Sep 29, 2009

Miscellanous and Interesting

An interesting discussion in NYTimes on Wireless On-board.


Mumbai municipal corporation has just earned Rs. 26 Crore for scientific handling of garbage dumpyard.

I am witness to this change because I lived in that suburb. We used to hate going near the creek because of the smelly garbage pile that could be seen and smelt from a kilometer away. This summer I went to Gorai Island and actually did not smell the stink. When I checked ( that is turned my head in the direction of dumpyard), the pile was transformed into a smooth surfaced hillock. It was obvious something was done about the thing but I did not know at the time that this was the work that was going on. Something to be proud about.


Swapan Dasgupta's article "Bust the myth of Good over Evil" in this Sunday's Times of India left me baffled.
What exactly is the point of this article? That we stop believing in the values we built? Or stop believing that, ideally, there should be law and order...and that if it breaks down there is a judicial process?

Mr. Dasgupta, who is generally articulate and logical, is all over the place with this article. Speaks about 80's movie endings, then about Ravan's virtue, then Kumbhakarna's moral dilemma. But what is the whole thing about?

After a certain age we all understand the reality and flaws of a system that prevent the world from becoming perfect. But does that mean that we abandon praying for the victory of good?

More than anything else, the social value of occasions such as Ramleela / Durga Puja is reason enough to keep the tradition going.

Sep 27, 2009

Psychology behind pay-per-call schemes

Tata recently launched the Pay-Per-Call , Pay-per-second schemes and its variants for SMS as well.

Naturally, while some have praised this scheme as a brilliant marketing, some others have pointed out this is outright price war and will lead to an overall lower earning for entire industry (this assumes that others will follow suit).

What is it that must have led to this scheme?

The obvious first reason is the upcoming Mobile Number Portability deadline. This implies a subscriber can change his / her service provider yet retain the number for a small fee. This scheme is a carrot for new customers and bigger carrot for other SP's subscribers (assuming their SP will not offer this scheme).

More importantly, will this scheme not bleed the firm offering such an offer?

Generally, the way customers behave, it is said, is that people pounce on any such scheme in hordes initially. That is proven by the recent stat that Tata added more subscribers than Airtel in August. But what about the possible cash outflow for Tata because of customer's overusing this scheme?

Well, initially, it will. But eventually, all customers will "settle" to their initial needs. Most people who use such schemes in small to medium businesses etc. will not speak beyond a certain time because of diminishing marginal utility. The only possible group that may cause a hit by overuse are the youngsters who will use this to the end. But are they a substantial majority?  I don't know but probably not. Also, they are not the probable target for such schemes. Also check the finer details like the pay-per-call is still not in Mumbai where the highest concentration of users is.

So the gist - initially there will be a mad rush for the scheme as well as mad usage to capture the entire surplus, yet in time it will settle down to older levels, perhaps slightly more than older levels.

And does not matter, in long run most of service providers will offer about everything that is available and people opting for a switch must have had a really really poor experience from their SP.

References :
MNP deadline
Diminishing Marginal Utility

Sep 24, 2009

Valuing LTE Patents of Nortel - An approach - Part 2

I received a few comments on part 1 of this article. Thanks to Paddy and Fehrzard for their comments. This article is an attempt to make the first one more complete.

1. First, the disclaimer - Black Scholes assumes efficient markets as well as liquidity of the asset. Both may be challenged and rightly so.

2. Now, one very interesting thought on how to view patent is how to define it? It may be as a product or a service that can be developed as a result of the patent - this was the primary assumption in the earlier article.

However, the patent is also something that gives exclusivity to the innovation, not the innovation itself. Hence more pertinent is the value of 'exclusivity', or even the benefit from suing the competitor who infringes the patent.

3. The time to expiry is minimum of patent expiry or time for technology obsolescence.

4. A big assumption in my first article is the knowledge of investments needed in developing marketable products from the patents. Obviously, this is a difficult thing to predict. One can go by historical stats but that too is no guarantee to future. Only thing we can do is scenario analysis.

5. Finally, the opportunity cost of delaying the project also needs to be adjusted in the calculations.

Tailpiece - Nortel has now put on block the Carrier Division - Software minus the patents. More info on All About Nortel.

