Oct 29, 2009

WSJ reports taxi disputes in Aamchi Mumbai

WSJ is reporting how old cabbies are trying to block newcomers.

I wonder why this focus on cabs in Mumbai?

I know for sure Meru Cabs offers very good service but I don't have big problems with old cabbies either. You get them everywhere, mostly they are reasonable and go by the tariff card. They are certainly threatened by the new nice cabs...but as far as I remember there were also "Cool Cabs" of Premier Padmini as well. While they still made you feel the exact texture (is that the word?) of the road, yet they did offer air-conditioning.

As is true with everything else, old has to give way to new and resistance is... not just limited to electrical circuits.

Oct 28, 2009

Going Green with Lower Solar costs

This NYTimes Green Inc. article reports a decline in cost per watt to generate solar energy. In US, it has reduced from by about $0.30. 

What I found interesting is this line - "...though the actual cost to homeowners actually increased slightly as state incentives for installing solar arrays fell faster than module prices."

I remember doing a study on solar power generation during my studies. We actually realized that the installed base of wind power has increased at a far higher rate than solar in India in last 10 years or so. We concluded that while technology improvements will bring down costs, yet Government focus on this sector is very important. 

Especially for a technology that is seemingly stagnant for a long period. Probably the only nation that has solar power firmly on its radar is Germany. Most other nations are allowing industry to come up with solutions that have to compete with traditional power generation.

There is a need to stimulate demand that will lead to reduction in prices. Such stimulus comes through incentives. Another way is to allow individual users to use solar tech to bypass the grid. Perhaps small steps are the way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Telecom Market Dynamics - Part 2

I had written an earlier article on telecom industry and the recent market reaction.

This ET article is similar to what I had written earlier. Although, the difference is a slightly conservative conclusion. Only time will tell how things unfold.

Oct 27, 2009

Valuing Nortel's LTE Patents - Part 3

Nortel has come out with ~3400 patents. All About Nortel reports that these will be assessed for its value and the strategy for sale will be decided after their consultant provides inputs on the portfolio's potential.

As I had discussed in my earlier blogs, there are 2-3 methods to assess the value of the patents. Most probably it will be a mix of direct market potential and value of real option.

The older posts - Patent related post 1 and Patent related post 2.

Oct 26, 2009

Movie Review - All The Best

***&1/2 out of 5*

All the Best is everything you want to end a perfect weekend. The only prerequisite for enjoying this movie - keep your brain outside the cinema hall.

Back in mid-90s when Ajay Devgan was new and was mostly doing forgettable action movies - critics used to pan him at will. One newspaper had called him "oily and retarded" (To be  precise it was "tupkat mandabuddhi chehryacha" in Marathi). Devgan over last 10 years or so has been consistently proving why he should be considered one of the better actors in the industry. This is one more comic addition to those good roles.

The movie is fun. Ajay Devgan (sans the 'a' in last name) plays Prem Chopra and Fardeen Khan - Veer Kapoor they are friends and both are subprime loan cases. However their creditor is a local goon (played by Johnny Lever). Bipasha Basu (as Janhavi) and Mugdha Godse (as Vidya) are their respective lead actresses. Their subprime situation leads to Prem Chopra giving extremely creative ideas to Veer on how to get money from his rich elder brother (Sanjay Dutt playing Dharam) from Africa. These creative ideas lead to confusion that make elder brother think Bipasha is Vidya. The whole movie is on this confusion.

The gags are in dialogues, sight gags, references and every other possible way. That said the jokes are not repetitive, they keep you interested and they don't make you wait long for the next joke.

Ajay Devgn reaffirms why he is a good actor. Almost half the movie is poking fun at his character. Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha are great. Fardeen has increased his expressions to more than 2 and that is encouraging. Johnny Lever is looking better with his translator sidekick. BTW, I loved Sanjay Mishra nicknamed RGV :D  who mimics Pran in the entire movie. He with Atul Parchure are awesome. And finally the ultimate Mallu accent from Ashwini Kalsekar is zimbly awzum.

Endpiece - The experience in this movie and mirth levels in the theatre reminded me of Andaz Apna Apna that I had seen back in 1994.

