Nov 30, 2009

Going Green - LEDs to replace CFLs?

Light Emitting Diode or LED has come a long way from being mainly used in small Indicators and signs to being used for traffice signals. The most common use in 90s was in power circuits. LED market really picked up in India when banks started using them to display token numbers. In the last few years, they have become so common that we have lost count - traffic signals, remotes, TVs, small devices...so many uses.

LEDs have already become the choice technology for traffic signals in many cities. They have saved substantial energy for many traffic departments.  This article assesses that traffic signals saves upto 80% power with LEDs. They can also be used with their own Solar Power source.

LEDs are now being considered a substitute to even CFL bulbs. Yes CFL bulbs. CFL bulbs are replacing the Incandescent bulb as the greener choice with much lesser power consumption and longer life. LEDs are now being considered for domestic lighting. Even I was surprised to stumble upon this report.

Check this calculation from OSRAM where the power consumed by LED lamp is same as CFL but its life is almost 25 times. It also suggests that the cost of manufacture is also small.

Now we have to wait and watch when this technology becomes viable for sale in domestic markets. The demand will have to be generated using the green merits of this technology. But the idea sure seems great at the moment.

The Indian market (and other emerging markets) will pick up only when the prices fall enough to allow the LED lamps to compete with CFLs. Higher prices will only generate lukewarm interest from a limited segment.

Here is a detailed article on NYTimes on this one.

Nov 26, 2009

Telecom Market Evolution & Part 3 of Nortel's Story

Nortel has sold its GSM business. This article from LightReading summarizes the sales so far and the expected asset sales.

Telecom Market Discussion
Now check this article from Economist on forecasted mobile subscriber base. 2 things of note:
1. Check the forecast by 2011 when the mobile broadband subscriber base passes fixed broadband subscribers.
2.  The costing of the netbooks and other low cost computing devices meant to improve internet penetration.

Another point is that as 3G is made available across the world, the mobile eliminates the need of a separate computing device. This matters a lot to 2 types of subscribers - convenience oriented and cost oriented. The convenience oriented market has been more or less addressed.

The cost oriented ones are the ones that are forming a very large part of the mobile broadband forecast in the Economist article.

Finally, fixed broadband has a role to play in rural and other emerging areas. That is described in the intern-kiosk model that is there in Economist. And of course the folks who are already onto it in established markets.

Nov 25, 2009

Mobile banking for shareholders

Here is a very interesting application of m-banking. This article in Business Line reports mobile share transfer: Transfer your shares through mobile phone

Such VAS services are forming important part of the ever expanding telecom offerings. Offerings that go much beyond voice and SMS. For example, check this earlier post where I spoke about location based services being used to encourage use of public transport in the Bay Area.

Security is very important in these cases. At the least, the interface should take multiple confirmation since the network should be sure that the subscriber is indeed requesting this service.

Check one of my earlier articles if you want to read more on that:
Mobile Money Transfers - Opportunities and Issues

Technorati test blog

Publishing a technorati test blog to claim token.
This one on the login : R53YSXHWAZQ8
This one on the mail: 2QW363ABBKRP

Nov 24, 2009

3G in India...more discussion

Here is an article that discusses the role of rural market for 3G providers.

http://www.mobilebusinessbriefing.com/article/rural-areas-to-drive-indian-3g-growth

Interesting forecasts there.

As I had mentioned earlier, the recent cut in prices is probably a beginning towards the rates that will arise once 3G markets open. Since the rural areas still have potential, they need to be tapped. It is obvious that service providers would want to generate as much demand there as possible.

Nov 16, 2009

Accountability in Advertising?

There is an ad that shows a kid being fussy over normal food (veggies, rice, roti and dal). The mother then pulls out a powder that is mixed in milk and the kid is happy. The ad says that this product gives all nutrients of a food to children.

Really? One tablespoon of the powder and one tbsp of sugar and a cup of milk? I just have one thing to say....Get the executives of this company give a written commitment that they and their children live on this mixture. Nothing else. Breakfast, lunch and dinner - this mixture. Lets measure their "growth" with this.

I bet if this is raised, the only thing that will come will be a font-6 note in the last 3 seconds of the ad that basically means "Don't take this ad too seriously.".

