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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Last 50 days ...

After spending 100 super-hectic days in London (thanks to having made the stupid blunder of stuffing in six courses in one semester while on an exchange coupled with the 100s of social and career events that I had to attend), the last 50 back in India have been really relaxing. 

I have mostly spent this time with family, caught up with a few friends, attended more than my share of friends' marriages, started the process of settling a family property dispute, watched tons of movies, had loads of good food (enough memories of good food now to keep me happy for another year atleast) and done my bit to even the scale of India Travel vs. Rest of the World Travel.

And last but not the least, I made it to the Taj!!! Having been to the Great Wall of China last August on my Beijing Trip with GIFT, that's two of the seven wonders checked off the list. Along with that, spent some quality time with my parents on my 12 day N-India trip.

Now am ready to get back to doing some work - do some last-ditch effort to make Zeopane work and start working on alternatives ... Did someone say J.O.B?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

One too far ...

The Pakis have gone one too far on this one ... I mean the Mumbai massacre. It looks like they'll need to have some fall guys on this for sure and lots of terrorist training camps are being closed down (atleast for the time being).

For all the denials that the state is not involved, what do we care since you are not doing anything to stop these people (Dawood and gang roaming around on the streets of Karachi), it is as good as you are perpetrating the terrorism.

For all the talk about you being victim of several such attacks, it only shows what a messy country you are. That doesn't mean you go around spreading your mess to our country.

For all the BS about Kashmir, even if Kashmiris wanted to join Pakistan in 1947 (which I don't believe), why the fuck would Kashmir want to join Pakistan now considering the mess that you are in now financially, socially and close to being declared a terrorist state by the world?

The true test for the world at large and especially the US is to ensure the Mumbai massacre leads to some concrete action and a plan to clean this mess. If we let this stop at a few fall guys and some token gestures, these monstrous elements will just take a break, move to another location and continue to do this across the world.

And India, it's time we do something to ensure these Paki dogs don't keep coming back to defecate on our streets.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Analysis Paralysis

Analysis Paralysis is one problem both in B-School and in the Corporate World which if solved will improve productivity significantly. People around the world just love hearing their own sweet voices and won't stop until they can talk no more!!!

Solutions include setting timers in meetings to ensure no-one talks for more than a minute at a time, giving people stuff to throw at each other when someone goes into AP mode or even conductin anonymous polls at the end of each meeting to find out who was the one who was most paralyzed. :-)

House Hunting @ London

After a million frustrating calls to Landlords and Real-Estate Agents, P and I finally nailed down our accomodation needs. Everyone in London hates giving a lease for anything less than 3 months. So for future LBS Exchange students or anyone coming into London for a 3-4 month stay, here's my recommendation.

  1. Find yourself an accomodation in one of the student hostels close to campus. Some of these close months in advance - so book your accomodation the very day you know you are travelling to London.
  2. Try to group with > 4 people and take a bigger house for let. Works out more economical and if some of these people are non-exchange students, you won't have that many issues of a short let when you leave.
  3. Be Ready to take up individual accomodations in a small room with or without kitchenette for an astronomical price
  4. Be Ready to spend through your noses for a convenient and luxurious accomodation close to school.
  5. Worst case options are the Short-Let studios that are available in Plenty - Like the one we booked for 3 months. Contact me for references. This guy (Sergio) sounded very accomodating and was willing to provide us a lot of freebies for our super-long (by his standards) stay.
I am finally relieved that I can unsubscribe from the "Accomodations" discussion and stop visiting Gumtree, Flatshare and a million other sites several times a day.

My experience with GIFT - YLP

It all began when I received a mail from MK from my school’s Career Services Department about a Community Development cum Leadership Programme *YOUNG LEADERS PROGRAMME – YLP* organised by GIFT (Global Institute for Tomorrow) – A Hong Kong based Not-For-Profit organisation headed by CN. I’d first heard about this program late last year when I took a course from CN titled “Leadership in Asia”. This was one course that truly opened by eyes and mind to a lot of new concepts and a whole new world. So I just couldn’t resist applying for this program.

