State of libraries in India

A year ago went I had gone to Singapore, one of the first thing that my host wanted me to see was the Library. According to him, the big public library of Singapore was one of the biggest perk of staying in Singapore was that library. I knew him as a learned man, but since I never would classify him as a bookworm, naturally I did not share his enthusiasm.

Its only when I read this article by Gurcharan Das did I realize that we Indians are so much deprived of these basic amenities that we are not even in the position to comprehend what we are missing.


Natural Resources and Poverty

Ever wondered that if you ignore the regions rich in Oil and Gold, then why are the regions that are rich in natural resources are actually poorer and more politically unstable than those regions without any natural resources/minerals?

Its because of Dutch Disease. You can also read a short paper on “Why Mining could bust us” (Australia) to get a simpler answer.
The gist is:
Discovery/exploitation of natural resources leads to a lot of capital inflow in a short period of time. This wealth from outside creates appreciation of local currency which renders domestic manufacturing uncompetitive. Also these industries now get limited attention of the policy makers and reduced access to the best minds and incentives of the government which further hastens their demise.

Usually any economic activity involving mining, tree felling etc does not require much investment in technology or human capital (viz a viz the same amount of revenue generated from manufacturing) As a result, the bulk of the profit goes to the owners (rich foreign corporates, land owners and governments) and bulk of the workers (miners, plantation workers, tree fellers etc.) work on minimum wages. This increased inequality means that the masses are not rich enough to spend and give a boost to the local economy, while the rich want a luxurious life. Luxury means that there would be an increased amount of imports of the best in the world (and not local produce) and an increased spending in non economic activities like maids, chauffeurs, gardens, ornate buildings which do not give much economic boost to the country as a whole. Also most countries are not able to manage this easy and substantial wealth properly. This gives rise to the civil wars, political instability and corruption, and which further increases the misery of the masses.

Finally minerals and natural resources are a depleting asset. Over a long period of time, the inflation adjusted value of almost all of the natural resources fall (oil and gold included) decline. Plus existing reserves gets depleted and new reserves in far off land gets discovered. Hence any economy which neglects on its human capital and banks its entire future on a few natural resources is never bound to see a glorious future.



Rented House

Found this one in Satish’s blog

Hero goes to a house owner, and asks him for a rented house. The owner denies to give him house on the basis that he is a ‘bachelor’.

Hero says, “When you don’t believe a bachelor to give your house, why do you believe a bachelor to marry your daughter? Why not marry her to a man who is already married and has some children?”


New stock market terms

CEO –Chief Embezzlement Officer

CFO– Corporate Fraud Officer.

BULL MARKET — A random market movement causing an investor to mistake
himself for a financial genius.
BEAR MARKET — A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.

VALUE INVESTING — The art of buying low and selling lower.

P/E RATIO — The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.

BROKER — What my broker has made me.

STANDARD & POOR — Your life in a nutshell.

STOCK ANALYST — Idiot who just downgraded your stock.

STOCK SPLIT — When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.

FINANCIAL PLANNER — A guy whose phone has been disconnected.

MARKET CORRECTION — The day after you buy stocks.

CASH FLOW– The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.

YAHOO — What you yell after selling! it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.

WINDOWS — What you jump out of when you’re the sucker who bought Yahoo **** $240 per share.

INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR — Past year investor who’s now locked up in a nuthouse.


Tune mera namak khaya hai

Ever wondered why a traitor is called a Namak Haram… salt is something that’s worth 5/- a kg and even if someone robs me with a 8 tonne truck load of salt, its worth just 40,000 INR (<1000 USD).

However going through the following references about salt, I realized that not so long ago, the purchasing power of the citizens was measured in their capacity to consume salt.

The origin of the word salary is salarium which means salt. The soldier comes from the Latin word sal dare (to give salt). In Japanese history, I could find this text which highlighted the importance and value of salt in the economy.

Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen were to models of the Samurai ideal of honor. Though
mortal enemies, they respected each other. The most famous example of this is when Takeda ran
out of salt. Since Takeda’s lands did not border the sea like most other Daimyo, Takeda’s salt
suppliers, who were rival Daimyo, decided to take away his supply. The situation in Takeda’s
domain became grave, when the news of a salt shipment arrived. Uesugi, who’s lands bordered the
sea had sent lots of salt along with a letter from Uesugi to Takeda. The letter said, “I fight
you, but I fight with bow and arrow, not with rice and salt (Sato 221).” This shows the honor
these two men showed despite being enemies.

