29 Sep 2013

ToC IV - Money as shares

The physical nature of currency makes it is only too easy to pretend that money is the same as other real assets. Like a chair or a cupboard. That a hundred rupees today is worth the same as a hundred rupees two hours later or that a hundred rupees here would be the same as a hundred rupees in another city. The rapid fall of the rupee and the soaring costs of onions are difficult to understand when you look at notes of rupees as a physical asset.

A share in the pie
I like to think of money, or rupees in your pocket or bank account, as shares in the wealth of the nation. In the sum of goods and services that are for sale in the country. If the total number of goods and services and the quality of these goods and services goes up, the value of my money goes up too.

Access to the good bits
If you are in a rural part of the country, though, you may find that your money can buy you more, as land and food is cheaper. On the other hand, you can't access the other parts, like the latest fashions or reliable internet. In reality, your money is probably worth less.

Increasing the pie tomorrow also increases the pie today
When people are in super productive mode - when they want to invest more and build more to increase the pie - it is even good for the sluggards who aren't necessarily building and producing. So long as they have money, which gives them a share in the goods and services of the country. Because the builders and the producers want parts of those goods and services to make more goods and services for tomorrow, they are likely to pay you a premium for your share. In other words, your money becomes worth more. In the form of interest.

If the builders and producers pull out and decide that they don't really want to make more goods and services for tomorrow, your money might suddenly not be worth as much as before. So with no change in your own effort, your value has gone down.

Switching loyalties
It's always nice to have a share in the efforts of productive people. And when you exchange your country's currency for another currency, you are taking a bet that the people in some other country are going to be more productive than your own. If a lot of people think that country is going to be more productive, a lot of people are going to want that currency. And the value of that pie is going to go up very fast. Because the goods and services in that country are worth more, because they are in the hands of people who will create a lot more goods and services.

Printing currency
When the government prints currency, it's like it is issuing new shares. Just like with companies, it's ok if the new shares will be invested well and increase the pie. But terrible if the new shares are going to pay existing debt and fund losses. Your share of the pie just went down. But it is a bigger pie? Or a smaller pie?

I think we spend too much time thinking of the shares when we should be thinking of the pie. Too much time thinking of the shareholders, instead of the employees who are building that company - and how we can make this a much better company, which will in the end benefit the shareholders. 

9 Aug 2013


People in India do not pay for services. I can get someone to do a whole day's hard labour for around Rs 500 - Rs 800 and that is what I will compare everything else with. Quality is lost on us, so you can't try to charge extra for job well done. People will not pay.

We don't pay for information. So people will ask you for a lot of advice on your area of expertise. Take up an hour of your time. And look outraged if you say you're going to charge for it.

We don't pay for other people's time either.

We don't pay for taking on risk. Or risk reduction, for that matter. We have the kind of perversity that says "Ah, broke my leg. At least that health insurance will be of some use now". We don't pay a painter extra for the high risk job of painting the top floors.

But we do pay for goods. Solid, hold in your hands, see with you eyes kinda goods. Can you package your service, information, time or risk as a product? Sell a camera, not the app that makes a smartphone a camera. Sell a job, not the training that will help you get a job. Sell the haircut, not the 15 mins that will result in that haircut.

9 Jul 2013

Diamonds in Sierra Leone

When you have an asset, but not the ability to protect it (or get rid of it), it becomes a liability. 

11 Mar 2013

States of being

I'm getting that out-of-body feeling again.

I remember past events and wonder.
"Did that happen?"
"Was that me?"
"Who has the person that I was back then?"
"What was she thinking?"
"Did she actually feel that way or was it posturing or was it just a thoughtless action?"

Sometimes I feel like I'm going through multiples lives, or states of being, in the same lifetime. Like I've been many different people already and still have a few people to become.

12 Feb 2013

Death and taxes I

"And this saved thousands of lives"

How do you save a life? Since we've not quite figured out immortality yet, you can only save someone from immediate death and push it out to later death.

