Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lacuna in Annual Reports

The Annual Reports of listed Indian companies are able to hide a lot of information currently. This should be made available for the general investors to take a more sophisticated analysis of the businesses.
Some of the data that should be incorporated in the annual reports are:
1. Past 3 years and Current External Credit Rating (which is anyway publicly freely available)
2. Long term loans repayment schedules (Investors can then see how much the company will get further stressed in the years going ahead as repayments loom)
3. Securities provided to secure the loans
4. Market Valuation of the properties once in three years (This is anyway done for the sake of banks.
5. Promoter pledging and purpose for pledging
This will allow the investors understand/discover the true/appropriate market value of the companies)

As an investor, I would like to know my company better and these can be a better way for investors to understand their companies.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Big Brands are no better

It is a popular idea that while the small shops and smaller brands are suspect in their wares and methods, the big brands are reliable and honest in their business.
But, truth be said: it is not true.
While some which operate in pharma or food may be selling adulterated stuff without enough quality checks or some goof up once in a while, there are certain sectors which violate the norm in a "business as usual" manner. The particular sector I am referring to here is jewellery. There are a few unique aspects to this business. Firstly, women are highly seduced into buying this making this somewhat impulsive and hence less cautious. Second, it is a social norm to buy enough for occassions (marriage, diwali, danteras, etc.). Third, most customers cant differentiate between the quality of stuff sold. Forget carats of diamonds, even 18/20/22 carat gold cant be differentiated by a layman. To top this, fourth, the metals are sometimes plated (by how much thickness?) and are sometimes embedded with stones (diamonds, rubies, etc.) and it is impossible to measure the weight of it without damaging/destroying the item.
All the above make for excellent toxic environment to cheat the customers even in the best light of the day and get away with it scot-free.
It is because of these reasons that this business is done based on trust and from the below article, this business is mostly run by cheats.
Big Jewellery Brands Cheating
When big well known brands like Mangatrai Jewellers, Sri Krishna Jewellers, Meena Jewellers, TBZ Jewellers and Kalyan Jewellers, RS Brothers Jewellers, South Indian Shopping Mall and Chennai Shopping Mall, it is time to stay away from Jewellers itself as much as possible.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Call centers face mass exodus after govt. starts recruiting monkey mimics

Employees from various Gurgaon based call centers have started tendering their resignations after the new government has announced new jobs employing people to wear langur costumes and scare away monkeys.
An Gurgaon based call center employee has this to say on being asked why the monkey mimicing job was so popular: "The job is so lucrative. It pays me more than a fresher in a call center and there are fixed timings and only day shifts. Whats not to like."

A HR person of the call center said, "This is going to create a lot of fresh problems to the call center businesses. We continuously train a lot of freshers for doing a variety of monkey jobs at our office. Now with this job opening, we fear many of our excellent employees may leave us for these jobs. There is  going to be a fresh talent shortage in the near term."

The mad rush of applications received by the government has put it in a tizzy. Some minority groups have already started asking for a quota for the new jobs. A spokesperson of the leading political party in the central government said "The new government had promised to bring new jobs to the economy. This is the first major step we have taken towards creating new jobs."

The HRD minister commented on the same issue: "You know how Indian kids are. Right from school days, they start making monkey faces. They have a natural talent of it and we recognise that such talent should not be wasted and could be put to good use this way." Going on the way forward on other initiatives proposed by the government, she said, "We are also looking at many zoos in India where are not enough animals on display. We have set up a inter-ministerial committee to work out the details on people to mimic other animals and provide them employment in the zoos."

One of the elderly retired residents in the areas which are populated by monkeys had this to say, "This should be extended beyond the parliament to other areas also. I have wondered at times, how to effectively contribute to my society. I think I will try to take this job as this will satisfy my need to contribute to the society. We also have a lot of young boys and girls doing nothing useful loitering around in colleges. Maybe this should be made compulsory for a few days a year for all students as part of CSR activity of colleges and schools."

