Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Housing Futures

Housing futures are being introduced on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Wonder when we'll have them in India. Real estate, particularly housing, constitutes the largest chunk of any individual's asset; but is unfortunately the least liquid of all major asset classes. The market is also highly inefficient and fraught with purchase/sale difficulties. The asset class has so far been regarded as an alternative investment, with the result that few, if any, investment firms provide services to financial investors in it. Housing futures are a welcome step in changing this environment.

However, as I've begun to notice, financial knowledge about derivatives is low in the general populace - infact, even the most literate are only aware of the speculative aspect of derivatives. The concept of risk management is only slowly catching on. So, even if introduced in India, futures on housing/real estate classes will be the domain of only the most sophisticated of investors. The day when the average investor understands and invests in these instruments will be an exciting day.

Source: FinanceProfessor

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The future of management - is Indian?

Fast Forward: The world's most modern management is in India - on HCL Technologies:

Vineet Nayar, president of India's 30,000-employee HCL Technologies (Research), is creating an IT outsourcing firm where, he says, employees come first and customers second.

...360-degree evaluations are not uncommon, but at HCL all results are posted online for every employee to see. That's un-heard-of!

Every HCL employee can at any time create an electronic "ticket" to flag anything they think requires action in the company ...such tickets can only be "closed" by the employees themselves.

In addition, every employee can post a question or comment on any subject in a public process called "U and I." About 400 come in each month, and questions and answers are all posted on the intranet.

Driving in Chennai

is clearly an art form. Its just plain crazy to drive on these roads. For one, there's no concept of a lane, so people just love to weave through the smallest gaps without any indication. Pedestrians cross half-way before turning back to look if there's any on-coming vehicle. Most I guess, attribute the first right of passage on the road to the pedestrian - strolling coolly while chatting in the middle of the road is a common past-time. What really takes the cake of course, is the auto. Encountering one is enough to drive jitters up the spine of the most astute of drivers. For these, driving is a series of brakes, jumps and left-right jerks. One cannot even raise an eyebrow, for the fear of being doused with the choicest of expletives.

As a pedestrian/bicyclist, I never used to realize how bad darting across the road is to the nerves of the on-coming four-wheel driver - it was just plain fun, or maybe a dash of heroism. Now, as I learn to drive these bigger machines which do not possess the maneuverability of the two-wheeler, I realize that the surest way to get a high blood pressure is to drive a four-wheeler in Chennai.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Review of Barcamp Chennai

Belated yeah, but was slightly caught up with work. So writing from memory and putting up only QQs.

What was good: Quite a big crowd, guys from a variety of backgrounds (some from the construction industry!), some really interesting presentations, got to hear about some very exciting stuff happening out there, very nice people, very well organized by Kiruba/Ganesh/others - attention to detail was impressive, lots of enthu.

What could be improved: Surprisingly low awareness about web 2.0 (even though the conference was about it!), turned out to be a general tech conf., maybe was a bit too long - could feel the drop in interest as presentations progressed.

Some presentations on the first day:
1) Ganesh Padmanabhan - Voicesnap
- Asynchronous voice messaging. Interesting app, but could be made more tech-savvy.
"What is RSS?" (Someone from the audience: Its like podcasting... :p)
"Are you IMS compliant?"
"How do you plan to make money from this ?"
"Does it have APS?"

2) Vinoo - Netcore, Product manager of MyToday.com
- A platform for setting up custom aggregators
"You have firefox?"
"People don't use craigslist much in India"
"Long term in a digg like position"
Audience: "How does your site compare with justsamachar.com?". Answer: We have him working with us
Audience: "Whats your business model?". Answer: "As of now we have no business model. We just want to crack the mobile space..."

3) Suman Karmuri - A programming language called NPL. A language for converting code into video!!
"I have written a language called NPL" Audience:"Why do we need another language?"
"This is the first public forum where this is being presented"

4) Vijay Anand - Project Infranet. Working with Ashok Jhunjunwalla@IITM
- Some form of a social security number for Indians
"In Canada it takes 15 minutes to start a company. It takes 96 days to start a company in India. And then they may reject it for having a name like 'Technologies'"
"There is no business model". "This is a very long term project"
Audience: "You can't solve a social problem by throwing technology at it"
Audience: "So how will it solve the problems of the poor?". Answer: "This will give the government a framework to monitor rural information" (ah! fellow consult :p)

5) Balaji Subramanian -
- System for tracking files
"Complementary technology to RFID"

6) K.L.Narayanan - Art of web 2.0 (Finally!!) - Founder director for 360degree interactive.
"Data comes first, container comes next"
"Data DJing"
"Amazon web services costs Rs 6.75 per GB"
"Web 2.0 is about people participating in a whole lot of ways"

Disclaimer: QQs are meant to be out of context

Some Photos from the Barcamp

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Pirates of Pulicat

What do three guys do on a hot chennai afternoon when the wanderlust bug bites them ?… they land up at Pulicat. Or so we thought, at the start.

Pulicat (or Pazhaverkadu, as it is called in Tamil) is India's second largest lagoon. Situated about 55 kms to the north of Chennai, near the Andhra-TamilNadu border, the lagoon is a bird sanctuary. We started our journey at around 2 pm and took the road from the Marina up north through Parry's till we reached the Ennore port.

I've never been to Ennore before and it was a pleasant surprise to find a pristine waterfront so close to the city. The place is really photogenic with bobbing catamaran and frolicking kids in the water forming a picturesque addition to the panoramic sea-face. The road from Ennore turns left to bypass the harbor. 40 kms further up north comes Ponneri, a small town with crowded, bustling markets. The road splits into four, and we continue left to Pulicat.

There were few cars on the road we took, and fewer tourists - most of them foreigners. The car caught the attention of quite a few in every village we passed, making us feel very foreign too (wish we had a few swadesh songs ;D).

Now Pulicat is an interesting village/town/whatever they call it. You need to pay a panchayat tax to enter it. The only indication to a visiting tourist that the place is of any significance is a TTDC hoarding that shows a few flying birds and has some rubbed off lettering. People walk about on roads as if they've never seen a moving vehicle and blowing the horn has hardly any effect. The area itself is so dirty I wonder why any bird would land there, but to scavenge. I wish the TTDC had not left this place to rot.

However, the lagoon is a decent find. Particularly at dusk, as the sun sets, its a impressive sight. That is, if you can forget the extortionist boatmen who charge hundreds to take you around in a circle with a radius of a few hundred meters.

We could only sight a lone heron stalking about and a flock of birds flying in the horizon, but the boatman assured us that we could see a lot more if we came early in the morning. The lagoon is pretty shallow - so, it was interesting to see a couple of bullock carts crossing it alongside the boats.

For people who plan to follow our trail: Leave early in the morning. It takes around 2 hours to reach Pulicat from Chennai. Following the NH5 up from Koyambedu is an easier (and smoother) way than going via Ennore. The road conditions are terrible, to say the least - if it were not for the awesome suspension of the car, we'd have returned with a bruised back. So either travel by motorcycle, or take an SUV ;D. Recommended for the adventure seeking (or/and the absolutely vela). Finally, if you want to feel like a foreigner in India, just land there in a car … do carry a couple of Swadesh songs for true effect.

Photos: On flickr