Oct 25, 2009

Aussie strategy for Bhajji?

Ricky Ponting, Australian cricket captain, recently said that Harbhajan Singh will be a dangerous bowler against Australia. Really? IMHO, this is a fine new strategy from Ponting to ensure that the ex-turbanator remains in the Indian cricket team.

These days, batsmen from opposing team are hardly threatened by his bowling. He cannot take wickets and he cannot give less than 4 runs a over in ODIs these days. His bowling is flat. He will not take risk of giving flight. There is no turn. Then what exactly is he doing in the team? Today, young Jadeja was bowling infinitely better than him. For the last several months the only thing that Bhajji has been achieving is preventing other spinners from getting into the Indian team. 

And all the selectors can do is show Dravid the door. I am sure if Dravid is needed to bowl, he will bowl exactly what his team needs. And that would be the difference between him and Bhajji.

P.S. - I guess Bhajji made up for his bad bowling by brilliant batting and courage in today's ODI. He can certainly do some transfer of courage to the bowler part in him.

Oct 23, 2009

Going Green with Mobile Technologies (Location Based Services)

It is a no-brainer on how much greener the earth will get if folks start using public transport where possible. Interesting ways to encourage people to board that bus or railway train will help reduce emissions.  It also helps improve health since you need to walk at least a few steps farther than the garage to the bus or train stop. Location based services uses location of a mobile to deliver value added services.

I am impressed by this game that Bay Area public transport authorities have started to encourage usage of public transport systems. Reached this location from NewYork Times BITS page.

Countries like the US, where urban dependence on public transport is pretty low, do need such initiatives. Particularly impressive is the use of the location based technology. What makes you play this game are incentives such as "being a Mayor gets you some freebies".


Oct 21, 2009

Mobile Charging - Case for alternative energy

Hmmm. Interesting. This report from GSM World says that emerging markets that can provide for alternative means of power off grid for mobile charging may lead to an eventual increase of revenues by about 10% or so for the mobile industry.

I remember when I was a kid, some of my cousins from US used to have Solar powered calculators. They used to work fine. Rarely did I see these devices need battery replacement. That was 20 years ago and I am sure that technology has evolved over the years.

So why exactly are solar powered mobile phones still seen as a thing of future? Really, I understand the limitation for equipments like A/Cs or heaters which consume more power. But small mobile phones can come with solar power charging at least.

Consider this case, from this report, 485 M cellphones use chargers of about 1-2 W rating ...so 485MW. If 1/5th of that is charged through solar (or other alternative means), then the net saving is about 100MW, imagine how many houses can be added to the grid. (OK, this calculation is way too simplistic and you can see 2445 logical problems in that...but I hope I made my point.)

While some handset manufacturers are bringing out such devices, it helps to have an agreement on such things. There can be a coordinated effort so that there is some level-playing field in terms of effort and cost. The output in terms of technology should lead to modifications that may be mandatory.

In general, network connectivity and electrical connectivity have a lot to do with improvement in standard of living. The sooner the divide is bridged, the better it is for all of us. The greener the way to bridge the divide, the better it is for our next generation.

Oct 19, 2009

Oct 13, 2009

Enticing the market - IPO Advertising

As recession has started showing signs of giving way to better times, the IPOs have started coming back. While there is the discussion on IPO valuation, company prospects and other such aspects, I am particularly amused by their TV advertisements.

It is one thing to make a cricketer wax eloquent about an insurance product or a movie star speak about a soap or a phone network. But it certainly needs creativity to make advertisements for things like a power plant or a shipyard or even oil drilling.

And what exactly is the objective of these advertisements? Imagine this scene...

"The board room is in complete silence - pin-drop silence.

The Chief Investment Officer of the big investment company has sweat on his brow. His heart is racing. 2 of his last 6 decisions had failed to enthuse the Chairman. This might be a make or break decision for him. He was not sure what went wrong. He genuinely thought they would have been correct. 

They are watching the top business news channel. They are impatient as the news about current market goes on. They are waiting for the moment. The much awaited break comes and the chairman says "Shhhh".