It was initially supposed to cost US$ 12,500 which would be funded by your company. That surely wasn’t going to happen for me since I had no company that would sponsor me. I did my bit in trying to get people to fund me by approaching everyone I knew in the Corporate World. In between, a discount from GIFT, sponsorship from the school and some of my own funds, I finally was able to get into the program. Looking at the list of participants was really inspiring. We had Bankers from Standard Chartered India (some with about 15-20 years of work-ex) and Credit Suisse, executives from MTR Corp, Jardine One Solutions, Meinhardt-Australia, a few Entrepreneurs, a few students (including Simon and I from HKUST), some people from NGOs in Asia and Africa – A real good mix of people from all across the world – five different continents.

The YLP is about a 2 week programme where leaders from the Business World with different skillsets and levels of experience come together to create a business plan to help a business that is doing a lot of good on the Environment and the Social Front and needs some help on the Governance front. The entrepreneur in Question here was an inspiring lady (Ms. Yang Hai Lan) – who had won several awards including the Ford Motor Environmental Award and had also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Price for her contributions to society. She had quit her Accounting Job in 1997 and had almost single-handedly converted a barren desert of about 520 mu (86 acres) of land into a wonderful Vineyard and also built an Eco-Lodge around it along with producing Wine at the Ningxia University Winery.

Our mandate was to analyse her business and come up with a business plan to help her fix her business and also help her raise capital for expansion along with keeping the greater good of the community in mind.

I landed in Beijing after a short uneventful flight on Saturday, the 16th and had some interesting conversation with a fellow traveller who helped me make contact with the GIFT folks who were supposed to receive me. I also met Chethan there – A fellow Indian and an executive from Standard Chartered along with Chandran and Anita from GIFT. We had an interesting conversation about a few things including India, Cricket, Hockey, and the Olympics (which anyone and everyone in China had an opinion on). After about an hour’s drive, we landed in the Hotel which was almost like an ancient palace or temple. Right through the programme, the hotel and facilities provided were wonderful.

Over dinner, met and bonded with most of my team-mates for the next two weeks. The next day had lecture sessions begin. Lecture sessions for the first one week included talks on Globalisation, Diversity, Ethics, and CSR including talks by Nike and Boeing CSR Heads of Asia and a few other experts in the field. One lecture that stayed with me was one by Lawrence who was one of the economic policy advisors to the China Government since the 80s. His take on the future of Asia was really interesting. He felt that the rest of the world was 10 years behind what China was actually going through. He felt the China story was almost over and it was time to move onto India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and other countries in South-Asia. That’s when I thought, here I come India.

The first week also included a talk on Wine-Making and the Jinhu Enterprise by Prof. Zhang – An expert on Wine-Making and a partner of the Social-Entrepreneur – Ms. Yang in her Wine-Making Venture. This gave us a first glimpse of the exciting week ahead of us. Towards the end of the first week, we also got split into different teams – Marketing, Finance, Governance and Community. I was put into the Finance Team and was really excited about this. I was also chosen to play the anonymous role of keeping an eye on the overall progress of the project and be aware of what different teams are doing since I was going to help edit the final business plan and create the business plan presentation with my previous experience of creating business plans in mind.

On Friday, the 22nd we packed our bags (including my super-heavy bags that weighed a total of 37 kgs). Right after this program, I was going to go onto London for my exchange and that was the reason for my huge luggage. I’d to finally split my luggage among those travelling light and that way finally it made its way to Ningxia and back. We finally landed in Ningxia after a short flight. After checking into the hotel in the provincial capital of Yin Chuan, we finally made a trip to the Eco-Lodge. It was obvious that there was a lot of room for improvement in the lodge itself. Along with the lunch, we set about on our info-gathering with a lot of help from translators (both within our team and ones that GIFT had brought in).

The next two days involved a lot of interviews, wine-tasting, visits to different eco-lodges and wineries in the province. In between this, the Finance Team set about looking at the financials of the venture. We were shocked to see the unprofessional way in which this was managed. But then, this was very much a family owned enterprise and in hind-sight, the accountant who had a basic diploma in accounting and incidentally was also a waiter at the eco-lodge had done a pretty decent job at it although there definitely was a lot of room for improvement. As we set about, putting these numbers into a standard format and started trying to make sense of the numbers thrown at us, we saw a few potential opportunities which finally became the core of our recommendations for the venture.

