Saturday, 28 September 2013

Oops... sorry says Novartis

lots of trouble with Indian pharma lately.

i remember reading about novartis being less than honest on cases related to ophthalmology. is this the same?

Friday, 27 September 2013

Splitting hair on Milliseconds

Been late to this beat... but then I got hang of this detail only today.

"That’s not possible, Nanex concluded, unless the data (released in Washington from the Fed) was transmitted to servers located in Chicago because there are milliseconds of latencies involved with passing along that information. It also raised the possibility that the data leaked to market participants early, allowing about $800m in futures contracts to trade milliseconds before the rest of the market learned of the decisions."

$800mn trade in 8mS early through FT Alphaville

Freaking cheating. 

Moily and oily deals

Moily has lately been in the news for a lot of reasons.

a. For suggesting that petrol bunks can be closed at 8PM or so to reduce consumption [obviously, he was misunderstood or so he said after the media exactly understood what he meant.]
b. For writing imposition letters request letters to all CM's asking them to stagger office timings [for govt offices. But then, do they ever work so much? Shouldnt 3 days weeks do rather instead of staggered shift timings? Anyway, very little work gets done... so how does it matter whether it happens at 4.00PM or 4.00AM as long as it happens [or doesnt happen?]
c. For also writing to CM's to suggest that one day a week, people travel by buses.

A few more things are happening... moily and his oily ministerial secretaries and their deputy underlings are looking at more oil opportunities - oily deals if you like. They are currently in advanced negotiations with Ramirez [Venezuela Minister] for getting an agreement signed for OIL / ONGC [OVL] to get oil fields et al.

Apparently, should get done in a few weeks or so they say. Off to Caracas in a few weeks, Moily, to sign more oily deals on butter paper.

as an aside - a few suggested Iran oil too - well, we are trying it. But a lot of logistical difficulties remain.
A few:
a. Antagonise US. [dont do it excessively]
b. Insurance for ships becomes a huge problem [Iran suddenly stops the shop from leaving their port]
c. Iran takes money in rupees upto an extent (30%, if I am not mistaken) . A bilateral deal -good for India. Doesnt need to dip into forex reserves and is a win-win for both countries. but pt a & b together complicates  things to a great extent.

I track Venezuela and whether Nicolas Maduro will survive in office till next yr mid as part of GJP

Update: By happenstance. Yay, with the Iran deal done, it will be a lot more friendly regime. Next 6 months should either break or build. Time should tell.
I also realize that India has a deal with Iran in such a way that it can use Euros for payment of the rest... not necessarily USD. Interesting, that!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

India and the danger of the demographic dividend

A nice timely article from FT Alphaville.

The intent here isn’t to blindly counter the optimism of the headline numbers but to point to the enormous policy challenges that exist (and have existed but not been met). Sure, the pressures created by imbalances will force change over time in one way or another, but choosing not to preempt them ignores the sad danger inherent in potential.

A good read

A tidbit: More take on China and revisiting his early '11 predictions, Michael Pettis elaborates 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Apple : iOS7 and A7 chip

Apple did a lot of good things recently.
a. Shipped iOS7 [I personally like it. I see that a lot of the guys complain too. Jury is still out. But I like what I see]
 b. Introduced lower cost phones 5c and also upped the higher range 5s.

Incidentally, I also saw a few reports which said that Network providers had crates and crates of 5c while they didnt have enough 5s phones. Possibly Apple is trying to create a market for 5c as this is the first time Apple is having 2 product lines in the same version [and hence will be a new chapter and experience for them too].

Overall reports are currently good. iOS7 has brought in wholesale changes to the approach [UX Lives!]
It remains to be seen how the battery and performance holds.

As always a few difficulties too - 2 security flaws already reported. One to do with control through control centre and access mail, twitter, photo stream and such. Other is to do with calling on a locked phone using the emergency phone options. Sadly, both of the flaws can be tried on a locked phone too.

This link gives a good overview of how the A7 chip holds up and why its a benchmark beast.

Link here

Skeuomorphism is finally out. Good one, Jony Ive. One up on Scott Forstall? The next few days and months should tell.

Update: Sep 30th: Aahaa. Brilliant link

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Travel - random ramblings on recently covered destinations

Been a long time since I scribbled on travel... after all, its about equal parts off-beat travel too.

A few of the trips I did recently that I didnt write about:

a. A nice Masinagudi trip again last Dec [by car] Earlier entry on Masinagudi here
b. Honey Valley again last month Earlier entry on Madikkeri here

Good 2 destinations that I have done multiple times and both by bike and car. Good going.