The entire board room turns to the TV as the first images come of a desert. Then the huge windmills across the landscape. Finally the hero - the CEO of the wind-mill generators climbs atop the windmill and sings ...
"I have got the wind power, 
So I climbed on the tower,
Our IPO is on the market,
Apply and earn $$ by the hour!" 

And the chairman shrieks in ecstasy, "Yes! Yes! We will invest in this company. I love this guy with exactly 4 strands of grey hair. His red tie and the redness of his eyes tell how many nights he has been awake busy assessing the value of his own company. His suit is from Paris and shoes from  Milan. We will invest!"

The Chief Investment Officer heaves a sigh of relief. The board has concurred with his decision. Thank God for the wonderfully towery ad...."

Or perhaps the retail investor chooses IPOs just like he chooses the paint for his home or the next bottle of shampoo. "No, I don't like that this company chose to have 2 kids instead of 20 in their ad for hotels. I will not invest in this one."

Are there any Return-on-IPO-Marketing numbers that prove that IPO advertising has led to more applications? In general, when almost every IPO has subscriptions in multiples of the floated share, does it matter if it is advertised or not?

As long as it is discussed in the business news, I think the interested investors (institutional or retail) will decide yes or no. Of course, there is the question of valuations and order books but that is a fundamental need.

Endpiece - The best part of any IPO (or NFO) ad is the last 0.5seconds when the narrator reads at supersonic speed..."Investments are subject to market risks. Please read the red herring prospectus...".

That is like those 2.5 font asterisk notes by the humongous million rupee assured prize offer ads*

* Conditions Apply. The prize is assured to 1 in million customers. :D

Oct 10, 2009

Telecom stocks hammered - Why the haste?

Indian telecom stocks have been heavily hammered in the last few days. I was surprised.

Further to the pay-per-call, there was the 50 paise call and the discussion about possibility of mandate for per-call pulse that caused almost panic selling in the markets. It seems a hasty conclusion that all telecom is going to lose overall...

Following points need to be thought of in the context of Indian telecom scenario:
1. The ARPUs are falling but they still seem to be a function of the demand-supply equilibrium. Consider this, which markets are still untapped in India? Rural markets. The teledensity of rural ndia is far behind the urban. So the rural market is probably stimulated at a lower price and the industry is probably responding to that.

2. Commoditization is natural but this rural market would still allow the business to be a good business because of the volumes.

3. Now, in the recent times, operators have adopted several measures that are cutting costs like Infrastructure sharing, outsourcing their network operations etc.

If the operators are willing to pass this cost savings to customers, then that is actually good news for customers. Perhaps the demand generated by this will more than compensate the reduction in revenues.

4. The 3G scenario has still not even started. I am sure every operator definitely would have a strategy for 3G. They will find new ways to generate interest in 3G apps in the urban market. Particularly, business customers and the youth segment.

5. Operators are also trying to unlock value by spinning off businesses like tower business etc.

Considering this, I thought it was a little premature to assume that telecom story is over. I would rather wait and watch.

Oct 8, 2009

Themes for Google Chrome

Hey..I just noticed Chrome Themes. If you are using Chrome, then check on the right-bottom corner. The area looks like a page is being turned. That takes you to the themes at this link

I am not sure if these were already there and I noticed them only recently. Anyway, they are cool. Similar to the light-weightedness of Chrome, applying these themes is also light. And using a theme does not change the viewing experience in terms of speed of browsing or loading of pages.

And, well if you have not tried Chrome itself, it is available here...

Oct 7, 2009

New Tech - Wirelessly Charging Mobile Phones

Wireless power charging is being worked on. Just read on Techtree and Ubergizmo websites that Nokia has joined the consortium that is bringing together work in this direction.

What this promises is that you no longer have to plug the charger wire in the phone.

I was wondering if this means higher power needs, since the charging will be in wireless mode. The following analysis on the Wireless Power Consortium says that the efficiency is comparable. Efficiency of wireless power.

I suspect the handsets with this technology will remain expensive till the time the technology is new and the demand low. Although, in cases of such technology the adoption is pretty quick. Especially if people think that this is really useful.

The good part is that the above consortium is already trying to ensure interoperability.

