Politics & the Nation
  • Is the current economic slowdown inducing better management-labour relations?
    • Industrial disputes in the country such as labour strikes and management lockouts have halved in the January-November 2008 period compared with the same period in 2007, pointing towards better relations between the management and worker unions. Strikes were down 15% and the number of lockouts were down 80% during the period, as per provisional data collated by the Labour Bureau, making it the most peaceful year for industrial relations in the last four decades. 
    • The number of industrial units affected by strikes has declined from 203 (January-November 2007) to 171 in the first 11 months of 2008. At the same time, the number of units that faced management lockouts dropped from 160 to just 30. The number of workers affected by lockouts has dropped, but those affected by strikes has almost doubled to 9.3 lakh. This could be explained by some larger organisations facing strike. 
    • Industrial disputes in the country had peaked in 1970s with some calendar years reporting over 3,000 strikes and lockouts. Over time, the number of such disputes have come down, largely due to drop in disputes in manufacturing and the mining & quarrying sectors. The last time disputes had risen was in the mid-1990s (1996 and 1997) when the economy had seen high growth, which was followed by a slowdown in 1997-98.
  • Some gyan about cinema collections and the dispute between movie distributors and multiplexes
    • With a strength of approximately 850 screens in 225 properties and contributing over 65-70% of movie collections, multiplexes have come a long way from their entry about a decade ago.
    • The opening week is critical to a movie’s total collection.  Till three years ago, the first week used to contribute 45% of the total box office revenue of a film. Today, with wider print releases, the share has moved up to a whopping 63%.  Multiplexes were giving 48% of that 45% to the distributors for the first week.  Now they are demanding 50% of what has moved up to 63%. 
    • Ten years ago, the system was to give a fixed rent to the theatre owners, irrespective of the collection or the fate of film, which meant that the complete risk was with producers. Today, with revenue sharing, the risk is shared between producers and exhibitors.
 Finance & Economy
  • India's ATM network & some snippets of info on payment processing business in India.
    • India has about 35,000 ATMs in all, of various banks.  China has 1.3 lakh machines.
    • Come April, banks will have to allow customers access to their accounts through any ATM in India. Non-customer transaction costs are likely to be netted by banks among themselves. 
    • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is planning to back ‘Indiapay’ — a network that aims to rival Visa and Mastercard.
  • Recap of a few concepts/developments relating to Bernie Madoff -- for the new entrants into our blog.
    • What is a Ponzi scheme? 
      • A Ponzi scheme uses new investor money to pay old claims. The name derives from American swindler Charles Ponzi, who ran such a scheme till his arrest in 1920.  Ponzi schemes usually offer abnormally high short-term returns in order to entice new investors. 
    • What did Bernard Madoff do? 
      • Madoff solicited deposits, which were to be purportedly used for investments, but never invested anywhere When the game could not go on any longer, Madoff confessed the fraud to his sons, who handed him over to police. 
    • Where is Madoff now? 
      • After his guilty plea admitting multiple frauds, the court cancelled his bail and sent him to jail.
  • As of now, America's attempts at reviving its economy and financial markets, through the various stimulus packages that it has dished out are seen as not delivering results.  In this context, what lessons has it provided for the countries across the world?
    • Take a look at this article by Joseph Stiglitz, the 2001 Nobel laureate.  The entire article is a must read.  Hence I am not excerpting anything from it for you.  
  • Is it the silver lining in the clouds?
    • Take a look at this graphic which reports about US housing starts in February having picked up by 22%, the highest since 1990 and the first rise since April 2008.
    • Will this revive demand in America?  Is it the silver lining in the clouds?  Let's await some expertspeak on this statistic.
    • My gut feeling is that with its financial system in such a huge mess, and with it so haplessly dependent on China for funding its deficits (China has more than a trillion dollars invested in US Treasury Bills), it may be quite some time before such good developments can gather a mass of their own and start impacting positively the rest of the sectors of the economy.  Let's keep a tab on this for some more time to come.
Language lessons
  • contrite: adjective
    • Feeling or expressing pain or sorrow for sins or offences