Several discussions between groups, people trying to convince each other of their ideas and trying to build consensus followed. A Sunday Night meeting (There was a meeting chaired by one participant every night to take stock of the day’s learning and where we were headed) went all chaotic. People weren’t convinced about Ms. Yang’s noble intentions and it was expected to get really messy from what we’d heard from different group members. That’s when the GIFT CEO, Chandran took charge and gave us a piece of his mind and helped build a consensus around continuing to work towards the common goal and being open to giving people the benefit of doubt and talking about all the independent organizations that had endorsed Ms. Yang.

He also took charge that evening and set about assigning different parts of the business plan to different teams. Anyone who’s written a business plan knows that once you have the contents for each of the sections of a business plan, it will then contain all you need to start or in this case re-start/rejuvenate your business. This gave the teams a lot of focus and helped people focus on the small job at hand rather than get diverted by the big issues like Ms. Yang’s intentions. Over the next 48 hours, a lot of work got done in between several parties, karaoke nights, massages at the hotel spa and several discussions about random topics.

The last two days of the programme involved a lot of work for me – I’d to merge random slides that four different teams had put together and create a story around it. This is no easy task as anyone can imagine. I think I did a fair job at it. But looking at the questions that were asked post our presentation, there is definitely some room for improvement. I was quite pleased with the final end-product and got a lot of praise for it which was quite satisfying.

In hind-sight, I would have liked to be moved around between the different teams as they were working on their content so that I had some idea on the overall story rather than try to make sense of the random information put into the 3-4 slides I got. I also will continue to work on the long version of the presentation from which will emerge the Investment note and try and make a small contribution towards the overall success of this project – which for me will finally be judged by the success of Ms. Yang’s little company called Jinhu Entreprise.

Overall, this program has helped me grow as a person, taught me a lot about the importance of focus, helped me learn a lot about China, a little about Japan from my two Japanese Team-mates, a few contacts who might help my Start-Up (Zeopane – www.zeopane.com) and to some extent improved my Mandarin

Friday, August 08, 2008

Happy Olympics to you!!!

I was in the host country of an Olympics for the first time in my life (and maybe even the last time). Being in Beijing during the Opening Ceremony would have been the best bet. Not to worry, I'll be there next Saturday :-). We did the next best thing to being there. Went over to Delaney's (A Sports Bar in Wan Chai), found a decent spot to view the giant screen and guzzled a few drinks down.
Our three member strong Indian Contingent at Delaney's (The other Desis in there who did not have pride to cheer were either non-Indians or maybe non-Indians I'm guessing) cheered as the 56 member Indian Contingent marched forward. We also cheered for some of the countries including Bangladesh, Srilanka, Nepal and of course my new home country - Hong Kong/China along with some countries I'd not even heard off and some super-small contingents of 4-5 participants which will probably end up beating India in the medals tally.

Other Side Notes: Joe Banana's in Wan Chai the worst place to go to. How can they not have the Olympics Opening Ceremony showing. The worst part was they were trying to mislead the guests by showing some events from probably a similar event in the past which led us to believe we were at the right place - so what even if it was such a small screen TV. But then, at 8:08:08 on 8/8, we realized that this was just a trick, quickly wrapped up our drinks and sprinted across the Delaney's across the street. Never again - Joe B.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ahead of the curve ... A book review!!!

As I was chatting with Jo on a typhoon-hit lazy morning, HNY walked in with this book he’d just picked up from the book store on someone’s recommendation. The book – Ahead of the Curve was about a Harvard Grad and his life in B-School he said. I got interested and asked Jo if I could borrow it after he’d finished. Before I could finish that sentence, both of us realized, I was here at SKCC and Hong Kong for less than a week. It was obvious that some re-ordering had to be done and I was given preference. Thanks Jo and Yowie!!!

I quickly wrapped up my Noodles Brunch and started reading it in the Common Room which almost has become our day-long hang-out place if nothing else for the free AC there. Once I started reading the book, I just couldn't put it down and read it non-stop (excluding the dinner/bathroom/common room gossip/e-mail/phone call breaks) till about 4:30 am this morning. I finally decided to crash since I'd to wake up by 07:30 to make it on time to work. I finished the last two chapters in the MTR on my way to work.

Ahead of the Curve is overall a very nice read, giving us a good insight into life at HBS, the challenges faced by people and how most people cope with it and overcome the challenges that the school throws at them. There is still room for improvement in terms of the overall flow in the book, several gaps unfilled and efforts to hide the identities of his classmates making most of the characters almost seem fictional. I would still recommend this book as a must-read for any MBA (Past or Present) or any MBA wannabe.