Meanwhile, an elderly group of monkeys has heard chattering somewhere near the parliament: "These langurs are bigger, but dont climb or run with the four legs like the old ones." "I saw one with a human head and a langur body" "I went near one langur and there was the 'yaar na mile' song coming from it".

Maybe the monkeys will soon figure out the plot and monkey mimicing plan would bomb back on us soon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Budget Trip to Bhutan

We (My wife and I) travelled to Bhutan during Apr 21 to Apr 28, 2014 from Hyderabad, India. The place had fascinated me ever since I heard about it from my two classmates in Philippines. The place has many unique things to its credit.
1. A place still ruled by the king and the queen and has democracy
2. A landlocked country
3. Beautiful clean places with its own unique culture of clothes, food, games, traditions and beliefs
4. A unique ecosystem of plants and animals
among other things.

I will give a brief of the plan followed by details to help you plan your trip.
Hyderabad --> Bagdogra --> Phuentsholing --> Thimphu --> Paro --> Phuentsholing --> Bagdogra --> Hyderabad

Day 1: Early morning flight from Hyd to Kolkata, Stopover for 2 hrs at Kolkata, Connecting Flight from Kolkatta to Bagdogra. Reach Bagdogra by afternoon, take a prepaid taxi to Phuentsholing and stay at Hotel Sinchula (http://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g469428-d456013-Reviews-Hotel_Sinchula-Phuntsholing_Chukha_District.html).
Day 2: Get immigration formalities done, get a prepaid sim card, take a bus to Thimphu. Saw Buddha statue at night and night view of Thimphu from near Buddha statue. Stayed in Peaceful Resort (http://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g293845-d1943683-Reviews-Peaceful_Resort-Thimphu_Thimphu_District.html) for the night.
Day 3: Saw the Takin preserve, roamed around Thimphu market (meant for tourists), Bought souvenirs, went to Choki Traditional Art School, Saw Thimphu Dzong (from outside), Visited the local football stadium and stayed at Peaceful resort.
Day 4: Travelled by taxi to Paro, enroute visited Tachogang temple (on a hill after crossing Paro river), Checked into Rema resort in Paro (http://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g321541-d2166460-Reviews-Rema_Resort-Paro_Paro_District.html), Visited the Paro musuem, the Paro Dzong, did archery for an hour and rested at Rema resort for the night.
Day 5: Trekking Tiger's nest (Paro Taktsang), booked bus tickets for travel next day to Phuentsholing .
Day 6: Travelled to Phuentsholing, took Bhutanese bus from Phuentsholing to Siliguri and stayed at Sevoke Valley Residency (http://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g659786-d4606812-Reviews-Sevoke_Valley_Recidency-Siliguri_West_Bengal.html) in Siliguri, West Bengal.
Day 7: Auto from hotel to Bagdogra airport and afternoon flight Bagdogra-Kolkata-Hyderabad with a layover at Kolkata. Reached home in Hyderabad at night.

The detailed plan of the above with associated costs, distances, mode of travel, review of places is hereunder:
Day 1: Reached Bagdogra at around 1 pm and took a prepaid taxi at a prepaid taxi stand to Phuentsholing. Enroute the driver stopped for lunch at a restaurant. The cost of the prepaid taxi was Rs.2,263 for an Indica. You can get Indicas and Innovas from the prepaid taxi stand with payment and receipt.

We reached Phuentsholing around 7 pm.
You know you are entering Bhutan when you see the welcome board:


We put our stuff at Hotel Sinchula and though we could have ordered food in the hotel, we walked back to India for dinner as we wanted to explore the border area. The hotel is 5-10 min walk from the border. We had dinner at a vegetarian hotel (tried their unique delicious Bhutanese dish called Kewa Datshi - A dish made of Potatoes, Cheese and chillies, Photo below)
There are restaurants around in the Indian side and food should not be a problem. They serve both Indian and Bhutanese dishes on both sides of the border.
Dzong next to Hotel Sinchula:
Night stay at Hotel Sinchula.