Are such ads not too much to digest? They are misleading to the point that they can affect the health of children. In fact, I am ok with those fairness creams which you know need to shout so much to sell. But things that you consume...

Such ads need to be regulated. They better prove what they say. No irresponsible claims. Just like pharma cos. need to go through stringent approvals before their medicines can be sold, certain advertisements should go through approval. One cannot have such ads gone unnoticed .

Or perhaps there is scope for US like litigations where companies are forced to pay through nose when people take the ads a little too seriously and then file suits.

To avoid both above, the players would do well to be rational and self-regulate what they do and what they publicize. Reasonable claims are the way to go.

Nov 15, 2009

Investing in Alternative Energy - Scenario Analysis

Fundamentals of Alternative Energy
OK...no introduction in this post. We know alternative energy is one of the biggest possibilities in the future. There are several technologies in the arena - Wind, Solar, Nuclear, Tidal. Each one has its own technical needs. Each one has been invested in from investors across the world.

The obvious reasons these are promising are because they are independent of burning fossil fuels. That means lower carbon emissions and hence reduction in warming. I know, there is still some debate on whether global warming is really happening. I am not an expert but I believe in the phenomenon. In my opinion, it is the manifestation of the effects of the uncontrolled experiment of letting smoke into the atmosphere.

Current Status and Hindrances
Wind power needs only incremental changes to turbine technology but it has huge land needs and site selection is critical. Solar technology is still behind in efficiency terms. Nuclear energy poses the challenge of toxic waste.

Add to the above, the above are not yet financially competitive. And each one is facing the uphill task of competing with traditional power. One of the problems is of economies of scale. For example, the demand for solar cells is not high enough to cause scale production. This means higher cost of equipment which translates into higher price per watt.

 Also, the incumbents are not going to easily make space for new technology. While they continue to invest in this area, they are still ok since green power is still not the automatic choice of consumers.


Possible Tipping Point?
Across the world,  the moment substantial incentives are announced such that they make solar / wind energy affordable, then the demand for green energy will shoot up. Green energy has an inherent appeal for most people. When challenged with questions like, "Would you not like your grand-children to breathe cleaner air?", people choose green energy over thermal energy. Then it is left to how much they can afford to pay?

When the incentives come and eventually costs match, consumers will start shifting. Then, the current conventional power companies will start heavily investing in generating green energy (Remember, they already have the required land needed to put up solar or wind plants.) This will further push up the supply and bring down the costs.

The Big Question
Incentives are already existing that encourage these alternative energy sources. It is said that these are not enough. So, either they will be raised or newer incentives (like bonus for saving emissions / coal / etc.) will be introduced.

The question is When? That, my dear reader, is anybody's guess. The real winners will be those investors who would have been already invested in this sector when the announcement(s) come.

Nov 12, 2009

Going green - Smart power using wireless tech

Smart Grids are the talk of the town. The per capita consumption of power in developed nations is higher than that of developing / under-developed nations. The developed nations have been working with the idea of Smart Grids for some time now.

The idea here is to have smart devices and smart tariffing that encourage consumers to adjust consumption as per the overall demand of the city/area. For example, the price is high during peak hours. Something like airlines, most of whom demand more money when you book for weekend. You book a red-eye flight, you get lower fare...sometimes even a bump up to business class :)

And it is not only about tariffs. It is about intelligent management of power. For example, schools and offices close after 5pm....then the substations and other devices used by them exculusively can be regulated or switched off as and when the grid "detects" a drop below a certain level.

Some cities like Austin have been experimenting with this idea for sometime. Check this link which describes how operational expenses and other savings were effected through smart grid.

For example, reading meters wirelessly, communicating consumer needs are some of the examples of this case of use of smart grid.

The case of India
Indian power sector is reeling in crisis. Outages, T&D losses and theft are some of the perpetual pain points for India. At the moment the T&D losses are somewhere around 35% of the overall generation. The associated loss to output is also a definite worry.

Smart grids can address some of these issues. Use of wireless devices connected to central management systems can revolutionize this sector.

For example to reduce theft it can point to problem areas, generate alarms and flags when the consumption goes beyond set patterns etc. Also, an increase in regular consumption can also flag off the need of new equipment and tariff plans.