This is a book by Philip. D. Broughton – the New York and Paris Bureau Chief of "The Daily Telegraph" of London about his tryst with Harvard Business School from 2004-2006 and his journey through the MBA along with the experiences of his classmates. Even though, I'm no journalist or writer, there are so many similarities between the experiences he went through and the ones I am going through here at HKUST that I felt for Philip, and I really felt a part of the story as he ran us through the entire two years and the experiences during the period.

Some things I always knew that got re-emphasized. Harvard is no different from HKUST

1.    The same or similar courses

2.    The same or similar cases

      *     The same debates

      *     The same conclusions

3.    Similar experiences in terms of faculty quality, reputation, experience and student respect

4.    Similar talks by industry leaders

5.    Similar events and programs - Industry Visits, Alumni Events, etc throughout the year.

6.    Larger class-size divided into sections of around 100 - but the section remains together through the core/required courses making it similar to HKUST's class strength of 75-80 per year.

Some differences:

1.    HBS is a longer program (2 years vs.. 16 months here at HKUST)

2.    Has a longer queue of IB/Consulting firms lining up to hire the students.

3.    Stronger Brand - Obviously resulting in (2) above and finally

4.    A larger Alumni Network to bank upon

But the pains are the same. Some bad courses, some classmates speaking in class just because they love listening to their own sweet voice, and the herd mentality towards Finance Jobs (Consulting is a little less in HKUST since HKUST is renowned as a Finance School) causing immense pressures and turmoil among the ones who are not initially keen on IB/Consulting but end up getting sucked into it.

Thanks to this book, I am under a lot less pressure to go for a consulting or finance position and continue to look for my passion. Also found Philip's profile on LinkedIn and a few of the characters as his connections - his title still says "Writer and Entrepreneur". Let's see how long it remains that way. Only regret is probably that I should have read this before my MBA and I could have wasted a little less time on some of the Bank Apps which I anyway sent in half-heartedly late last year.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Life's simple pleasures - A Typhoon!!!

It's Typhoon Signal 8 Raised - And I don't have to go to work today!!! One more reason I love Hong Kong. It gives you these extra special holidays when you least expect it.

Here I am in my night-dress half-asleep blogging instead of in the crowded MTR just about managing to sneak in before the door closes on my face and hanging onto dear life amidst the crowds that might not give the Mumbai Trains a run for their money but will surely run the BTS/BMTC buses close.

Life's Simple Pleasures!!!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Investing in the stock market ... science of it!!!

Lazy Man Technique - No Stock Picking:

In a developed market like the EU or US, invest in an Index Fund (If in the US). Index funds have still not matured in India. So pick a Mutual Fund with at least a 10 year history of good performance and start a SIP on it.

Never have more than 75% of your portfolio in Equity. You should have 75% when you are most bullish about the stock market. When you think the stock market is most over-valued, cut down your exposure to 25% of your portfolio. The rest is of course in safer investments like Bonds, Savings Accounts, CDs, etc depending on your financial needs over the next few years.

Do not do re-adjustment of portfolio more than once a month. This ensures that you don't get addicted to doing changes everyday and fall into the trap of over-doing the rebalancing.

To avoid the Home market bias, invest atleast 33% of your Equity investments abroad (Choose Emerging Markets ETF or S&P500 or MSCI EAFE to get non-US developed market exposure).

The next step you could take based on how lazy or active you want to be is to mimic portfolios that have known to out-perform standard indexes in the past. Examples of this would be GDP weighted indexing, Dogs of the DOW, Highest Dividend Yielding Stocks, Small Cap Index exposure, Emerging Markets exposure


Now if you have decided to go to the next step and start investing in individual stocks, here are some characteristics of the stock you should look to invest in:

  1. Margin of Safety
    1. The stock should be off its 52 week highs and closer to its 52 week lows. This is a general guide-line - there will always be exceptions.
    2. The dividend yield on the share should be at least equal to the interest rate for a savings account (4-5%) if it is a company that consistently pays dividends. This ensures that there is low downside risk even if the stock does not go up too much in the short to medium term.
    3. Do not speculate and do not buy a rising stock unless you have strong reasons to believe the stock is still under-priced.
    4. Buy with the intention for holding for at least a year (To avoid ST Cap Gains Tax – Ideally forever)
  2. Intrinsic Value
    1. The earnings should show a consistent growth pattern over the last 5 (preferably 10) years. Use this to predict a LT CAGR. Research the industry it is in to see if this can be confirmed.
    2. This will rule out certain sectors like Pharma which have a strong variance in earnings especially in the early stages of industry maturity.
    3. Grow the current earnings at the calculated CAGR to get an estimate of earnings over the next ten years.
    4. Find the industry P/E ratio pattern over the past few years and apply a number closer to the lower end of the range to get the stock price = EPS * P/E.
    5. Apply margin of safety rule
  3. Company Characteristics
    1. At least 15-20% Return on Shareholder Capital
    2. Industry leader with a sustainable advantage over competition
    3. At least 33% of its 52 week high and preferably within 50% of its 52 week low
    4. Add other rules ... based on experience.
  4. Due Diligence
    1. Read management reports and annual reports to study how honest the management is.
    2. Review credentials of Independent Directors and how often they attend the meetings
    3. Are there any reasons for the stock price falling to recent lows (read news articles, message-boards, etc)?
    4. Check out the investor relations section of the company’s website. Run through the material available there.
    5. Read Press releases and look for consistency and honesty
    6. Look for scandals and controversies the company has been involved in and avoid all companies that stink of dis-honesty or manipulation of financials.
  5. Always track your annual short term capital gains and be ever-willing to lock in ST Capital losses to reduce your taxes. e.g. A stock you bought at 100 less than a year ago is down to 50. Just sell it right now and buy back the next day. The gain in taxes will more than make up for the transaction charges that result. Of course, do this only if you are going to have capital gains. 
The No.1 Rule of Investing should be "I shall not lose my Capital". 
Rule No.2 reads "I shall not forget Rule No. 1"

If you like this post, buy me a beer!

PS: This is a post written exclusively for my own reading in the future. Excuse me for some of the terminologies I used that might not make sense to you. I'll come back and clean it up some day soon.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Green Initiatives

The only solution to most of India's and probably the world's problems is controlled usage of the resources we have. Be it Oil, Natural Gas, Minerals or Electricity.

For example, controlled usage of Oil can be done by using public transport as far as possible, walking to the neighborhood mall rather than take the car there (you'll save on the parking fees too), maintaining your vehicle in top notch condition and a million other ways based on your vehicle and usage. Controlled oil usage not only contributes to reduction in oil demand in a Oil-Deficient country like India, but it also results in a much lower air pollution in the big cities.

The governments be it the state or the center will never do anything about it since their biggest revenue streams (tax-revenue contributors) are the big Oil-Import and Refinery Companies (BPCL, HPCL, ONGC, etc) and any reduction might result in budgeting difficulties for their thousands of needs.

Electricity on the other hand is different from Oil. The governments do have a benefit in reducing the consumption of electricity (wastage). It can be used for more productive applications. It can then be distributed to smaller villages and towns which to this day do not have any form of electricity. But the governments should probably go big on advertising cost-savings and companies going green will help too. My current employer too has its "Green Initiative" going great guns.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dark Knight!!

Watched "The Dark Knight" yesterday. A definite must-see. Loved the scene where Batman jumps off IFC, the scene where the Bat-Vehicle turns into a Bike, loved the Joker for all his dialogues ... the list goes on.

An almost perfect movie, now being dubbed as the best super-hero movie of all time, and also possibly the best movie of all time.

Here I come ... China!!!

Finally looks like I might in fact get to visit China before I head out of HK (maybe for good) after all.

A month or so ago, I decided to apply for the GIFT's Young Leader's Programme (YLP) since it looked like a good opportunity to visit China (Urban - Beijing and Rural China - Ningxia Province) and also an opportunity to work on a project that has a lot of benefits to the community and also a good opportunity to work with some top executives of private and public enterprises in Hong Kong.

I finally got selected for the program last week and now pending my China VISA approval. Getting a VISA to China is the challenge of the year thanks to the China Government's clampdown of Visa issuance to all and sundry including possibly a few million potential visitors to the Olympics, I should be in Beijing during the Olympics (although it is still doubtful if I'll get to see the olympics live). One thing that surely reduces my chances of getting a VISA is the fact that I am going for a project organized by an NGO - that's one word that's giving nightmares to the officials in Beijing.