Day 2: We started at around 9 am for and went to the immigration centre after having breakfast. We filled up the application forms for visitor visa along with the 2 photographs and passport and submitted it. We had to wait for about 45 min to get our application processed along with our photo taken and get the permit. (You are only allowed to travel to some distance in Phuentsholing without the permit)
With the permit to enter Bhutan, we photocopied a couple of copies of the permit. We bought ourselves a local sim card (http://www.tashicell.com/prepaid-mobile for latest call rates) from the Tashi complex which is the office of Tashi (a popular mobile service provider) and is 5 min walk from the immigration office.
There is a park with a Dzong nearby which can be checked out if time permits.

We comfortably checked out of Hotel Sinchula (check out time is 12 pm or so) and took a cab to Phuentsholing bus stop (around a km away. We paid Rs.50 for taxi). We bought bus tickets to Thimphu (Rs.230 per head) and it took close to 6 hrs to reach thimphu. We reached Thimphu bus station around 6.15 pm. We took a taxi to take us to Peaceful resort (Taxi fare Rs.100 after bargaining. 5 km distance. Rs.20/km seems to be fair although they demand more). My friend came to the hotel and picked us up for dinner. Post dinner, we went to see a big Buddha statue in Thimphu and the night view of Thimphu from the same hilltop. It is advisable to see the Buddha statue during the day although the night view of the city from the hilltop is mesmerizing.


Day 3: My friend picked us up at the hotel and we visited the Takin preserve which is very close to the peaceful resort. The takins were unfortunately a little far away that day from the enclosure boundary and we didnt get a very good look at them. They are very lazy. After that we went to the tourist area with lots of souvenirs/handcrafts for tourists to buy. We then went to the Thimphu main post office where we bought a souvenir of the Taktsang monastry magnet which is the cheapest here (Rs.500). One can also get their photo taken in the post office and get custom stamps made with your photo at this place. Unlike in India where your customised stamp has a photo alongside the regular stamp, here your photo is the main part of the stamp. A set of 4 stamps can be done for around Rs.350. Later, we took leave of our friend and we had hired the same taxi of the previous night for the rest of the day (Rs.800 post negotiation). We went to Choki Traditional Art School (it is north of Thimphu and the route can be a little back breaking as there is no proper road in the last few kilometers). The entrance of the school is mesmerizing with the large art work:
Embroidery of Goddess White Tara being made. It takes close to 4 months to get this embroidery from start to finish.
 Wood carving being done at one of the classrooms.

En route you will crossing the Thimphu chu (Thimphu river) and you can get a few good photographs along the river front.
We saw the Thimphu Dzong in the evening and were late for the ceremony which starts at 4.30 pm or so. We later went to the nearby football stadium and went back to our hotel.

Day 4: We checked out of the hotel (Peaceful Resort) and travelled to Paro with the same taxi driver (Rs.2000 for the entire day). On the way, we visited Tamchogang temple. It is temple on top of a hill which can be reached after crossing the Paro river. There are 2 parallel river crossings - one metallic thrilling one and another less thrilling one.


The drive from Thimphu to Paro is around 1.5 hr excluding the small trek and river crossing to Tamchogang temple. We arrived at Rema resort which is 1.5-2km from central Paro and is situated alongside Paro river at around 1 pm. The view from the resort is good, but the service is the worst ever. We had lunch (with bugs in it - one of the many reasons for poor service of this hotel) and visited the Paro museum and Paro Dzong. The Paro museum has an entrance fees of Rs.50 for an Indian couple or so. The museum has a wide variety of things - masks used for festivities, stuffed animals (especially lots of birds) specific to Bhutan area, mineral samples with a small area on geology, Pottery, how to make buttered tea, etc. It is an interesting museum to see. Cameras and mobiles need to be submitted at the entrance.
Paro Dzong is situated along the Paro river and has a breathtaking panaromic view of the entire Paro valley.



Dzongs were once military areas but are now administrative areas of Buddhist temples and have paintings/sculptures and Buddha Statue/other gods inside.
Inside Paro Dzong:




We later went to an archery range in Paro and did archery. One side of this range has professionals and the other side is free for amateurs to try archery (Rs.100 per head/hr). 

