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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Dubai World & the Economy of ME !!

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Over the last weekend when world was celebrating the Thanks Giving holidays and Eid, one of the largest company of Dubai, Dubai World announced its inability to repay its debt to the tune of $30 billion. The report came as a surprise to many and almost everybody in the world expressed their opinion about it, primarily of concern and grief, but almost everybody seemed in the denial mode, rejecting any repurcussions on their own country's economy what so ever !! The question which surfaced in my mind was - Is it the beginning or is it over ?

Being part of this ecosystem for past 6 months, I always thought it was right there looming in front of everybody, but the reactions I read took me by a surprise infact! I always believed in simple mathematics and the power and sophistication it provides in carrying out most fundamental analysis. Within one week of landing in Qatar ( May 2009 for lesser informed), I had the opportunity to take a round trip of the city's most ambitious projects. I was defnitely impressed by the mushrooming of high rise towers and obscure buildings some planned and some in middle of no where !! A quick total of the various new buildings nearing completion/ completed in and around 4 prime routes of Doha, ie B, C & D ring road and Airport road, revealed me that more than 100 commercial buildings will be at Doha disposal in next couple of months. As I explored more into the city, I discovered the new and gliterati West Bay built on the lines of Manhattan, NY or Hongkong Islands ! Doha has one of the longest corniche in the region and at its tip lies the melting point of Middle East meets West the West Bay !! The skyline of West Bay has undergone a sea of change in past 5 years or so. So coming back to mathematics West Bay adds another 50 odd high rise towers and a dozen more hotel buildings. Most of the high rise towers in West Bay are designated for commercial/ office space of hotel purposes.

Now lets analyze the population growth in Qatar. The population of Qatar as per 2004 census was 750,000 and 2009 estimates are 1.4 million. Discussion with friends and old collegues revealed that back in 2004 also almost 50% population was of expats working in various Q companies ( Q - P, Steel, Cement, Fertilizer) and other Oil & Gas related companies ( Shell, Exxon, Schlumburger etc). So for sake of simplicity we can consider 350,000 to be real local population and another 350,000 as expats. Assigning a 5% ( which is almost 4 time that of India and more than any other country in the world) growth rate of local population we arrive at apprx 425,000 as the local population in 2009 which implies expats population to be 1 million. Whoosshh !! So the expat population has increased almost 3 times in 5 thats big and what are these guys doing ?? Construction and related indsutries of course !! The output of basic Q industries has definitely not tripled during this duration and so we can safely conclude that the huge population bust is not sustainable and an abbreation ! So what will happen once the projects will come to a standstill ? Perhaps that's an extreme scenario but considering the increasing number of 'For Rent' hoardings in Qatar these days, something is definitely more than fishy !!

If we analyze the situation in more macro context of entire GCC, the situation will appear ever more scary !! A bird's eye view of the GCC countries like Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman to certain extent will portray the picture of war like situation !! In several pockets amidst deserts and oil rigs and huge fleet of towers and mega structures is appearing. Fortunately the construction industry does not create any additional problem of air/ water pollution or ozone depletion, hence no visible effects in the air/ water or ambience in general. And hence the massive constrution sites remain unnoticed and slowly people and government start getting used to it. Temporarily these massive construction sites generates enormous economic activity, movement of human beings, of goods and services and all of a sudden ( or gradually depends upon your frame of reference) the population, the GDP, the economic activity, the consumer spending etc starts increasing. So looking at all these indicators in short term, the economist, the governemt starts feeling good about the economy, the HNIs tends to invest more and not so HNIs in their desire to become HNIs overnight, starts borrowing. The banks in this part of the world are largely directly or indirectly governed by the governement/ the Kings and the Queens ( no we are not talking about fairy tales, but the actual real life kings and the queens) !! So if a HNI or not HNI is supported by a clan/ royal family due to whatsoever reason, is able to convince the bank about the economic viability and very high ROI of the project and hence the money flows into the system, infact the system is flooded with money supply. This has been the broad story of the GCC in past 5-6 years. The enormous money supply, lack of transparencey and accountability brings with it the problem of corruption and slowly inefficiencies creeps into the system.