Some pics from Mussourie trip

Thank You Venkat for the camera. I was having my old film walla camera and so am waiting for the pics to get developed. Till then, some of the pics I clicked using Venkat's camera.

Sep 22, 2009

Mighty Mountains and Merciless Man

I visited Mussourie this weekend with my friends.

As we started climbing, the views were breathtaking and we were actually in clouds. In the town, it was the typical British ambience with the mandatory Library in the main square and the Mall Road. The rickshaws, friendly people, food and the fact that you can stand anywhere in the town and admire the view made the perfect mix. Gun hill point is another lovely place to be in.

The town is like a balcony that nature has built for you. Just stand anywhere, take a deep breath and lose yourself in the beauty of the mountains.

Some credit also goes to the miserable weather of Delhi that made the contrast all the more sharp!

The best part was the trek to Shri Jwala Devi Mandir. It was about 2 kms one way. We had Santramji from Dudhli village to guide us. For me, who has been in cities most of my life, talking to Santramji made me feel what life in hills is. He has a small farm that gives potatoes, green peas and other vegetables. The village does not get regular potable water supply, so the villagers have made alternative arrangements from nearby natural sources. There is a dispensary and a school. But the school is only till 7th standard. He was sure he wanted his children to go to Mussourie after 7th...that was very heartening to know. The provisions are sent by jeep but more often it is the mules and horses who do the task. Electricity is ok but as I mentioned water is difficult. The man was so quiet and smiled so often, it is difficult not to respect someone like that.

The views while walking to the temple were awesome. Every 10 steps, there was a view to appreciate. There were flowers that nature had planted. It was amazing. Mussourie lives to its reputation of being the Queen of mountains.

Santram also spoke about the stone quarrying that used to happen in the hills and was banned by Government later. He mentioned that climate and life have improved after the ban. But is a Government ban enough? On top of the hill, by the temple was an empty water tank. There were some 20 plastic bottles thrown in by visitors.

Really, I could not see the logic in that. Elsewhere too, near the Kempty falls, so much of plastic was thrown that at times people felt distracted by the plastic. And no, the administration is not to be blamed. In Mussourie, there are good roads, facilities, proper traffic control, toilets, trash cans, directions and appeals to not litter. The trash was getting cleaned every day. It is indeed our own duty to just control ourselves till we see the next trash can. Really, it does not take much. Our actions should not work against the pure air and bliss of the nature that places like Mussourie offer.

Perhaps as the Cadbury's ad says, ask yourself - "Have you earned the pure air?"

Sep 16, 2009

Valuing LTE Patents of Nortel - An approach

Now that Nortel's Wireless and Enterprise businesses have been auctioned, Nortel still has LTE Patents with it. LTE is a considered to be a successful technology for the 4G wireless business and is expected to take the world to seamless broadband wireless paradigm. Nortel is said to have 600 patents in this area. Now let’s try to assess how this asset can be valued.

Following is with the assumption that the potential buyer is going to know everything about the patents.

1. A Patent is an asset that will be used directly or indirectly through applications based on the patent.

2. First step would be to find the directly assessable market based on history. That market is of those products this patent and its extensions can directly substitute.
That is the possible market potential.

The subjective part here is how much one can be sure on this market potential.

3. Next is finding the potential of those products that are not conceivable as of now. This is the tricky one.

(i) One way to approach this is on the basis of historical statistics of patents from the same industry. For example, in this case of 4G, we can take a random sample of 600 patents (or possibly more) from the period when 3G (or any other technology) was a new area of research.

(ii) Now analyze how many of these samples proved to be huge successes, moderate successes and damp squibs. With this as the basis, we can use the same probability on this set of LTE patents (this is a huge assumption). Obviously this is not something that will always work yet if we are going to use history as any indicator then this is one way to follow.

(iii) The next 2 things we can draw from the above sample would be the standard deviation and volatility.

4. Now if we look at this set of patents as an asset, then the value of buying an asset with unknown potential is nothing but buying an option on the asset.

5. So now the value can be assessed as the value of a real option with a possible market value that was calculated in points 2 AND 3.
a. We have - Possible Value of the asset and the volatility.
b. We also have the risk free interest rate.

c. Now the tricky ones, the strike price of this option and the expiry time.
(i) The PV of the investment in productizing these products is the strike price. Why? Compare this to a stock call option - What you earn in a call is the difference between the stock price and the strike. Similarly, here the gain of the patent owner is the difference between the revenues and capital cost.