We booked a driver with the help of the reception at the hotel for a hotel pick up and drop to the base of Taktsang monastry for the next day.

Day 5: It takes about 45 min to reach the base of the monastery from Paro (Taxi charge of Rs.700 for pick up and drop). There are two options: trekking or hiring a horse and trekking only the last part. We trekked the whole way. We were slow and it took us about 3 hrs to reach to the top. Almost 1 hr looking around and resting and about 2 hrs on the way down.
Photo of monastery from base. The little while thing in the mountain in the below photo is the monastery.

The real size is revealed as you get close to it.
There is a restaurant in the middle of the way to eat, but it is quite expensive at Rs.450 per head for a vegetarian buffet.
On the way back to the hotel, we bought bus tickets for the next day from Paro to Phuentsholing (Rs.220 per head) as there are only 2 morning buses daily. One is at 8.00 am which we took. Another costlier alternative is to hire a sharing taxi which can charge around Rs.600-Rs.800 per head (dont remember the exact figure) or hire a full cab for Rs.3200 or so.
We reached Phuentsholing bus station at 1 pm and booked the Bhutan bus to Siliguri from Phuentsholing for Rs.132 per head (yes, it is that cheap). The Bhutan bus is faster and reaches Siliguri in 3.5 hrs or so compared to Indian buses which start from Jaigoan (Indian side of Phuentsholing) and take over 5-6 hrs to reach Siliguri. Another costlier alternative is to hire prepaid taxis to Siliguri or Bagdogra. We had enquired on day 2 we while leaving Phuentsholing to Thimphu and they said the bus to Siliguri would start at 2pm. It was supposed to be a tight schedule from Paro but the departure bus timing (not sure if the time was revised) was 3 pm from Phuentsholing. We reached Siliguri at around 7 pm (post a tyre change enroute) and took a share auto to reach Sevoke Valley Residency hotel.

Day 7: Checked out of the hotel at around 12 pm, caught an auto (Rs.300) to Bagdogra airport and caught flight back to Hyderabad with layover at Kolkatta.

Some interesting things discovered about Bhutan:
There is only one traffic junction in Bhutan which is there in Thimphu. This is yet to have an automated traffic signal and there is a traffic police directing traffic at this one junction.
Television was introduced in Bhutan only in 1999.
Although notes above Rs.100 are forbidden to be taken or used in Bhutan, people arent against it as it helps them trade more easily with Indians across the border.
Indian currency works easily in Bhutan as the people want more of Indian currency and it costs the people to get Indian currency for buying things.
Archery is their national sport.
Terracotta Buddhist Vortive miniature stupas can be found a plenty in mountain crevices.

The culture of Buddhism does not allow killing of animals. But, the modernisation of the country is expanding non-vegetarianism.

The various key costs of our trip are as follows:
Flight                  - 26248
Road transport   -   8933
Food and drinks -   3200 (We did pack in quite a lot of ready to eat items for the journey)
Hotel           - 15065 (Hotel Sinchula: Rs.1240 (1 Night); Peaceful resort: Rs.8385 (2 N); Rema Resort: Rs.3780 (Paid for 1 Night although stayed here for 2 nights as the service was so bad I demanded refund of 1 night and I got it); Sevoke Valley Residency: Rs.1610 (1 N); Remaining tips)
Misc                           -  1247
Gift/items/Souveneirs-  3478
Total                          - 58171 (door to door from Hyd)

Hope this information helps all of you to make your own travel plans to visit and enjoy beautiful Bhutan.
If this post has helped you ease your mind on travelling to Bhutan, identify places to visit and has saved you money (which I am sure it would), I kindly request your help in enabling us to travel to unique interesting places and put up more such posts by donating a part of your travel savings to our travel fund.

The bank account details are as follows:
Account holder's name: Ajit Jagannathan
Bank name: HDFC Bank
Account Number: 17531870000451
IFSC Code: HDFC0001753
SWIFT Code: HDFCINBBBNG

You can contact me at ajitjagan@gmail.com for further details for visiting Bhutan.
Cheers.