The two basic forces of nature The Fear and The Greed comes decides the way the economy and the market will move in the future. What will happen to the high rise and the megastructures 10 years down the line is the question to ponder about. Perhaps the easy availability of oil money, another oil boom cycle of couple of years will wipe away the losses from the balance sheet of the government and the banks, perhaps some the buildings will be demolished to create some more parks or playing spaces and so the wheel of life will keep on rotating.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Arun Gandhi: Non violence in the age of terrorism

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Sharing simple yet powerfual thoughts of Mr. Arun Gandhi ( grandson of Gandhi ji) about relevance and more wide and core meaning of non violence and how it can help us counter terrorim.

This is one of the most powerful speeches of recent times, I have seen and heard. The principle of non violence is not new to this world. Every religion teaches non violence as the way of life and thats what Gandhi Ji reminded us. Mr. Arun Gandhi shares interesting ancedotes on how small events shaped his life and firmed his belief about non violence.

The 'war against terrorism' has failed to achieve the ends. As Mr. Arun Gandhi points out, the war never was and cannot be solution to any problem. It will only augment it. The solution lies in peace, non violence and tolerance. Mindless killing and reckless war will only increase the rage and hatred in the heart of fundamentalists, who are hell bent on proving their point. By killing a few of them today might reduce the visible number of terrorists in near future, but after few years somebody else will come and will spread the hatred, terrorism once again. We simply cannot remove the hatred by hatred, we cannot win a war against another war. We must develop the tolerance towards other point of view which might be diametrically oppposite to our, we must learn to co exist in peace. 

Violence is simply not the solution to Terrorism. Wars do not address the root cause of the problem. It just superficially cure the symptoms, in a very expensive manner that too temporarily. The undercurrent, the real reason for which people hate each other and carry out such heinous crimes at large scale. The only community benefitting out of this is defence contractors, suppliers who are supplying these weapons, arms and ammunitions to these fundamentalists and government both.

Its time for politicians and global leaders from around the globe to retrospect and to understand the power of non violence. I think even if all nations from around the globe pledge to spend 1 full year of non violence and tolerance, several lives can be saved, billions of dollars can be saved which can be channelized in welfare programs and perhaps the root cause of terrorism can be solved for ever.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bandra Worli Sea Link - A moment of Pride or Retrospection ?

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Finally after 10 years of wait and almost 2 decades of planning 1650 Crores ( 350 M USD) and incomprehensible indirect expenditure of time and money by several bureaucrats, politicians, babus the much awaited Bandra Worli Seak link was inaugurated on 28th June 2009. The bridge extends 5 Kms and is definitely one of the rare landmarks created in and by modern India.

On contrasting this with 2 of the recently completed projects in China, all efforts gone into creating this bridge looks dwarf. While we can always pat on our back and dont care about critics and cynics we also need to understand the difference between confidence and complacency. Its not about the mad race which world likes to watch and enjoy between India and China, its about our dreams and ambitions as a nation, efficiency and transparency, accountability and ability to learn from mistakes.

The travesty of Indian political system lies in the fact everybody is afraid, afraid to ask questions, afraid to take sincere action and instead raise mundanest issues which nobody cares about -

The opposition is more worried about the naming the bridge after Rajiv Gandhi rather than XYZ or Miachel Jackson. This reaffirms the common man belief that - they are all alike !!

A quick comparison of some of the world's longest bridges can be found here -

We as a nation has long way to go be it creating basic infrastructure or as a truely democractic nation ( rather than hippocractically Democratic or Democracy of convinience)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mr.Nilekani & National ID card Project

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Mr. Nandan Nilekani has recently been appointed to head the National ID card project. I am confident that with his vision, passion and business acumen he will be able to drive this project.He knows how to deliver result quarter after quarter, so he will be able to do this as well. But needles to mention, he will require a strong team on board soon, especially to comprehend the complexities of Indian socio political system. This is no small project and will have implications far beyond our imagination and if Mr. Nilekani is able to pull it through in next 2-3 years it will be a herculean feat perhaps in global history...

