Gold Farming

Today in the class, someone mentioned a very interesting case about how an scientist successfully recovers gold nanoparticles and mercury from agricultural crops. Not only this process is commercially viable, but it also improves the quality of soil that is often left contaminated with toxic chemicals used during mining.
I wonder if it would make sense to use these process over Kolar and other abandoned indian gold fields.
A detailed pdf elaborating the technicals of the process could be found here


Hot Air balooning

Finally I can knock 1 more item from my to do list.

Now my next 2 targets are sailing and sky diving. Most likely this summer I would find a nice place to sail near Mumbai, but I still have no idea where in India we can do sky diving.


Why I got hired

I will be in Bombay for 2 months during my summers in April 🙂


Is Negative Positive? (FMCG Working Capital Management)

More companies go under because of cash flow issues, rather than declining profitability. Hence traditional prudence always suggests that a firm should have sufficient cash to cover its immediate liabilities. However there is a growing breed of FMCG companies that claim otherwise.

Unlike most other industries, the turnover of a FMCG company is not limited by its ability to produce, but its ability to sell. Hence they concentrate their resources on marketing and either outsource their manufacturing or make a limited investment (as compared to their turnover) in plant and machinery. Therefore there is a limited room to raise funds by mortgaging the plant and machinery. The developments in SCM, ERP and implementation of JIT have made the firms leaner and hence now it’s not possible to raise substantial funds via inventories. Typically a firm pledges its plant, machinery or inventory to raise the bank loan/overdraft required to fund its operation. Realizing these limitations, many companies (esp. Dell and Dabur) starting using their negotiating powers over their customers and suppliers to fund their expansion in operations.

Even if a firm has a healthy profit margin of 20% (Dabur has 18%) a firm needs to make an investment of 80/- to increase its revenue by 100/-. After taking into consideration the uncertainty associated with any new product launch or expansion plan, there is always a limit to the operating leverage that firm can go to before its bankers start feeling jittery. This pushes most companies into a vicious circle. They cannot exploit the market opportunity fully and increase their revenues because they do not have sufficient cash. They do not have sufficient cash because their revenues are small. However by having negative working capital, these FMCG companies are literally forcing their suppliers and customers to fund their operations. Hence breaking away from this vicious circle and gaining the ability of unrestrained growth.



Few myths about FII

Ila Patnaik in her wonderful article has tried to bust some commonly held misconceptions about FII. Its a good read.

Stock prices in India have seen a huge decline along with the fall seen in stock markets all over the world. The world environment has impacted India hugely and all theories of decoupling of financial markets have been disproved. What has been the role of foreign institutional investors in transmitting global sentiments to India? There is a perception in the Indian media that FIIs play a dominant role in price formation in India. But the data tells a strikingly different story.

Figure 1 shows the stock market index, Nifty. The graph starts from 1 September 2008. The grey line in the figure marks 15th September 2008, the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy following which there was a sharp worsening of the global financial crisis. Stock prices in India fell sharply after this. The interesting question is: How does this link up to the activities of FIIs?

Figure 2 shows FII activity. The solid line represents weekly FII purchases, while the dashed line represents weekly FII sales. The difference between the two lines indicates net purchases/sales of FIIs every week.

FIIs have, on a net basis, sold shares in India in every week (except one) since the Lehman bankruptcy. One factor influencing this is redemptions of equity funds and hedge funds worldwide, which has forced them to sell assets. But the popular picture — of all FIIs selling India in panic, and exiting en masse — is not borne out by this data. Throughout the period after September 15, FIIs have continued to buy also. Some FIIs are buying, and some FIIs are selling. Both buy and sell numbers are very large, and the difference between them (the net buy) is quite small.

FIIs thus do not behave like a single homogenous investor, contrary to popular perception in India. This is not unexpected as there are a large number of different kinds of institutional investors such as pension funds and hedge funds who have different time horizons, different mandates. Thousands of FIIs are registered with SEBI; there is a diverse array of views about the future amidst them. In terms of policy implications this suggests that allowing retail investors to invest in India may be useful. Further liberalisation of access to India will further increase the diversity of views and compulsions of foreigners operating in India. This will help increase the stability of capital flows to India.

The second notable phenomenon visible in the data is in the net sales, or the difference between purchases and sales. This peaked in the middle of October. This does not correspond with the sharp fall in the stock price index seen in Figure 1 just before October 28. In fact, right after the sharp drop in prices (28 October), the net purchase by FIIs turned slightly positive.

In other words, newspaper headlines are wrong when they imply (a) that all FIIs are selling off their Indian equity assets and (b) that this is the source of the sharp decline in stock prices. FIIs have heterogenous positions on the stock market. There is a diversity of views and compulsions; there is a large gross buy and a large gross sale on every day, leading to a small net buy/sell. There is no one-to-one relation between FII net sales and stock price movements.