If my VISA gets approved (hopefully I should know in a couple of days), it is a definite spoiler to my india travel plans and my mom's plans of getting me hitched before I head out for my exchange since I might head out to London directly instead of coming back to HK and / or going to Bangalore.

Before I wrap up this post, if you are aware of anyone or any organization who would sponsor a poor student's expenses of this trip and do its bit for a poor village in China, do pass on my contact to them or vice-versa. You can read more about GIFT at the following web-page.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Investing in the stock market ... science or art?

This is probably the best time to write this post - what with the sensex at its 52 week (or is 72 week) low, most emerging market indices down anywhere from a third to half their value about six months ago. Every business news website is speculating on whether this is the bottom or is there more to come. This is the first of two parts on how to invest in the stock market. It's called the Lazy Man way of Investing. This is for those who do not have the time to research and invest in stocks or Mutual Funds.

Q. How to begin investing?
A. Start investing a fixed amount however small in an Index fund or mutual funds via SIP. This takes care of two things - One - it provides the discipline of investing i.e. no temptation to invest more in a rising market to burn more than is necessary and two - not investing in an under-valued market and lose on the upside. Two - It provides averaging which ensures that your overall costs are not skewed toward

Q. What about Mutual Funds?
A. In a developed market like the US, an index fund is probably the better choice due to the lower costs and better overall performance. But these are still not that well-established in emerging markets. So a mutual fund which has a good performance over the past 8-10 years and has outperformed the market consistently is a good choice. Take care to look at hidden costs in the performance description and look at performance after costs to see if they out-perform the market.

Q. Growth or Dividend MFs?
A. Growth - Helps grow the nest egg much faster rather than pay taxes for dividends and reduce the upside.

Q. How many MFs?
A. 5-10 MFs divided across key sect

Q. What about the hot stock that my friend recommended?
A. Even if your friend has an IQ of 175 and is the whiz of Stock Investing, I'd personally recommend you do not go for it. For one, it shows you are not taking responsibility for your actions by blindly following. Even if there's a tip, find out why he feels this stock will rise, see if its close to its 52-week high (a warning sign of speculation), and do your due-diligence before investing.

Q. What about stocks?
A. Stocks surely provide better returns if you do enough home work before investing. For one, the costs are lower if you do not keep buying and selling stocks on a daily basis (which is a sure no-no for investing). In fact it is not called investing (does speculation sound familiar?) and there is a lot more opportunity to find under-valued stocks that will provide a much greater upside.

Q. Standard checks before buying a stock?
A. Strong Earnings, Consistent Growth, Honest Management, History of utilizing Retained Earnings effectively, History of Share Buy-Back, Low P/B ratios. Do your own valuations using standard techniques and buy stocks that are trading at a sufficient margin of safety (2/3 recommended). In summary, if you do not have the time to do some or most of this, try to stay away from stocks till you have the time.

Q. What about high-dividend yield stocks?
A. Very good way of picking some wonderfully under-priced stocks. In fact right now, some stocks in the sensex have current dividend yields of 8-10% and are big names in their sector and have either consistent or growing dividend record. Why would you say no to a interest rate of 8-10% and growing and a good chance of a higher price when the market recovers.

Q. Any recommendations?
A. Read Question on Friends' recommendations above. :-) I don't want to be cursed. The truth is I haven't done enough due-diligence on any of the stocks myself and don't feel comfortable recommending. And golden rule is even if I do, you will do all due-diligence before buying the stock.

Q. Portfolio recommendations
Stocks to Bonds: Between 75:25 in an under-priced market (like for example now) and 25:75 in a over-priced super-heated market (like 6 months ago). Do a re-adjustment of portfolio my looking at your portfolio at fixed intervals like once a month or once every 3 months. Of course, this needs to be done with your future cash needs in mind and should not be applied as is.

Q. Anything else?
A. If you hold a large portfolio of one share (like in the case of a Stock Option from your company that you want to either partially or fully sell at a certain price), look at the below post to see an opportunity to gain a good premium on the stock until it reaches that price. I will be trying it sometime soon .. so should be able to help you set it up in the near future (if you are interested).