I largely suspect that basic data like population of our country, number of vehicles in Pune, number of children who dont have any access to education etc is not available or incorrect. I am not sure how national ID card project will solve these problems, but I am sure once the team starts planning and implementing things will become clear. Definitely there will be lot of obstacles but with a problem solver like Mr. Nilekani at the helm, I am sure things will be far far better than if any general politician/ bureaucrat would have been appointed for this role. So I am really thankful to the government to make good beginning.

I think & I am sure that Infosys will be all proud whatever Mr. Nilekani do & will supoort him with team, resources whenever possible in the larger interest of this country. Infosys has strong management & legacy system and infact this step from Mr. Nilekani will enhance the brand image of Infosys which will benefit the company in the long run.

This step from Mr.Nilekani will set a benchmark & hopefully many more people like him will become part of Indian bureaucratic system, which needs a massive rehauling. India today need more of doers than thinkers and discussioners.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

United Prosperity

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United Prosperity a micor finance mission started by Bhalchander Viswanath. This initiative has the potential to solve some of the India's critical problems of poverty, unemployment, rapid urbanization, education, health and general standard of living in rural India. Supporting rural entreprenurs...with small needs can create big difference as it will make them self reliant...boost their confidence level....increase personal income level...create long term employment opportunity for them and their family memebers...all this in turn will decrease migration to urban areas...increase the standard of living of rural India, which in turn will encourage them to send their children to schools and take proper education without any urgency to earn money for the family. Heres an excerpt from Bhalchander about this new mission -
Combat poverty and multiply the impact of your money

United Prosperity ( is the world’s first person to person loan guaranteeing website. Small entrepreneurs all over the world need funds to start and grow their businesses. Banks however don’t lend to them without collateral. Small entrepreneurs cannot provide collateral since they are often very poor. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) lend to the poor without collateral but they in turn (especially the smaller MFIs) need guarantees to borrow from banks. The general public can help the entrepreneur earn a better livelihood by providing cash collateral – a guarantee – on our website. The guarantee allows the entrepreneurs to access a microloan through one of our partner Microfinance Institutions (MFIs). On loan repayment the money is returned.

United Prosperity is unique in several ways:
a. Maximum impact: Due to United Prosperity’s innovative guarantee model which involves additional capital contributions by the bank and MFI, $1 in guarantee could lead to $2 to $5 in loan to the entrepreneur – thus maximizing the impact.
b. Local linkages: United Prosperity creates relationships between domestic banks, MFIs and poor entrepreneurs rather than encouraging dependence on foreign assistance.
No foreign exchange risk: Since the loans from the Bank to the MFI, and from the MFI to the entrepreneur are in local currency, there is no foreign exchange risk involved. Only in the relatively rare event of default, when the guarantee is called will a cross-border foreign exchange transaction take place.

Operations began in India in May 2009 and over time will expand to other countries.

Key supporters include Cognizant, O’Melveney and Myers, Hanson Bridgett, Berkeley Law at UC Berkeley, Tempus Law, NetSuite, and

You can support United Prosperity in several ways:
a. Spread the word: Write about United Prosperity in your blog or website and tell your friends.
b. Become a social guarantor: Visit United Prosperity’s website and support poor entrepreneurs by making guarantees. There is no minimum amount and you can make payments with PayPal or a credit card.
c. Join the community :
d. Share your expertise: Volunteer your expertise to help build and market our website.
e. Support our mission: Provide grants or loans to help scale up United Prosperity’s operations in the US and India to help us reach more poor entrepreneurs and further our mission.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Saving for the future

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The age old habit of saving, the Indian way is paying off well in the current economic scenario. While consumption drives the growth, GDP, it also drives the tendency to consume even more and then we tend to cross any limits. Shopping is a good exercise now a days to home ridden women, but long hours spent in malls can harm both health and wealth. Saving is good especially when its about saving water, electricity, petrol, enviornment our precious flora and fauna here are some of my few cents on this -