I did Trichy and back last week in 2 days. Crazy roads. About 950 kms. Took the Salem-Namakkal-Thottiyam-Musiri-Trichy-Thanjavur route.

The Namakkal-Thottiyam-Musiri-Trichy route is long, meandering and quite scenic... but its also a very tough ride as its a state highway, quite rough and tough going as it has a lot of oncoming traffic... not very bike friendly.

Hence, when I came back, I took the Tanjore-Trichy-Karur-Nammakal-Salem-Bangalore instead. Luckily, I was travelling alone, else, it might have been a crazy journey to do in 2 days. JUST not a 2-day trip. Coming from me who did Rameshwaram in a single day from Bangalore on boxing day a couple of years back, its a point that one would do well to heed. [BLR-Rameshwaram is about 800 kms to the dot and a lot of it is state highway and it was just after monsoon when I did it... it was an interesting ride. More on that later. Needs a separate entry on that!]

Oh, forgot to mention... just had a couple of hours the other day as I had some free time and wanted to take the bike. Just for the heck of it, tried the Hosur-Rayakottai-Hogenakkal route. Went upto Anchetty and a bit beyond. Goodness me, insanely beautiful. I was reminded of the Alangayam-Jamunamaruthur-Polur route near Tiruvannamalai. Long winding roads, forest range, spiralling hairpin bends and lovely lovely atmosphere with the smell of wet soil. Heady! Loved every bit of the drive. 

Observations on Indian Foreign Policy over the years

Splitting the original post into 2 so there is logical structure. Syria and India are as different as chalk and cheese and putting both inside the same post makes little sense.

So, here goes.

Been reading up on a lot of op-eds recently. Lots of reasons behind it... general insatiable urge to lap up on why things are happening so crazily at the international front, why India did the policy decisions they have [or the lack of policies for that matter] till date and such. Another major reason is also the super forecasting that is required for the good judgment project that I am part of. [GJP is the link in case you want to know more on the same]

Was searching around for stuff and got a wealth of information:

Across Borders by JN.Dixit. he was an ex-foreign sec himself during the '90's and apparently this is a reference text book for foreign policy in the Indian Universities! Its India centric and broadly describes about what drove Indian FP from 1947-1998.

I didnt realise Firstpost has good authors. This is genuinely good for the points that are mentioned. Not all are absolutely valid, mind you. But it is worth reading up. Firstpost

All of Praveen Swami's articles here

On the same note, my earlier post on the same topic with references to stellar links here

Simon Johnson on Entrepreneurship

He's one economist that I really appreciate. Both his views and his knowledge. He was also the ex-chief economist of the WB.

He currently takes a course on Entrepreneurship in MIT Sloan school of mngmt and this is a nice excerpt from class #4 of his course.

"In contrast, creating a strong technology development environment can be very helpful.  In part this can be based on activities by large local companies and even multinationals (e.g., early in the case of software development in India), as long as people and ideas can migrate into the start-up sector.  Endeavor has had great success – see their metrics – by focusing on developing trust among key people, including entrepreneurs, influential established business leaders, and governments.  (I’ve been an adviser to Endeavor in the past, and I highly recommend participation in their International Selection Panels – where outside experts interview candidates and determine which specific people should receive Endeavor support.)"

More here

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Strategic Observations on the Syrian crisis

Been reading up on a lot of op-eds recently. Lots of reasons behind it... general insatiable urge to lap up on why things are happening so crazily at the international front, why India did the policy decisions they have [or the lack of policies for that matter] till date and such. Another major reason is also the super forecasting that is required for the good judgment project that I am part of. [GJP is the link in case you want to know more on the same]

Was searching around for stuff and got a wealth of information.

a. Got good daily mailers from FP site.
b. Good material from Stratfor - unfortunately, its paid and its costly but one gets free tidbits every week or so and the ones that I get are as good as anyone can get.

All in all, a good way to start knowing more about stuff and once it gets more intriguing, it should be a good option to do some serious education in... mmh, now for more defence related studies.

Update: haha, I am over myself. I realise late that there is no relation between the title and content.

To make it more relevant, a few Syria based links [brilliant ones, IMO]

a. thro stratfor
b. real reason for syria pipe-control

I saw a lot more of articles reg the fact that Syria is in the hot seat in the ME.
Reason: Qatar [bordering Iran] has a lot of Nat Gas and wants to send it to the EU. The EU has a healthy paranoia on being dependent on Gazprom.  However, Gazprom wants to control the EU market and get a stranglehold, which quite naturally the US wants to break up. The US is sitting on a lot of shale reserves itself and wants to link up its own to Qatar's pipe and such.