"This extended thousands of lives" doesn't quite have the same ring though...

19 Dec 2012

Knowing what is not okay

Now that I've vented a bit of the frustration I feel at the unending incidents of rape, molestation and abuse in India, I'm trying to think of how exactly we can get out of this mess. It's too insidious and deep rooted in our system for any quick solution - like castration or public flogging of the criminals, as a lot of people seem to be suggesting.

The loudest voices are calling for the death penalty for the accused. To send a message out to all others. Somehow, I doubt that will work. No one in India thinks they will get caught for a crime. No one in India thinks a victim of molestation will even go to the police. The police are scary! Plus, I don't see how this will help the girl who is battling for her life. Who is faced with a lifetime of trauma and medical complications even if she makes it out of this crisis. I'd rather see the accused spend the rest of their lives labouring in jail to support the victim and pay the medical fees. The impact of this crime is not over. The payment for the crime should not end either.

How do we stop this from recurring? Maybe we need to look at why it happened in the first place.

We've finally got to a point where no one is blaming the victim for provoking assault by the way she dressed/going out too late at night/not being more careful of what bus she boarded. At least, no one is saying this publicly, although a lot of people probably think so. We can pass by provocation by the victim as a reason for why this happened.

Since it was not late at night and it was not a deserted location, so we can't say that it was a time or place that sees unusually criminal activity, which is why the accused saw the opportunity to attack an unprotected victim. It was 9:30pm, it was a moving bus that even passed by police checkpoints and she was with a male friend.

The bus was illegal in that it was not allowed to ply on that route. But then, our roads are filled with illegalities. I'm told curtains on a "luxury" bus are not illegal, so that wasn't a breach of security, although tinted windows on a cab or passenger car would be. The lack of a functioning helpline like 911, vigilance cameras on public transport or security checks on the background of bus staff are probably the other issues with the state of security.

The biggest "cause" of course, is the mentality of the accused. Men who thought that it was okay to do this. That they could heckle a woman for traveling alone with a man. That they could attack the couple with an iron rod. And continue beating them. And then rape the girl. For an hour. From all accounts, these men had regular day lives - a bus driver, a gym instructor, a fruit seller. They were not regular criminals. They not even very smart about crime, as they held on to the stolen phones which were used to track them down. In fact, they were regular guys, who saw an opportunity to have some "fun". They thought beating and critically abusing two strangers was fun. Like boys who throw stones at dogs.

We have to face it - our country is filled with people like this. People who you could interact with every day, who will probably behave exactly like this if given the chance. Because they think it is okay. Increasing the penalty for such incidents will not help because these guys were obviously not thinking of consequences. The police and legal procedure were the farthest things from their mind.

We could make the police more visible, of course. A stronger force with more powers. But that will probably mean that the police will attempt to herd the public away from crime rather than stop crime while enabling the public to go on about their regular lives. It will probably mean the closure of pubs and no more late shows or movies. No woman should get out of home without adequate male protection. Crap like that.

The fear of the police is not the reason why someone would not attempt a crime like this. It is the knowledge that this behaviour is NOT OKAY. That is something you expect people to know instinctively. But in fact it is not instinctive, it is social conditioning. Conditioning that has obviously failed with a lot of people in this country.

How do we bring it back? Do we include it in our school text books since our homes are obviously not sending out this message? Tell our kids that domestic violence is not acceptable - instead of telling them that non veg food provokes violence? Should our text books include profiles or successful women who achieved great things and helped our country - while doing regular things like going out for a late movie with a friend and then catching a bus back home? Do we need posters on the walls celebrating women who are living independent lives? The message that it is perfectly acceptable for a lone woman going about her life is not an acceptable target. She is minding her business and you can mind yours.

We need to get this message across - to the men who think targeting defenseless women is okay, to the women who think that if the victims were just more careful they would be safe, to the police officers and politicians who think that women are going out and getting raped just to make their lives more difficult.

It's not a message that should have needed saying, but obviously, many people still don't get it.