This essay is an extremely detailed account of the history of salt in Europe


Meet the in-laws

A young woman brought her fiancé to visit her parents. After a nice dinner, the father invited the fiancé to the library for a drink. “So what are your plans?” he asked the young man.
“I am a Torah scholar,” he replied.
“A Torah scholar. Hmmm,” said the father. “Admirable, but how will you provide a home for my daughter?”
“I will study,” the young man said, “and God will provide for us.”
“And how will you buy her an engagement ring, such as she deserves?”
“I will focus on my studies and God will provide for us.”
“And how will you support your children?”
“Don’t worry, sir. God will provide.”
The conversation continued like this; each time the father questioned, the young idealist insisted that God would provide. Later, when the mother asked about the male conversation, the father sighed, “Well, he has no job and no plan, but the good news is: he thinks I’m God!”


Interview questions

These are few of the interview questions that an candidate should always be prepared to answer to.

I. Personal
A. Background
1. Tell me about yourself.
2. What would you like me to know about you that is not on your resume?
3. What are the three most important events of your life?
4. What were you doing during this gap of time I see here on your resume?
5. Where did you grow up?
6. What are your three major accomplishments?
7. What was an experience in your life that you would want to go back and change?

B. Self Description
1. How would your friends describe you?
2. Give me three words to describe yourself.

C. Goals
1. What new goals have you established for yourself recently?
2. What are your five to ten year career goals?
3. What are your career and educational goals?
4. What are the attributes of an ideal job for you? If you could do “it” all over again, what would you do differently?
5. What are you looking for?
6. How long a commitment do you plan to give me?
7. What is your ideal job?
8. What other types of positions are you considering?
9. What kind of boss would you prefer?
10. Why are you pursuing this field?
11. What would you like your lasting impression to be?
12. Do you have a final statement?
13. What are your career options right now?
14. How could you have improved your career path?
15. What salary are you expecting? In addition to salary, what benefits would most interest you?

D. Values
1. What does “success” mean to you?
2. What does “failure” mean to you?
3. Which is more important to you: money or the type of job?
4. Who do you admire? Why?
5. What do you get passionate about?
6. Who is your hero, and why? The greatest answer is if you can use a family member or friend, try to stay away from celebrities. And back it up with a good why!

E. Previous Bosses
1. Did you get an offer from the firm you worked for this summer?
2. Do you have other offers? Why would/wouldn’t you take our offer over one of the others?
3. What can you tell me about your past bosses?
4. How do you think a former supervisor would describe your work?
5. What did you enjoy most about your last employment? Least?
6. How did you find your summer jobs?
7. Describe the job or the activity which has had the greatest impact on your career goals.

II. Management / Leadership Style
1. What is your management philosophy?
2. Define leadership.
3. Tell me about a time when you successfully resolved a conflict.
4. Give me an example of a leadership role you have held when not everything went as planned.
5. What qualities should a successful manager possess? Do you have these attributes (of a good manager)?
6. What two attributes are most important in your job?
7. Give an example of a situation in which you provided a solution to an employer.
8. Give an example of a time in which you worked under deadline pressure.
9. Name a point in your life where you turned a negative into a positive.
10. Tell me about a decision you have made that you later regretted.
11. How do you feel about working overtime?
12. Give me an example of how you manage multiple projects.
13. What would you say to a boss that has a sub-par idea?

III. Strengths / Weaknesses and Skills
1. Are you creative? Give me an example. What have you done that you consider creative?
2. What are your strongest abilities?
3. What is your biggest weakness? Never say that being a perfectionist is your biggest weakness. Some applicants think that this makes you look better, but it seems that you not secure.
4. Why should we hire you?
5. Give me an example of something that you have done that shows initiative.
6. What makes you stand out among your fellow students?
7. What makes you different from the other candidates for this position?
8. What can you do for us that someone else cannot do? What was the most important thing you learned from your previous experience/internship?
9. How do your skills relate to our needs? What can you offer us?
10. What have you disliked in your past jobs?
11. How long before you can make a contribution? In the past year, what have you been dissatisfied about in your performance?
12. What major problem have you encountered and how did you deal with it?
13. Have you ever had any failures? What did you learn from them?
14. How do you feel about working in a structured environment?
15. Are you able to work on several assignments at once?
16. In what kind of work environment do you do your best work?
17. What kinds of tasks and responsibilities motivate you the most?
18. What has been your greatest challenge?