(ii) Now the expiry time is how long these patents are useful. We cannot sit on 4G patents when the market is already preparing for 5G technology. Beyond a certain time, any technology simply loses relevance.

6. At this point we can insert the values in any Black Scholes Calculator.

An alternative to this step is to break the 600 patents in several sets of like patents and then assess each set individually. The next step can be to sum them all and use these steps for overall value or consider each set as a separate option and value them one set at a time.

Major assumptions of the above approach -
1. This set of LTE patents will have a market performance similar to historical set of randomly chosen 3G patents from a similar period in 3G's lifecycle.
2. Cost of productizing and other capital costs.

I have applied theory of real options in this case and will try to find out of there are other better methods already used elsewhere. That would form some other post

- Siddharth Garud


Sep 14, 2009

Nortel - History of a Giant - Part 2

So Avaya has picked up Nortel's enterprise business at $900M all cash deal. That is quite high than the earlier said $400+M.

A string of interesting articles on this business consolidation, especially in North America on All About Nortel.

Actually, I was surprised that only 2 bids were made for this huge section of Nortel.
Now lets see how LTE Patents are put on sale.

Sep 12, 2009

Collective maturity of Indian cricketers

After yesterday's win against New Zealand, as expected, the Indian media went ga-ga over how this team is the mightiest team after that of General Eisenhower. Media simply chose to skip the part where our batting was showing signs of collapse until Raina and Dhoni saved the day.

Anyway, the win apart...following reactions from various players, on being the number 1 team, convinced me that someone in the management or team leadership is also thinking on managing media:

Dhoni's reaction - We want to play well. Good ranking follows good performance.
Yuvraj - We need to maintain it.
Nehra - South Africa is not playing now. That is why we are there. Once they play it will become competitive.

Very very well thought out. Various voices, same message. That is how organizations should operate, especially in PR matters. It was impressive media handling.

On the field, the team looked rusty to me. We won sure, but fielding was a problem. Bowlers were the saving grace. Dravid needs to get back to ODI mode quickly.

Sep 10, 2009

Miscellaneous and interesting

Interesting news clips I found today -

1) First news from USA where AT&T gets rid of a part of its message when routing call to the Voicemail. Now this is interesting because it reduces close to 5 seconds of call time for every call forwarded to voicemail. Towards customer delight...

2) Next refer to Strategist section of this week's Business Standard on State Bank of India. The article tells a lot about how the current SBI chief, Mr. O P Bhatt, is strategizing the turnaround of SBI and within SBI.

I had written my experience some days ago. After reading the article, I wonder if SBI employees aligned to its goals? It does not seem so.

I agree the load in branches is massive but there has to be some operations strategy. For example, one thing to adopt is give the customer everything that is needed to keep him/her out of the branch like passbook, ATM card, online access, IVRS number etc. I can tell every customer has to visit at least 3-4 times to just get all this.

The article also has an interesting discussion on SBI Home Loan rates and possibility of a smaller version of subprime crisis.

Check out the article, very interesting read (a little long though).

3) Next - Nortel's fire sale - Nortel's Enterprise business goes under the hammer tomorrow.

4) Sports - Hurray to Vijender for ensuring that medal for India. And another hurray to Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi who have both reached finals of US Open. Whoever wins, we will be proud of both of them. Hurray to Pankaj Advani as well. It is heartening to see India perform well in such competitions.

Sep 8, 2009

True Story of the Jet-i !

Question - What's the difference between Delhi Autowalla and Jet Pilots?
Answer - Delhi Autowallas are healthier than Jet Pilots!


Unconfirmed sources predict "Jet Airways' pilots may be awarded the preventive healthcare award for protecting passengers from possible contagious infections on 130+ flights in September 2009. Selfless pilots give up a day's work to ensure the passengers do not get sick or unwell because of pilots' state of health."


More unconfirmed sources analyse today's strike as Jet Airway's effort to help Air India's revival by diverting passengers to AI.