Why is the influence of FIIs so small? Figure 3 compares the size of FII activity relative to overall activity in Indian stock market. The black line is the sum of NSE and BSE turnover. (The sharp dip in trading volumes on Diwali day, in this picture, was because the markets only opened for an evening session on that day). After Lehman died, overall trading volume has held up: the Indian equity market has remained robustly liquid. This is unlike the experience in some other countries where the stock market has collapsed or been shut down by the government.

The dashed line in the graph is the net sales by FIIs. We find that FIIs account for only about one to nine percent of the activity on the stock market. The values for FIIs are tiny when compared with the size of the overall market. It is, therefore, not surprising that they do not have a large influence on the market.

Why did stock prices drop even though massive net sales by FIIs, or an en masse flight by FIIs from the country, did not happen? Stock prices are determined by the beliefs of lakhs of market participants across the country. These are the people who are watching industries, individual companies and making forecasts about the future performance of the companies. Some foreign investors participate in this kind of active stock speculation, but the bulk of it is done by domestic individuals. When global business cycle conditions became worse, these speculators started downgrading their optimism about the growth of profits and dividends on the part of Indian companies. This gave lower stock prices. The channel runs from news to forecasts to (primarily domstic and individual) speculators to stock prices.

Why does the media talk so much about FIIs even though their influence on stock prices is small? From the viewpoint of brokerage firms, what matters most is trading volume, because their fees are proportional to volume. Whether FIIs buy or sell, they generate fees for brokerage firms. FIIs tend to do business with a few large brokerage firms located in South Bombay who are focused on institutional investors. For these firms, FIIs are important customers. Journalists and television commentators tend to talk with a few big brokerage firms, and tend to think that FIIs are very important. They miss out on the thousands of stock brokers spread across the country, doing mostly retail business, who account for the bulk of activity on the stock market. The belief of the big institutionally oriented brokerage firms in Bombay, that FIIs are very important for their business, has got rubbed off into a broadly held belief in the media that FIIs are the most important participants in Indian financial markets.


Lies, Lies and more lies

This company FemCare made a press release to clarify that there is no talks about acquisition with Dabur and then within 30 days the company is acquired.
7 months ago Dabur did exactly the same thing. Read this article by livemint

Why do indian corporates lack professional integrity? It is not that the company wanted to keep the acquisition news under wraps. Otherwise how can one explain that during recessionary times, why would stock of a little known scrip increase from its traditional price band of 250-300 to 650+ within a month. A lot of people did knew that Dabur was interested in paying 800 per share to acquire 90% stake in the company (70% from promoters and 20% via open offer)


Awww…what the helL


I joined a reputable MBA college recently…

Yeah yeah yeah, blah blah blah. I know you have come across lots of books on mba’s and iitians. Why this post again?

Just to tell you how my personality has been affected in the few months I have been here. I have become more cynical, a little darker and am operating on Peter’s Principle…inside the institute. But once outside my present peer group, I am a very confident, cheerful individual. (You can associate other good qualities of you own accord, they won’t be off the mark.)

So, what’s the point I am making?

It is quite similar to what dad told Calvin for their fishing trip- Instead of taking a vacation from your regular, boring life, make your vacation so bad that your regular life feels like a holiday trip. That’s how I see an mba course actually helping you.

Though I still wish I could call this two year stint just a bad vacation…


Double or Triple Standards

We have all heard of double standards prevalent in all societies across the globe. A good friend of mine decided to add another dimension to it over dinner. ‘The Indian society’, he said, ‘has not double, but triple standards. One for me, the other for my wife and a third for the other fellow’s wife’. I thought it was quite cheeky. But the fact of the matter remains that it’s true.

‘My standard’, elaborated my friend, ‘is that i should be allowed to get ‘a lift’ from the other fellow’s wife. Simply put, i should be allowed to flirt around. My wife should have the second standard, not to let other buggers like me approach her. She should be comparable to the likes of Sati Savitri. And the third, applicable to those whom i flirt around with, is that they should allow only me to get near them’. Odd.

‘The third standard doesn’t make sense’, I complained. ‘Well it does’, he continued, ‘if you understand that the majority of such people are those who want to achieve a lot but don’t have the will to go out and get it, professionally or otherwise. So they feel at least one place should be reserved exclusively for them, that too with no strings attached. And this is the mentality which leads to the beginning of any dirty office politics.’

Quite an insight, ‘So what’s the solution?’ ‘What damn solution? If anyone gets a solution, shoot him. It’s the flavour of India, and i am a proud part of it…cheers!’


Military Etiquette

Officer: Soldier, do you have change for a dollar?
Soldier: Sure, buddy.
Officer: That’s no way to address an officer! Now let’s try it again. Do you have change for a dollar?
Soldier: No, SIR!


Body doubles

Last summer an Iraqi general summoned Saddam’s 48 body doubles to a safe house in Iraq. “I have good news and I have bad news” he told the doubles.
“The good news is, Saddam is alive!” Everybody in the room gave a big cheer, “Saddam!” “Saddam!” “Saddam!” “Saddam!”
The Iraqi general then turned to the doubles and said, “The bad news is, he’s lost an arm.”