P.S: Updated on 1 Apr 2016:
A good post on travel to Bhutan is mentioned in the below link which I have not covered.
http://blog.byond.travel/index.php/cocks-kings-an-honest-travel-companys-guide-to-bhutan/byond/

A brave thing to do

The bride hunt is one of the bravest of things I can see many Indian guys in arranged marriage do.
Consider this: "A guy who doesnt sucessfully engage in checking out girls in all free public places goes to check out girls in their houses and that too in front of their parents..."

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The trioka of achieving higher speed: power, wind and weight

The phase of speed beyond a certain normal speed range and sometimes what your machine gives you in terms of a super acceleration in a certain range is exhilarating, surprising,  awesome and a little scared. The acceleration beyond 75 km/hr upto 95 km/hr or so without full throttle is amazing. Beyond that, going full throttle is usually a necessity on the peripheral roads of cities as they are never enough to slowly increase speed towards and beyond 100 km/hr.
There are 3 main forces at play at speeds above 95km/hr: wind/wind speed and its direction, weight (of the bike and the riders on it) and the power of the engine (juice to go each and every extra kmph).

Stillness of air is usually the best scenario for achieving high speeds as wind from an angle or blowing at your body makes it difficult to maintain balance of the bike. A higher weight of/on the bike is definitely a good counterbalance to overcome wind along with not wearing a jacket (they are usually not body-hugging and are not aerodynamic and wind can enter from the hands and bloats the jacket further offering air resistance and allowing the wind to play havoc to the balance the rider is trying to achieve). A higher body or bike weight negatively affects the speed capacity as the bike now has to lug out the extra weight and will deter the achievement of higher speeds. The other way to put it is that the power/weight ratio of the bike is reduced.
Based on this analogy, there is usually an equilibrium top speed that can be achieved and maintained under each circumstance defined by the variables wind speed and direction, power and weight of the bike and riders combined.

It is upto each rider to realise the 3 forces at play and not to overreach speed and endanger lives.
Cheers to safe and speedy riding!
P.S: Just achieved a new high speed of 112km/hr with a pillion rider on my Apache 180 ABS :)
Could have achieved a little more but restricted myself :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Monitoring Assets, Liabilities and Networth

One of the key aspects of financial success is financial discipline. Financial discipline is about doing things like investing, paying off debts on time, monitoring bank accounts to check for expected dividends, unexpected charged levied, etc. regularly.
Another aspect of financial success is to monitor some key numbers. These are Assets, Liabilities and Networth.

Assets are explained more over here.
Liabilities include loans of all types (home, auto, personal, credit card dues, loan from family and friends, festival advance, etc.) and any amount you owe anyone.

Networth is what you are actually worth after removing your liabilities from the assets.
Networth = Assets - Liabilities

Monitoring these key figures is important for these reasons:
1. If your finances are proper, you should see your Networth increase over time.
2. You know how much you are worth financially or how much is your family financially secure for future needs.
3. You can also monitor asset allocation and do the necessary diversification based on the needs and your risk profile.

Here is an example of how you can monitor asset allocation and monitor the key figures over time.
I. Sample Current asset portfolio:
NSCs          1,00,000
PPF                  5,00,000
Bonds          5,00,000
Fixed Deposits 4,00,000
MFs                  5,30,000
Stocks          1,20,000
Cash             2,50,000
Assets        24,00,000 
The above can be well representated as below in the pie chart:

II. Sample Liabilities:
Festival advance   10,000 
Vehicle Loan     3,00,000 
Liabilities     3,10,000 

Networth = Assets - Liabilities = 20,90,000

To monitor how these vary over time, it is important to take a snapshot of the above figures regularly (say every month end).

You can also look at the trend of your networth along with assets and liabilities:
This is all more of a one-time effort to put the tables and graphs. Then, it is easy tracking your finances and see your wealth grow (hopefully) over time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Free float

Float has many meanings depending on the context. Beverages, Finance - in terms of shares available for trading; moving/changing amounts; and also Savings and Current account of banks.