Before you fall off to sleep reading this super-long post, let me end with a cliche I came across recently.

The No.1 Rule of Investing should be "I shall not lose my Capital".
Rule No.2 reads "I shall not forget Rule No. 1"

If you like this post, buy me a beer!

PS: A few tips from the master himself

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Covered calls and Naked Puts

I don't think I can explain this well enough for anyone to trade these options just by reading this post. But these definitely are really powerful tools that I recently got exposed to in Prof. Rao's class that allow you to make the most of some of your stock holdings. I plan to apply them soon with his blessings ... ;-) read guidance!!!
  1. Scenario 1: Stock A is right now at 120. I want to buy it only if it comes to 100. You can actually make some premium for the money you have reserved to buy these shares at 100 by selling a Naked Put and assuming A does not hit 100. Of course if it does, you will need to buy the shares from the guy who buys the Put options from you if he exercises it. But that was exactly what you wanted to do anyway. :-) You now have some additional premium thus lowering your overall purchase price.
  2. Scenario 2: A is right now at 80. I want to sell a lot of A at 100 when it hits 100. Sell Covered calls of A at 100 and you earn a premium for doing that in case A does not hit 100. If it does, you achieve what you wanted to achieve and are able to sell your share at your target price.
Problems: The lots are really big - so you need to be a really big trader to make money here. But if you do have such huge lots, you are supposed to be able to conservatively make 1-2% per quarter which is quite significant since it is a fixed revenue stream.

Another reason why it pays to not hold more than 10-15 stocks in your portfolio.

Warning: Apply at your own risk or at least after doing your research. I haven't yet applied it myself.  :-)

If you like this post, buy me a beer!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Recollection of my first lesson at HKUST!!!

This was my first lesson at HKUST. Learnt from a professor whose class I exempted from. But before I got the exemption, my letter requesting for exemption got a sharp response back within minutes. Why???

My first line was "Hi James". Which unfortunately was his last name. With the other name being Lancelot, How was I supposed to know? And in addition, he wanted to be addressed as Prof. Lancelot James or Prof. James. Coming from a US company culture (In INFY and GAP), this was  a new one for me.

Here are some rules which you might want to follow in your back to school time.

  • As a rule of thumb, always address your professor formally, as Dr. X or Professor Y. If they invite you to address them by their first name, then use it. But it's polite to always assume the professor wants to be addressed formally, unless they tell you otherwise.
  • Consider the norms at your school. At some conservative schools, students never call professors by their first names. At some liberal arts colleges, it's the norm to address everyone informally. Ma'am and Sir might be appropriate as well, depending on where your school is, and manners never hurt..
  • Don't call professors Mr. or Mrs. This is a high school convention, not a college one. Your professor might feel disrespected if you refer to him or her by this less prestigious title. Also, many female college professors are liberal and do not like to be called Mrs.
  • Never assume it's okay to use a first name. Sometimes students assume it's okay to be informal if the professor is young, or female, or a minority, or nice, or whatever. This is not polite.
  • Call your professor somethingStudents sometimes feel so uncomfortable that they speak to their professors without using a name at all. This is pretty impersonal. Remember, if you're unsure, just use "professor."
  • This goes for emails too. Emails to a professor are a formal correspondence, and you should use good email etiquette and be as polite to your professor as you would be in the classroom. Unless your professor has invited you to use his or her first name, begin the email with, "Dear Professor X."
  • Don't be afraid to ask. You can always ask the professor how he or she would like to be addressed. Just ask politely.
  • Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    My 8x8 Cell for the last 10+ months :-)

    Posted by Picasa

    Struggle for work

    Earlier it was fighting for an internship .. now its about fighting for work at our internship at Citi. Apparently, there is no work at least in our division. Or maybe its just that we are so efficient that we finish it before he gives us work. :-)

    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    Officially an entrepreneur

    Submitted the Zeopane Incorporation Forms today at HKUST. Poorer by 1700 HKD, but richer by the title of an Entrepreneur, Co-Founder and Director of Zeopane Limited and a chance to make it big in the world of Bio-entrepreneurship.

    This all started with the last of our business plan competitions. We were approached by RM, one of the key organizers of the competition asking us to sign an NDA and this we had to do as a company. Not sure if this will lead to much. But at least it commits us to work towards taking this venture further. We have made some progress and are finalizing the rules of the game and working hard towards formalizing the communication that we need to make with all our potential investors.