Check this NYT news piece and this interesting paper from WiFi alliance which NYT refers to.

The cost may be very high for countries like India but it should be considered in terms of direct losses mentioned above plus the opportunity cost in terms of lost business due to the above problems.

Indian newspaper and news websites

The Hindu, one of India's oldest and better newspapers, has a new beta website (Hat tip - tipblog.in). This blog is not to review it but I need to use it as one of the examples for this post.

Now what is most important in newspapers? For my generation, probably the last generation in India to have read newspapers that fed news and intelligent analysis/investigation, the frontpage is the most important part. Next, for the serious readers, the editorial and columnists sections.

If that is agreed upon, then the homepage and edits should be the most important on a website. Check any of the major Indian news or newspaper websites - You need to scroll to find the opinion page. There may be an exception....but just that exception.

Next, the most irritating part of these websites is the barrage of advertisements that hits you when you open the homepages. The advertisements actually interfere between you and the news. I am all for the ads but when they are placed at one side. Let the reader click if he/she is interested...just like you have the ad in newspapers where a reader chooses to read it. It is like those advertisements that make you lose interest in a cricket match because the ads gobble up the first and last balls being bowled in an over.

Also, many news sites have completely irrelevant pictures / videos like those of some fashion show etc. Who cares? Keep them restricted to the entertainment section.

Here is where news aggregation like Google News works wonderfully well. It extracts headlines for the reader and allows the reader the freedom to choose.

Coming back to the new Hindu website....it is elegant. Simplicity of a website is important for news readers and this website gives that. Hopefully this new site will not succumb to the temptation of allowing advertisements to hijack reading experience. In fact I liked their old site too...it has the old internet charm and is effective news providing site.

If we consider worldwide sites, of the sites I have visited, my favourites are NewYork Times and BBC News. NY Times is fast and shows columns on the top right side. BBC News has a very nice front page.

As a reader, my request to the newspapers and news sites is to create sites that create stickiness amongst readers. They should swear by your site's content. Most people are found searching for that close button or trying to find the news they want to. The longer a person takes to find content of his/her choice, the lesser is the chance that you will be his/her choice the next time he/she wants to find something.

Nov 9, 2009

Going Green - Denmark's Samsoe island

Denmark, in 1997, decided to have a showcase island to show how an entire area can be independent of hydrocarbons. This is impressive. Go ahead and read this story of the Samsoe island.

Also, more importantly, check this link where a case is made for sustainable economic growth while going green.

Amazing...I think all other countries should ask Denmark to help them in establishing such hubs. One by one, perhaps in next 50-60 years if each country keeps a target of 50% of its needs from renewable / alternate sources, then there is a good chance that we will be able to handover this planet to the next generation in a healthier and greener state.

Nov 7, 2009

Going Green - Case of incentives to Solar and other green options

One more article that reflects thoughts on incentives that many green power supporters have been speaking about - http://www.livemint.com/2009/11/05214331/Will-India-light-the-fuse-for.html?h=B

I had also written an article some days ago about the need here http://indian-eagle.blogspot.com/2009/10/going-green-with-lower-solar-costs.html

Here is an interesting link that gives month-by-month price indices of Solar electricity. Lots of other links that have great info -  http://www.solarbuzz.com/solarprices.htm

One more great link is the fast-facts link http://www.solarbuzz.com/fastfactsindustry.htm

Nov 4, 2009

Economics Conundrum - Case of Information Over-supply?


I read this amazing article in BusinessWeek - "Why No One Knows Where the Economy Really Stands".

Check this excerpt about the Jobs Data during the boom, "BLS overstated the strength of the economy during good times, and now that fiction will come crashing down on our heads in the first quarter of next year."

The next excerpt of note is on the Stock Markets, "But using what the stock market is doing now as factual data is potentially treating another asset bubble as financial reality."

Just makes me think if the if we are living in a world of Information oversupply where every little bit boosts one section of investor or another? It is Irrational Exuberance, but is it just unavailability of well organized data? Reminds me of our MicroEconomics Professor - Prof. Gupta's favorite phrase, "Garbage In, Garbage Out". :)

Sometimes one feels so much information just leads to more confusion. But then, without it we have the information asymmetry problem. Not sure what we can do of this paradox.
I guess, the author concludes well when he says that real issues can be tackled once accurate data is obtained and analyzed.