In the perspective of savings accounts of individuals, the float what I am referring to is the liquid cash lying in the savings account which is useful for taking care of emergencies, exigencies and sundry expenses. We should not keep an excess float as this earns us a lower interest rather than investments. There are a few particular situations when the float or the savings balance should be high:
1. You are expecting high expenditure soon
2. Lack of investment opportunities vis-a vis risks in those investments
3. Temporary cash while transitioning across asset classes. i.e., selling one asset to buy another or to settle some liability

As an individual, we should maintain this cash in more than one bank account for convenience and availability and risk diversification. Lets understand this aspect a little better with an example:
If you have two bank accounts with Rs.30,000 each and say, you suddenly need Rs.10,000 for an emergency. You can draw from whichever ATM is nearer (although most ATMs are now inter-operable across banks). But, say the ATM is out of order that day or out of cash, then the choice of the other ATM is your answer. On another day, if you needed, say, Rs.40,000 and the daily limit of withdrawal is Rs.20,000 then this diversification will help you draw the money when in need. If the entire money was in one bank account, this would not be possible.

There is a tradeoff between liquidity (keeping a lot of cash in the savings account) and the rate of return on investment. The more the cash in savings account the lesser the money is earning interest compared to investments.
One can never really say how much money would be required in an emergency. With medical expenses very high, it is difficult to say how much is too much. A better way to manage this emergency liquidity is to make sure your close family members (spouse, siblings and parents) also maintain some emergency money in their accounts. That way in an emergency, the pooled money would be more than enough to tide over the emergency. This two way mechanism of helping each other out in case of an emergency can help all the people from keeping excess money in savings accounts. The family members are more like your second line of source of money in case of an emergency. To truly implement this in word and spirit, each of the parties should have already enabled third party transactions and should have added the other persons' accounts to their third party transfers. The enabling of a new third party can vary from a minute to 24/48 hours depending on the banks' policies.
If this is implemented, money can be transferred from one account to another by logging in and transffering funds in a few minutes.
Remember that another very useful source of money in emergencies is a credit card.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Giants do their own thing

The giants of the world - USA, China, Russia do what they please. It seems that they are all in a cartel. Whenever they want to attack, block, intimidate, loot, capture, bomb, takeover, harass, overthrow dictorial/ democratically elected governments/leaders, assassinate or buyout, etc. any territory, resources, country or person, government, group or leader etc., they do so without giving a damn of what the others will say/do. How else, can these giants take unilateral action against so many sovereign nations?
USA did it to Iraq, Afganistan, Many south American countries, etc. (the list is long)
China does/did it to Tibet, Taiwan, Spartly islands
Russia is doing it to Crimea region of Ukraine.
There is one big exception though - India.
Its useless politicians/ political parties/ bureaucrats are not able to defend the countries' face against the smallest of neighbours like Maldives and Sri Lanka despite years of relationship. They are not able to provide modernisation of weapons to its army and navy assets and with the likely non-sense that has happened so far, it is very difficult to see India being able to do anything unilaterally even if it wants to.

An interesting way to learn/test history is to do the following match the following puzzle:

Country| Did this                 | To                            | Motivation              | Reason claimed
USA      | Attacked                | Tibet                        | Annexe Territory       | Remove Dictator
China     | Harrase(d)             | Georgia                   | Kill competition         | Give democracy
Russia    | Bombed                | Iran                         | Oil resources              | Remove WMD
India      | Looted                   | Libya                       | Strategic trade route   | Give Independence
NATO   | Overthrew             | Nicaragua                | Other resources          | Destroy Terrorism
UK        | Captured                | Philippines               | Take Revenge
France   | Intimidated           | Bangladesh              | Nullify future threat
              | Occupied               | Dominican Republic  | Show military might
              | Gave Indepedence | Haiti                          | Force trade
              | Forced Exile          | Mali
              | Assassination      | Panama
              | Fought                   | Mexico
              | Intervened militarily| Honduras