Reports - Economic times report

NDTV Article

Sep 6, 2009

Heroes and Hope of my India

Human society gives (or is meant to give) us dignity and self-respect. We understand hunger, thirst, love, smell just like other species on this planet do. But feeling inspired, national pride, dignity and other such evolved senses / feelings are more related to humans.

In my memory, the first time I felt inspired was probably when I read the history of our independence in 3rd standard. 20 years later, I relived the same feeling.

One of my very close friends, Aniket Mahulikar and his colleague Madhavi were with me at Delhi for the last 3 days. Aniket is 26. He is one of the best cricket players and certainly the best chess player our building has produced (the team has about 16 players :D). He figured in Bombay division merit list in 10th board exams and did his engineering from VJTI - one of the top Engg colleges in Bombay. He joined Infosys thereafter. He loves seeing TV and cricket. Everything usual so far.

In May 2008, Aniket left Infosys to work as a school principal in Pune. Yes, Aniket and Madhavi are both school principals from Pune.

Aniket runs a school called "Savitribai Phule English School" which has children in Junior KG, Senior KG and first standard. Madhavi runs another school in Pune. Now children to their schools come from nearby slum areas. These schools are a part of schools run by Akanksha, a NGO working in area of education. Aniket's school is funded by the Thermax Foundation.

I asked Aniket what drove him to take up this assignment. What was it that he felt? When did he decide he wanted to be a social worker?

He said he felt it everytime something happened...since he was 12-13 years old. He said an earthquake many miles away would make him worry about the people there. Everytime he walked around slums, he felt "Destiny has given me so much more - I need to share". And he felt the sharing should sustainable.

When he finished his engineering, he and his friends wanted to start a school in 20 years time or so. Wow! Now that is long term vision. To gain hands on experience, he volunteered to work in slums and, he says, he found his calling in education. Whenever he sees children in slums, he is motivated to get them in schools. What amazed me was his clarity of thinking. He understands that he will have to wait for 10-15 years before his efforts show results.

Children are the easiest part of work; it is the parents who need constant motivation and counselling. And I heard both Aniket and Madhavi speak to a couple of parents about children. Their profound understanding of their students' backgrounds is incredible considering they both come from reasonably well off backgrounds. Their work also spans in bringing the community together, instilling confidence in children and their parents, re-igniting the need of dignity and self-respect in the parents' hearts and motivating their colleagues - the school teachers.

It was a heart warming experience for me to see these heroes of my nation. Everyday, when they came back from their training, they would email and SMS their teachers about their day - and, sure enough, they would receive many responses in a few hours time. Their commitment to the cause, maturity of thoughts, clarity of reasoning and unlimited idealism was both inspiring and overwhelming.

Their future plans include taking their respective schools to tenth standard thus ensuring all children come out with an ambition and starting more schools in rural India.

I hope their plans come true and they succeed in whatever they decide. It is these heroes that make me again believe in the future of our nation. Real stars of our times who have committed themselves to the cause of underprivileged.

Vision, leadership, strategy, unlimited energy, patience, faith, humility, pride about work & colleagues, and a disarming smile is how I describe these 2 stars.

It was an honour to interact with them.

Links to
Aakanksha's site -
Aniket's blog -

Note - Aniket and Madhavi both mentioned many more people who have helped them in their efforts. Because it was not possible for me to include all the names, so I focused on the 2 of them in this article.

Sep 4, 2009

3 Mistakes of My Life - Book Review

Just finished reading "3 Mistakes of my life" by Chetan Bhagat.

It was a very good book. A change from reading heavy stuff, technical stuff and other such subjects.

The story is about Govind Patel, a young businessman from Ahmedabad. In fact it is a perfect story for a Hindi movie with a engaging mix of friendship, politics, difficulty of situations and yes, a love story.

It gives a lovely insight in the mind of the protagonist and his friends - Ish and Omi. While the book keeps giving hints on how the characters will pan out and mostly there are no surprises, the story is engrossing and makes you wonder what is coming on the next page.

I liked the book for its easy reading style, fast paced and humourous writing. Yet in some places the book is abrupt. Some sections like the Australian part seemed out of place.

But all in all, the book is well written. Do read it when you can.


All the opinions expressed are of the author only. Any action taken by readers on the basis of this blog is entirely at the readers' risk and they are solely responsible for the same.