I had blogged some time ago about standardization of the normal (wired) chargers Good News for Mobile Customers. I think most of us, at least once, have been through the experience of forgetting the charger and then trying to find from people around if their charger can charge our mobile.

Then there are the technology questions -
1. Is this safe?
2. How long will it take to charge a phone?
3. Is this used in some other field / technology?

Another thing to see is the business promise of the technology. I agree that this will be adopted. But the current costs and its comparison to wired chargers will be useful to assess how soon and to what extent.

Oct 3, 2009

Inglorious Basterds -Movie Review

My Rating - ****&1/2 out of 5*

Anything handled in the Tarantinesque manner definitely feels different.

The same is the case with World War II. Tarantino is again in his own splitting the movie into chapters and the final chapter bringing together the earlier ones to a final denouement, there is the typical dark humour, characters with their whims, shootouts, extreme violence and the accents. There is US Southern, several German accents, French and Italian.

A Nazi SS Officer Landa who is a Jew Hunter opens the movie with his exploits. Then a group of American soldiers is sent in to kill Nazis and spread terror - these are the Inglorious Basterds. And a Jew girl who runs a movie theater in Paris. All the characters get intertwined with their separate plots intersecting the plot of others.

As usual the movie is a thriller in typical Tarantino style. If you have acquired the taste, you will enjoy it. If you have not, then this may be a good start. Finally, if you did not like his earlier works, you may not enjoy this one either.

What I found fascinating was the absolutely free use of the very big characters of the War. I mean almost everyone from the Third Reich's top leadership is shown as well as some from other side of the sea as well. Again a lot of dialogue is in French and German, you have to read the movie in those scenes.

In the actors, Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa of SS stands out. He always speaks in jest but is menacing. His scenes are the best. Brad Pitt is great with that Southern accent as the terror spreader amongst Nazis. Check out his scene in the last part of the movie. Finally, Melanie Laurent is amazing as the girl who has somehow escaped Landa.

Rant - My friend and I had a bunch of college going kids by our side. Now I agree you want to have fun at cinema but it does not mean you ruin others fun. These kids found it difficult to understand the movie because it suddenly broke into German or French. And they were not reading the subtitles. You may not like the movie making style and you are within your rights to criticize it but NOT when the show is on. Afterwards, outside. 

Anyway, I once requested them to sit quiet. They tried to but could not because of reasons of emergency such as an irrepressible urge to make a comment on Brad Pitt's moustache. So then, we shifted to a more quieter zone.

It is a shame that they were not trying to appreciate what was made, especially considering they are fortunate that such movies get released to cinemas they can easily reach and their parents can easily afford.

Oct 2, 2009

Stock Market - Current Valuation & Primer Articles

Some very interesting articles on how to view market valuations.

Today's Business Standard article Shobhana Subramanian: Is the market overvalued?

Current rally analysis by the Economist in Liquid Fuel

Warren Buffet's Owners Manual of Berkshire Hathaway - Intrinsic Value on Page 5

2 primers from Paddy - Value of a Stock

Oct 1, 2009

Dinosaurs in India

Something very different from what I usually follow. ToI reported that a Huge nests of Dino Eggs has recently been discovered in Tamil Nadu

My knowledge about dinosaurs is about the same level as theirs about me. The main sources of my knowledge include the thick GK books read during childhood, 3 movies from a certain Mr. Steven Spielberg and one visit to an area where Dino footprints are preserved in Texas.

Despite my virtually zero knowledge about these giant lizards that lived millions of years ago on our planet, I still am fascinated about the topic.

Some of the basic questions that come to my mind are
1. What made these lizards so huge in the first place?
2. Did these lizards have evolutionary intelligence? That is did they show characteristics similar to animals of this age?
3. Do we really know about their DNA / other physiology as shown in the movie 'Jurassic Park'?
    3a. Did mosquitoes really exist at the time of Dinos? If yes, were their proboscis long enough to suck Dino blood? :-)
4. The usual question of what led to their extinction?

If you know about this just post it in comments or if you know where this info is on the net then do please post the links in response to the post. Thanks in advance.

A related article from National Geographic


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.