A few more:
a. Syrian intervention - through guardian
b. aljazeera - syria pipelineistan
More information: IPI and TAPI proposed pipelines are perhaps a factor too. Its the energy factor too.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

IBM launches NeXtScale

Slightly late to this beat. So, IBM has launched NeXtScale a few days back.

Tried to probe a bit - Its to do with hyperscaling. [It seemed new and raw to me too initially. It basically means cloud scale. Commoditized hardware with compatible software innovations. away from modular x86]. Dell solves that through DCS and HP also were  dabbling in it [dont know how well they were doing it.]

So far so good. IBM had POWER architecture and it wasnt really the best of options considering costs and other factors too.

mmh. But getting into the x86 market this late?  Dell has been doing it decently through DCS and HP is also dabbling and both of them approximately have 2 times the market share [atleast] (and IBM's market share is trailing and sort of just 11% now and doesnt seem like it will pick up). Seriously, why? Werent they trying to sell the x86 commodity server hardware business to Lenovo [and quoted an outrageously high price which Lenovo didnt accept to]

I do wonder whats the actual reason.

A nice take on this here: NeXtScale

Possible? Perhaps. Even probable. IBM has been aggressively cutting low margin businesses to meet the 2015 roadmap. Its difficult to meet it as it is. [EPS of 20 tgted and they are at almost 14 now, IIRC]
They just sold a big chunk of GPS too. Why launch NeXtScale is a question which I am currently curious about.

Update: Sep 18th: IBM plans to invest 1bn on Linux over next 4-5 years. 1Bn proposed investment by IBM on Linux Interesting the thought. Needs to be seen if it will generate cash though. A development cloud is a nice idea but its for free? for entitled customers, perhaps. So, if I think from the other angle, it basically means that IBM charges such a heavy license cost that it can afford to keep a DC [dev cloud] running for free [which can be loaned for development efforts of their customers]

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Moral Difficulty

We tend to think that some wrongs are so small that doing them makes no difference. If I keep my heater on during a power shortage, perhaps the shortage lasts a hundredth of a second longer than it would otherwise have done. I tell myself that this effect is too small to matter.
But imagine a village in which 100 tribesmen are eating lunch. 100 bandits descent on the village, and each bandit takes one tribesman’s lunch and eats it. The bandits leave, each having denied a tribesman an appreciable amount of pleasure.
The next week, hungry again, they descend on the village and tie up the tribesmen. At first they have some moral qualms about robbing them again, but then they notice that each tribesman’s lunch consists of 100 beans.
“The pleasure derived from one baked bean is below the discrimination threshold,” writes philosopher Jonathan Glover. “Instead of each bandit eating a single plateful as last week, each takes one bean from each plate. They leave after eating all the beans, pleased to have done no harm, as each has done no more than sub-threshold harm to each person.”
The outcome of the second raid is the same as that of the first, yet this time no tribesman has been “significantly” wronged by any bandit. Can we still say that some crimes are too small to matter?
(Jonathan Glover and M.J. Scott-Taggart, “It Makes No Difference Whether or Not I Do It,”Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes, 49 (1975), 171-209)"

From the peerless Futility Closet


Satisfying to see Nadal win. I couldnt see the match - it was scheduled for the ungodly hour of 2.30 AM IST and I wasnt too keen on getting up just for the sake of watching them fight. Nowadays, its much easier to see the highlights later if required.

Havent seen the match yet but from what I see [and know], a 4-setter means Nadal has won it convincingly. I also read that at 4-4 3rd set, Nadal saved 3 break points and held serve and then broke Djokovic. Went on to win the next 8 games out of 9.

Lovely. Getting closer to Fed now. At 13. Pete at 14, Fed at 17. Nadals about 27 [age] now. Has the time if he has the intent!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Random Inferences on correlation between INR/USD and Market trends

Today, an interesting thing happened. I accidentally misunderstood my friend's statement while he sent me this:

About NIFTY:
"after touching all-time high of ~6300 in tested highs 2 times...
1) All time high of ~6300 in Jan-2008.
2) bottomed out at 2550 by Jan-mar 2009 (1 1/4 yr from all-time high)
3) Re-tested earlier high ~6200 by Nov-2010 (1 3/4 yr after touching bottom of 2550)
4) Bottomed out at 4500 by Dec-2011 (1 yr from 1st re-test of all-time high)
5) Re-tested earlier high ~6200 by May-2013 ( 1 1/2 yr after testing new bottom of 4500)

He went on to mention: "so here is what i want to say
after jan-2008 all time high
it ttried to test that high twice
and it tested new bottom of 4550 once" 

"so i believ e next on the card is 2nd re-test of bottom of 4500
jan-08 (high) -> mar-09 (low) -> nov-10 (high) -> dec-11 (low) -> may-13 (high) -> by april-14 or election time (low) ?????"

