, that a nuclear attack would “save lives.” It was a plan that might well have appealed to him. But Johnson pointed out the window, towards the hoardes of protesters, and said: “I have one more problem for your computer. Will you feed into it how long it will take 500,000 angry Americans to climb the White House wall out there and lynch their President?” He knew that there would be a cost – in protest and democratic revolt – that made that cruelty too great. In 1970, the same plan was presented to Richard Nixon – and we now know from the declassified documents that the biggest protests ever against the war made him decide he couldn't do it. Those protesters went home from those protests believing they had failed – but they had succeeded in preventing a nuclear war. They thought they were impotent, just as so many of us do – but they really had power beyond their dreams to stop a nightmare."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Attention Deficiency

Attention span refers to the amount of time we can focus on a task before we start to "zone out". Due to boom of the social media, the average attention span has dropped from 12 minutes to a staggeringly short 5 minutes. People’s attention spans are much shorter now as their interests have moved on to sports, technology and fashion. The attitude of our younger generation has changed so rapidly with the introduction of Twitter and Facebook. Even then social media can't be blamed entirely as knowledge accumulates to people who read Wikipedia on screen that to those who mush their brains with Twilight on paper.

“According to UNESCO, the biggest single indicator of whether a child is going to thrive at school and in work is whether or not they read for pleasure.” Growing numbers of children are being turned off books by the end of primary school because of the influence of the internet and lack of reading in the home, according to research. I don't vouch for the American children but I am personally having a lot of problem in concentrating. Usage of Internet and unorganized lifestyle can be attributed as one of the reason to this. May be I have Attention deficit disorder in low amount.

Paying attention, for long periods of time, is a form of endurance athleticism. And I am losing the ability to focus on a particular task for long periods of time. I can't even watch 2 hours movie in one seating due to anxiety and lack of concentration. So this is worse state of a self declared cinephile. I open up multiple tab on internet browsers while count of articles read per day has been drastically reduced. Its a worrisome situation as this has never occurred to me before. It is important to talk about my fear of becoming restless, because if I don't it will throw me out of balance in daily life.

May be its case of digital dementia where use of excessive Internet makes one dumb. There is an old wisdom that a real person is not a slave or an addict to anything. I am also recognizing the fact that harm is not in the act but in addiction. Also sitting 7-10 hours daily on internet is not a case of shooting oneself in the foot, but shooting oneself in the head. My deepest fear is not that I am inadequate for more learning, its that i assume myself well informed above the level of the peers. Trying flamboyance with ignorance to justify one's own perception as intellectual in public is suicidal and worth a big laugh. Every skill fades erodes with the time without practice and even mighty talented need to nurture competency level. Who am I to claim of being focused when I am unable to read a page or listen to a song without switching to other jobs. Life is the best teacher one can have. If only younger managers like me surf fewer hours on internet and lived life more!

I have not written a word above that how I am facing a big writer's block. The best way to overcome writer's block is to write. I recently found a good advice on writing in a movie : Finding Forrester - You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is... to write, not to think ! The process of manufacturing article through selected keywords is hurting the growth prospect of a writer inside me. I had lost the great tranquility of heart where I care neither for the praises nor the fault-finding of people. Tough questions and tough decisions can't wait forever. I have remained enough patient and its time to figure out how. Not every person can be proactive but it would be suicidal and lethargic not to be reactive either.

This blog article in itself is a solid attempt to rethink about stagnation in ideas and deficiency in attention span. Suddenly, I remembered this fall into abyss was initiated long ago when I stopped writing poems, how lame they may be. Path of small stream of creativity was blocked months ago. The quest to read, watch and listen only without putting a single word back on paper has became self defeating now in real sense. Mind can't take any more information anymore. There is a dire need to focus either through meditation or doing anything creative. As a sentient life-form, I hereby seek asylum in a vacuum far away from all networks.

Ten Issues -24

1- Smokers’ Corner: Real revolutions by Nadeem F. Paracha.

2- The Night Shastri Died And Other Stories by Kuldip Nayar.

3- Why Elites Fail by Christopher Hayes.

4- The real wealth of nations - The Economist

5- Children of the Taliban - PBS Frontline

6- The wedges between productivity and median compensation growth By Lawrence Mishel

7- 'A Perfect and Beautiful Machine': What Darwin's Theory of Evolution Reveals About Artificial Intelligence by Daniel C. Dennett.

8- Why so many communist philosophers? by Santiago Zabala

9- Destroying the commons by Noam Chomsky.

10 - Theories of Oppression and Another Dialogue of Cultures by Ashis Nandy Perspectives

Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we're left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most.


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