Nov 3, 2009

Warren Buffet invests in Railways.

Warren Buffet is investing in railways in US. Looks like he is convinced on the economy's rebound as well as the return of consumer buying in the US.

More importantly it seems that the he is convinced that US will see a rise in usage of railroad infrastructure over highways etc. That also indicates an interest in green infrastructure initiatives.

BNI also has presence in Asia which is continuing as the growth story across the world. The railway co.'s shares jumped a good 30% (from a P/E of 14 to almost 18).

Here is the LA Times story - http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-berkshire4-2009nov04,0,6604215.story

NY Times is also reporting that Buffet is paying a part of this deal in Berkshire stocks for tax purposes.
http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/berkshire-to-buy-rest-of-burlington-northern-for-44-billion/?ref=business

Incredible India? How much is it and how much it needs to be?

This Sunday was one of those days when I tried to unravel the hidden meaning of that slogan 'Incredible India'. Went to see Red Fort. It looks magnificient from outside. The flag waving high makes you wonder how it would be from inside. In a nutshell - not too good. 

It starts outside, where you have to buy a ticket. For the unitiated, Red Fort is one monument that almost every Indian recognizes. On a Sunday morning, we had all of 2 ticket windows. The booths are almost underground and there are no signboards. So you end up asking others, "Is this the line for tickets?" The speed is slow. There are arguments over change. And 2 ticket windows are closed.

It is vacation time and a lovely October Sunday and there are hundreds of visitors and you keep 2 ticket windows closed. Bye bye Operations Management principles. Folks aint there to see the ticket seller. I am sure many people just leave after seeing the long queues.

While the exteriors are certainly well kept, interiors leave you disappointed. 

Dust left uncleaned, maintenance tools left unattended, odonil packets inside the supposed trasures from Mughal empire (trust me Odonil of all odours along with royal curtains, bedsheets and gowns), Pan spits left unpenalized...

The only thing that was well maintained was the lawn inside and outside the Fort. 

What about the visitors?
Not too encouraging. I think we, Indians, are not even good tourists. Many were trying to sneak inside restricted areas. Or trying to test the toughness of glass protecting the antique items. Or ensuring that red fort remains red with their lovely paan spit. Is there a way to make people wash their mouths before they enter such places? Just enforce it. Just because the ticket is Rs.10 does not mean that the monument is there to waste. I really think that the ticket should be raised such that people start valuing what is inside. Make it Rs. 50 or even Rs. 500 to keep these spitting idiots away.

Misery a-la-carte
In the afternoon we went to the restaurant inside - Daawat (run by Samrat Hotels). While the menu claimed several exotic items, they had, for our information, highlighted in red (no - not stricken out but highlighted) those items that were not available. With 50% items gone, we learnt that only lunch items were served at that time (fyi, that time was 3.30pm). So we had a Paratha and tea/coffee. It took super long  for these 3 extremely complicated items to arrive. I must admit the taste of all 3 was good - no complaints there. But then, the bill would simply not come. I actually volunteered to pay at the desk, then the calculator came out...

Finally, out of the fort, we wait for a good 20 minutes to get an autorickshaw. But that I guess is out of the purview of the tourism rant. That is back to Delhi's old ways.

Incredible huh!

My suggestion to folks in charge. Get the basics right. You really don't need any slogans after that. Else these lovely monuments are just relics abandoned as relics.

Nov 1, 2009

Nortel values its Patent portfolio

Nortel is paying about 350K for about 3500 patents it is planning to sell. It has hired Global IP for the valuation.

I had discussed the valuation approach in terms of market potential and the possibility of options in this part sometime ago. The news does not speak of option but it does say of market potential and value maximizing using scenario analyses.

Check this URL for details -
http://www.allaboutnortel.com/2009/10/31/nortels-patent-analysis-deal-with-global-ip-2/

Interesting telecom blogs

Some very interesting telecom blogs

http://3g4g.blogspot.com/

http://developing-telecoms.blogspot.com/

http://comworldseries.blogspot.com/

http://www.mobilefuture.org/blog/

Disclaimer

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.