I was busy on a few other things and I saw this quickly and misunderstood. I was sort of taken aback and asked him what the Rupee value was at these times for him to be so confident in the prediction. [He was perhaps taken aback at my pointed question too]. However, being the good friend that he is, he started digging into that information... while I wanted to read his statements again to see how he can make arbitrary conclusions, particularly when I know him well and know that he makes good considered assumptions and forecasts.
On re-checking: Stupid of me... he meant "re-tested" I assumed it was "Rupee tested". Error on my side.

However, serendipity struck. Why not superimpose how INR has performed over the shame same time in the market? Currency vs Equity over 4 yrs, if you like. I told him everything - my mistaken understanding, the logic of comparing both together and making observations on them and such.

here is our understanding and analysis so far:

"21-jan-08 (New high) 39.35
02-mar-09 (earlier bottom) 52.46
09-mar-09 52.05
08-nov-10 (1st test of new high) 44.31
26-nov-10 45.83
01-dec-11 (1st test of new bottom) 51.45
30-dec-11 53.06
01-may-13 (2nd test of new high) 53.67
31-may-13 56.50

 after touching all-time high of ~6300 in tested hight 2 times...
1) All time high of ~6300 in Jan-2008.
2) bottomed out at 2550 by Jan-mar 2009 (1 1/4 yr from all-time high)
3) Re-tested earlier high ~6200 by Nov-2010 (1 3/4 yr after touching bottom of 2550)
4) Bottomed out at 4500 by Dec-2011 (1 yr from 1st re-test of all-time high)
5) Re-tested earlier high ~6200 by May-2013 ( 1 1/2 yr after testing new bottom of 4500)"

Mmh. Interesting. So I we started making a few patterns. 

a. In Jan 08, when mrkt went up - all time high, INR also appreciated [great times. NIFTY and currency +vely correlated. good egg.]. Rupee at 39ish
b. Between Jan-Mar 09, when mrkt went down - bottom, INR depreciated. [Again +ve correlation. So far so good]. Rupee between 49-52. 
c. In Nov '10 again markets went up. Retesting the earlier high. Again... INR also appreciated [great times. NIFTY and currency +vely correlated. good egg.] Rupee between 43-45
d. In Dec '11, market retested the bottom[4624]. About 27% bottom from Nov 10 highs[6312] [Yet Again +ve correlation. So far so good] Rupee between 51-53.
e. May-july '13 mrkts retesting highs. about 6.2k. Where is the INR? Between 53-59.5ish. Coorelation between market performance and INR/USD broken. Successfully. Kaput. 

Link for someone who wants to see it for themselves: 

CNX Nifty

Why has this happened?

I can think of these things:

a. Indian Institutional Investors have perhaps been taking the place of FII's as net buyers. It means they need to buy in far excess of what the FII's sell [hot money is moving out of EM's to safety. Besides, UST yields have gone up decently... why risk it on risky assets if risk free option has gone up significantly?]
b. Ceteris paribus, its possible that the depreciation of the INR is also to do with the policy paralysis and lack of reforms and infrastructure. What changed over the last 5 years for the correlation to be broken. It seems to be statistically significant. 
c. Fed Taper - as mentioned in pt a, Fed taper is leading hot-money to rush out of EM's quickly. This leads to 
1. market correction
2. USD/INR exchange distortion

Though pt 2 has happened, pt 1 seems to have been countered [markets were at a high at the same time]... which does seem non-intuitive compared to what happened in the earlier cases. It leads me to believe that there has been some influence by the Indian Institutional Investors somewhere [I havent checked yet... but it will be instructive and educative to check the same]

d. Did commodity markets explode to add more pressure on the currency? Anecdotal evidence doesnt seem to point in that direction.

e. Black money coming in and push for a favorable rate? There were interesting links which mentioned how INR always depreciated before elections in thelast 20 years except in 2k4 when BJP was in power ["India shining" time] Likely. Most likely too. 

