Politics & the Nation
  • Competition Commission of India gets Chairman and a Member
    • The government has appointed Dhanendra Kumar, former executive director of the World Bank, as chairman of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and former coal secretary Harish Chandra Gupta as one of its members.
  • President rejects CEC's recommendation about Navin Chawla
    • As expected, the central government did not find favour with the CEC's recommendation about Election Commissioner Navin Chawla.  Indications about this were evident even at the time the CEC made the recommendation.  But the swiftness with which this has been brought about has something to with the fact that a new CEC has to be finalized as the present CEC's tenure is going to end shortly.  
    • Therefore, now it is almost certain that Navin Chawla will be the new CEC on April 24.
  • Indian Ajit Jain to head Berkshire Hathaway?
    • Many of you by now know or would have read about this Warren Buffet run company.  We noted about it on a couple of occasions in our blog.
    • While admitting to doing some 'dumb things' in 2008, Warren Buffet has lavished praise on Ajit Jain, the reinsurance business head in the Berkshire Hathaway group.  Buffet who is currently 78 years old and is looking forward to retirement sometime soon, has said time and again that there is a succession plan in place with about three or four probables; but has consistently refused to name the successor.
    • Though papers are guessing that this could be an indication from Buffet that he favours Ajit Jain for the pole position at Berkshire Hathaway in the post-Buffet era, I would like to take an opposing view.  When there is equal talent in about three or four people in the company, this sort of lavish praise could also be a means to placate the individual concerned in case the choice of successor throws up another individual.  Therefore, I would not like to bet that Ajit Jain, an IIT alumnus who joined Berkshire in 1986, stands any better chance than others in the fray at the moment.
    • Let's wait and see what happens.  An Indian heading Berkshire is certainly a sort of 'coming of age' for Indian professionals.
    • BTW do you remember our noting about the value of Berkshire's stock back on 23.11.2008?  It was about $74,100 per Class A share.  Humongous price; isn't it?
  • Troubling thoughts about BDR mutiny
    • Is there something more to the BDR mutiny than what meets the eye?
    • The Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), actually started life as the Ramgarh Local Battalion way back in 1795 under the auspices of the benevolent Brits. And they pretty much, with a few changes in nomenclature, seem to have fought nobly in all the wars, right down to being in the forefront of the Liberation War in 1971. 
    • What prompted the patently nationalistic force to rebel so hard and fast?  Was it really about low salaries and being bossed by army officers? Or are there darker forces at work, attempting to scuttle a secular, India-friendly, probe-1971-collaborators line of thinking regime? Are the fundos so strong as to cause a mutiny among uniformed soldiers? Or is the other conspiracy theory, about elements in the army itself playing dirty tricks, of any value? 
    • We need to wait for the inquiry and investigations to be over for getting any modicum of answers.
Finance & Economy
  • What is "seat factor"?
    • This is with reference to aviation.  It is the average passengers travelling per aircraft.  Reportedly it has come down to around 64% in January this year from 73% in the corresponding period last year, for all the airlines operating in India.
    • Papers reported a 7% reduction in ATF prices; for the 11th time since September 2008.  In spite of that it is unlikely that the airlines will reduce their prices.  This is because almost all the airlines are already deep in red.
  • Gold price: Is there something more to it than meets the eye?
    • We have all been watching with disbelief and surprise the northward journey of gold price.  It has appreciated by more than 50% since October 2008.  Is it all really powered by genuine demand supply situation?  Or is there some speculation that is driving it upward?
    • Mavens in the trade opine that ever since Barack Obama took over as US President, gold prices have been on a northbound journey. The US government may use this opportunity to sell gold now to part finance its stimulus package.  If this were to happen, gold price will take a dip.  After driving it down for a few quarters, US may then buy back the gold.
    • US can afford to play with gold as it has the highest gold reserves in the world, amounting to around 8,000 tonnes.    
  • With the economy registering a mere 5.3% growth in Q3, the focus is again on some more stimulus packages for bolstering the economy.
    • But is there any fiscal space for it?  No; if you know that fixed costs such as interest payments, revenue expenditure on defence, pensions and subsidies already account for over 70% of non-debt receipts.
  • Economic quakes like the present one establish new rules, throw up new opportunities and redistribute power. Those who identify these opportunities, grab them and turn them around, become the new rulers of the new economy. Can you identify the trends that can help businesses grab these opportunities in the aftermath of this global economic earthquake?
    • First, the markets are clearly shifting east. The heightened demand for varied range of goods and services, in the emerging economies of the East, will regenerate global financial firms and restart the spluttering engines of advanced economies. This opportunity is under explored and for companies on a lookout, it is a splendid time to start digging. 
    • The second mega trend is the shifting battlefield for talent. For a long time India has had a strong lead here but getting talent now is no longer as easy as it used to be. The demand greatly surpasses the availability and that’s because our education system is greatly outmoded. Our universities teach a lot of theory, but hardly impart skills to manage real life challenges. Moreover, industry-relevant training is almost never imparted. Therefore, the war for talent is going to get tougher, and stakeholders will have to come together urgently to manage this crisis. 
    • The third mega trend is the increasing stress on our environment. Apart from rising pollution levels, a growing economy will lead to an increasing demand for natural resources. The grim fact is that the already embattled ecosystem cannot take any more strain without serious consequences. Therefore, it is imperative for companies across the board to embrace Green practices. In fact, going Green should become one of the core targets of every company. Otherwise the world will have to pay a huge price for whatever economic progress achieved. 
    • The fourth mega trend is the emergence of new industry structures. Characterised by flexibility, these structures could feature new products such as a wireless device used for exchanging and transferring money. 
    • The last mega trend is the ubiquitous access of information technology. Information is changing the economics of knowledge. 
    • (As excerpted from a very good article by Shiv Nadar in today's ET)
Language lessons
  • inexorable
    • Adjective. Not to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty
    • Impervious to pleas, persuasion, requests, reason
    • eg: Russia's final hour, it seemed, approached with inexorable certainty.  
    • Cynthia was inexorable; she would have none of him.