1. water is precious, so we have to make conscious efforts to save water
2. using a shower instead of traditional buckt full water might save some water - good for health and more refreshing too
3. dont let the tap running while shaving, burshing, bathing, washing clothes/ dishes
4. Dont do unnecessary washing of balconies/ floor/ porch/ roof everday be mindful about it

1. I think here also conscious efforts to switch off all the buttons the moment we are out of room
2. using CFLs as much as possible - a high initial cost but savings for lifetime
3. using technology especially in malls/ big shops to optimize the consumption of electricity ( AC/ hoardings)- software + hardware solutions are already available in the market good ROI
4. keeping windows open in the morning (thus avoiding the use of bulbs/ tubelights in the first part of the day) - fresh air and sunlight will pep up the mood and good for health

1. Walk to the neighbourhood gorcery store/ ATM - this will improve ur health
2. Turnoff ur engine at major traffic signals/ railway crossings/ traffic jams - this will hopefully reduce the ambient temperature/ pollution
3. Sharing the ride to office/ market with friends and colleagues- this will give good opportunity to catch up with friends in ever becoming hectic life...
4. Encourage children....teens to use bicycles/ walking/ running/ skatingpls share more thoughts on how to increase saving so as to let the precious resources available for our grandchildren and generations ahead

1. I am not sure if Time saving gadgets actually saves time in the end.
2. Technology is a tool, not an end of life. Somehow I wonder how much and energy and money we end up investing in buying new gadgets, devices, online, keeping upbreast with the latest edition of everything, downloading every piece of update for our gadget, is it worth so much of our attention, especially when time is the most limited thing we have. Can we simply afford to waste half of our life, so as to save a quarter of it?

Besides saving will also help put breaks on consuption and consumerism driven world where everybody wants to outbeat the recession which is an output similar consumerism and euphoristic creation of capacity assuming the consumtption and consumerism will increase forever and ever....

Practising some kind of austerity without being ostentatious is something which our religions have been preaching for years....its time to revive these lessons which were preached by Gandhi Ji in 20th century....its time to think before we consume it time to put breaks un mindless capacity creation in everyaspect of life...its time to cherish what we have inherited and its time to think what we can save and nourish for coming generations....

Saturday, January 31, 2009

One Laptop per Children

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One Laptop per Children is an ambitious initiative taken by several Not For Profit organization and government worldwide.The idea of the initiative is to impart quality education to all the needy children of India and world who otherwise cannot afford the education.By adding visuals and sound learning will be more fun and interactive hence will have a lasting impact on children.Tricky concepts of science/ space/ astronomy/ robotics/ bilogy etc can be easily explained to students now using interactivesoftwares. This is an initiative started in MIT, USA which has started all this discussion.They claim to provide a laptopat 100 USD. However there has been debate that this laptop actually cost more than 200 USD. Still I feel that initiative is goodand must be appreciated, even at 200 USD it is still very attractively priced.
However Indian government has started it own initiative and seems like they have succeded to certain extent. Its simply unbelievablea Laptop at merely Rs.500 or 10 USD
I hope they succeed making quality education affordable and acessible to millions of childrens worldwide.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Some inportant and useful web addresses of GOI

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Anti Corruption Bureau
Check these links out and contact our Anti Corruption Bureau I have read lot of sucess stories of ACB in Pune....lets take the corruption head on

Right to Information Act
Government website - ative

Individual Initiative

Some of the aware citizens has used RTI in positive and constructive way to dig out the truth

Consumer Rights Protection
Government website -

Individual initiative

Hope it servers some purpose....please spread the word and make the fellow Indians aware of their rights and laws to protect their rights

Government Redress Forum

The site does exists....but I havent used it as of least the idea is good, you can take any mnistry/ government department head on if you are not heard -

Affidavits of Candidates

Please dont forget to check the background of candidates contesting elections -

Consumer Complaints

How to file complaint, how to register complaints with CVC-

Lets Make Things Happen for Ourselves