Updates: Been checking on this from time to time. I plan to keep updating this for my own analysis:
Sep 6th: Saw a few news reports that FII's are still investing. They are buying more now that the market seems quite oversold. Mmh. Interesting and critical data point. 
Sep 6th: One more. Good link. I dont agree with Jeffries analysis though. They conclude that if CAD comes down by 3%, GDP growth will lower to sub 1-2%. Mmh, remember this. Besides, its not as if the import dependent industries will actually stop importing - if they need to survive, they will do the minimum required imports that makes them meet their margins [there is no imports embargo for such a drastic assumption by Jeffries, lets remember]

Sep 18th: I see. This is something to take note of. Hot money stays sticky in India thro' Reuters. So, corporates are lucky that way. Fortunate... very much so. 
Interesting, our exports print was positive too. I dont know by how much it can keep growing though... thanks to the points I mention below [poor capacity addition, poor infrastructure etc]

Sadly: even with such depressed rates, with our existing decripit infrastructure, its not as if we can exploit the situation to have a significant jump in exports. it might be substantial but full advantage cant be taken. Again, poor infrastructure, lack of clarity wrt future trends makes it difficult for companies to do diligent forecasting which leads to lesser investment in capacity addition leading to lower / reduced capital expenditure leading to reduced inventory... the loop feeds on itself and makes itself more vicious. 

India needs to move on. We need adults in power. not 80 year old teenagers who refuse to govern... or speak up. Neither do we need ministers who vaguely point fingers on their predecessors for the current mess we are in. [Ironic, Pranab cant even speak up on that aspect now, now that he is a President and dons a non-political role]

Sad days. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Music Hour

Assorted list of good music.

Black - Pearl Jam

"I know someday you'll have a beautiful life,
I know you'll be a star in somebody else's sky,
But why, why, why can't it be, can't it be mine?"

Rammstein - Ohne Dich
For the video. Very powerful power ballad!

GnR Trilogy: November Rain, Estranged, Dont Cry - each one of these are powerful in their own way and all three together is an absolute delight. I personally love Sweet Child of Mine too.

Metallica - Fade to Black, Master of Puppets, Hero of the Day, Nothing else matters, Unforgiven [II too], King Nothing... so many

I used to dig Scorpions a lot - I sadly have lost the collections across many machines that I used. Used to love them. Rock you like a Hurricane [hurricane 2000 is up THERE!] , Winds of change, Hes a woman, shes a man; cant recollect many names but still can hum the tune.

Many songs off and on in creed, nirvana, pink floyd, dire straits, eagles,  phil collins [coming back to life has a special effect for me], steve winwood, dream threatre [have to love mustaine and petrucci] , iron maiden... the list goes on.

Update: How can I ever forget Dire Straits? Mark Knopfler is fantastic. Money for Nothing. Brothers in Arms, Sultans of Swing, 5:15AM, Shangri-La, Romeo and Juliet. God, Knopfler is great. [I realise now, late, that I have added dire straits even earlier. Good!]


Monday, 2 September 2013

Relevance of people and human connections

I heard about John Butler Trio, a few years ago, by a freak accident. An accident which actually happened because of several other accidental happenings in my life before the SL trip... those which happened by happenstance. Serendipity, if you like. 

I was in Sri Lanka on my way to Ella from Kandy on their picturesque train journey [supposedly one of the most scenic routes in SL. Its good too, feels like the long meandering routes of Munnar, Nilgiris rolled into one]. I happened to meet a French guy on the train and we ended up speaking for a while and speak, we did... we became quite friendly, travelled together a bit and also got to share our music - thats how I learnt about John Butler Trio.

The SL trip by itself was on a whim as I wanted to do a quickie considering the constraint of limited time and booking at the last minute so I can get to use my discount coupons. Interesting how the Supreme Power links up things in ways unimaginable... but in hindsight, it seems as it was just meant to be that way. 

As the protagonist says in 127 hours "This rock has been waiting for me my entire life..." 
Verbatim: "[talking into his camera]
Aron Ralston: You know, I've been thinking, everything is...just comes together. It's me. I chose this. I chose all of this. This rock...this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. It's entire life. Ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. There, in space. It's been waiting, to come here. Right...right here. I've been moving towards it my whole life. The minute I was born, every breath I've taken, every action has been leading me to this crack on the out surface." Link here

Powerful. Such is life. Such is music too. I am glad to have met someone who led me to John Butler Trio. It was waiting for me all the while. Patiently... till I got hold of it and got addicted to the music. 

Youtube link of JBT: JBT - Ocean start

Its a pity that the trio didnt get more popular. 

Oh speaking of coincidences, its No surprise that even 127 hours happened because I was at a friends place and got to watch the movie out of force than choice. Else, movies and me maintain our respective distances. And I am happier for having seen a movie like that. [Its incidentally a true life story!... My friend asked me to guess the ending after I saw the scene and I guessed it right too. He was shell shocked. And No, I didnt know about the movie or the real life story. Perhaps a bit of reading about mountaineering helped me conclude it? Possible]

Life trundles on... ever so gently.