IV. Interpersonal Skills
1. How competitive are you?
2. How do you work under pressure?
3. Give me an example of a time when you successfully worked within a team.
4. What types of people seem to rub you the wrong way?
5. Define cooperation.
6. What kinds of people do you enjoy working with?
7. What kinds of people frustrate you?
8. Have you ever managed a conflict? How?
9. Have you ever spoken before a group of people? How large?
10. With what kind of people do you like to work?

V. Education
1. Why did you decide to get an MBA?
2. Why IIMC?
3. What made you decide to major in____?
4. What have you learned at IIMC that will help you on this job?
5. Do you hold any leadership positions?
6. What electives have you taken? Which did you enjoy the most?
7. What college classes did you like the least? Why?
8. Why didn’t you attend (another school)?
9. How do you balance the different priorities MBA student life presents?
10. Did your grades accurately reflect your ability? Why/Why not?
11. Describe the course that has had the greatest impact on your thinking.

VI. Extra Curriculars
1. What extra-curricular school activities are you involved in?
2. What have you learned from your activities?
3. Were your extracurricular activities worth the time you put into them?
4. How did you become involved in your extracurricular activities?
5. What do you enjoy doing outside of work-in your free time?
6. What is your favorite book/movie/song/painting-or author/actor/singer/artist?
7. Which magazines/newspapers do you read regularly? Which books have you read recently?
8. Have you ever done volunteer activities?

VII. Job / Company / Industry
1. Why are you interested in ______? / Why do you want to work for us?
2. What makes you want to be a _____?
3. What makes you think you would be successful in _____?
4. What do you think this job requires?
5. Given that you have no background in this field why are you interested in it?
6. What do you predict is going to happen in this industry in the next 5 years?
7. How would you go about evaluating a business?
8. What do you know about our company?
9. Do you know who are competitors are?
10. What interests you most about this position? What parts of the job do you think you would find the least satisfying?
11. You have five minutes to describe the most relevant and specific items in your background which show you are uniquely qualified for this position.
12. What would you add to our firm?
13. What particular expertise do you have that would lend itself well to this position?
14. Demonstrate/illustrate skills that you can transfer from past experience.
15. What concerns you about our company?
16. What do you believe are the key issues and problems in our industry today?

VIII. Location
1. Why do you want to relocate to______?
2. Are you willing to relocate every two years or so?
3. How do you feel about travel?
4. Are you familiar with how taxing travel can be?

News Thoughts

Sex Education/Moral Guidance

Came across a nice news item.  Here is an excerpt.

‘They do it because everyone else is and they feel they should, too. Information isn’t guidance. Telling people they can have contraceptives in school or giving them sex education at five just isn’t enough. What young people need is moral guidance  –  that is what is missing.’

To read the entire article, click here.


Order in Chaos

An observation made me wonder if freewill exists, why can it be so easily manipulated?

My MBA class has 66 students and in the regular classroom, everybody has a demarcated seat they are expected to occupy. Today due to fumigation, we had to move to a different classroom. Being a temporary arrangement, there was no fixed seating plan and since the arrangement (in no of rows and seats per row) was different, there was no peer pressure to stick to the original plan.
Yet I was surprised to observe that majority of the students, out of their freewill took seats that was very similar to the original plan.
i.e. students who were earlier assigned seats in the left/middle/right columns preferred those columns, also the row that they occupied and the neighbors they had were similar. Its important to note that even though your best friend in the class would probably not be the person you were forced to sit next to for the past 5 months, many students preferred their original neighbors to their pals.

Similarly a study at an US college (need to hunt for that report) had concluded that the pairing between the students of opposite sex was more correlated to the number of classes they attended together, the number of groups where they happened to land together than the compatibility/tastes/interests etc of the boy and girl.


2 faced

Recently when ML visited our campus for summers talk, this is exactly what I was feeling.

THE autumn recruiting farce continues. Amidst a veritable layoff apocalypse on Wall Street, some firms are still wining and dining aspiring bankers. Merrill Lynch is going ahead with its efforts to attract young talent, despite its recent sale to Bank of America and August announcement of a global hiring freeze through 2010.

On a flyer with the heading “limitless possibilities”,

Merrill Lynch offers you unparalleled opportunities to build your career. Our premier brand and global capabilities create a strong foundation for you to explore a range of diverse career options. Come find out about our Summer Opportunities – and why it’s a great time to join the firm.

Why are companies so much 2 faced