    Let's see how this pans out. Wish me luck!!!

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    Master's golden words

    Warren Buffett says, "The line separating investment and speculation, which is never bright and clear, becomes blurred still further when most market participants have recently enjoyed triumphs. Nothing sedates rationality like large doses of effortless money. After a heady experience of that kind, normally sensible people drift into behavior akin to that of Cinderella at the ball.”

    “They know that overstaying the festivities - that is, continuing to speculate in companies that have gigantic valuations relative to the cash they are likely to generate in the future - will eventually bring on pumpkins and mice. But they nevertheless hate to miss a single minute of what is one helluva party. Therefore, the giddy participants all plan to leave just seconds before midnight. There's a problem, though: They are dancing in a room in which the clocks have no hands."

    Was always fascinated by this man. Prof. Milind Rao's inspired us to research Buffet's company (Berkshire Hathaway) and other holding companies and his strategies as part of the "Value Investing" course. This sure looks like it will be one helluva learning ride.

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Karma karma!!!

    Beauty and Brains don't go together. Here's the perfect example.

    If the Dalai Lama is indeed a friend of hers, it's time she started spending more time with him or maybe it's time Dalai Lama started disowning some of his dumb friends

    Friday, May 16, 2008

    Bonding with classmates!!

    After a long evening of bonding with S,P and A, I realized the value of doing things for no apparent reason. Just chatting away about totally non-sensical stuff for about 4 hours on the beach-front was fun!!! 

    IT WAS FUNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!! :-) Cheers to more such good times!!!

    And now ... its green shipping!!!

    Yes, US Retailers go green.

    Finally, it appears people have started putting their money where their mouth is and actions are following words. But there is definitely a long way to go and this has to go into all other industries and of course all other countries including the developing countries like India and China.

    Monday, April 28, 2008

    IPL - Why did Sreesanth cry?

    Here's the list of options - Take a guess

    The silliest of controversies. These guys really are mentally disturbed. Bhajji for one surely is. What was he thinking?

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    Randhir on CNN Money!!!

    I am proud of being a part of the Zeopane Team. It now featured on CNN Money Website as part of the list of teams that participated in the RICE University Business Plan Competition.

    Another feather in the cap.

    Zeopane wins at RICE!!!

    Zeopane and I finally has something to show for the marathon 3 month effort that really all started in the second week of January. Even though we'd identified the product in early December, we didn't get down to beginning work on it till after the Winter break.

    The next two months were really an experience to be remembered. Lost all contact with the rest of the world for a few days in between. Just managed to get by assignments, exams, classes and finally ventured out for my 4 week sojourn in the U.S that started on March 11th.

    Carnegie Mellon University's McGinnis Ventures was truly an eye-opener on what some of these competitions can be. The competition far exceeded our expectations. Ventures with funding, sales orders, all due-diligence complete and some even already functioning. How were we - this fictional company with no US-Experience, no-Pharma Industry experience and no funding of any sort (even my CMU Ticket was self-funded :-)) expected to compete. We got hammered and did not even make the finals. Got some feedback which read - FDA Comments Naive!!!

    We at Zeopane decided to turn the tables around, did our due-diligence on FDA in US in terms of how expensive it can be, SFDA in China and turned the story around to a China Story. This clearly was a great strategy. Even if we weren't the Pharma experts, we now clearly were the China Experts with 3 Chinese looking people on the team. With me, the Technology and Diabetes expert on the team, we were almost a complete team.

    At Rice, we got some great comments. Some people rated us the best presentation among all the teams they saw. We had quite a few people convinced that Zeopane microneedles was truly a great product. We had one China based VC expressing an interest in talking further with us. Another India Fund wanted to know if I wanted to explore entering the India market with this product. Need to follow up with these two and all the other contacts we've made at Rice in between catching up with all the classes and exams I missed during my 1 month vacation in US.

    Overall, by the end of the Rice Competition, HKUST and Zeopane had made its impact. The most unforgettable moment was when a couple of guys (not from HKUST) went up to the Karaoke Stage and started screaming "Zeopane, Zeopane". :-)

    Zeopane @CMU

    I know this update has been long overdue. I was just too busy catching up with friends in Pittsburgh, Columbus and all over the US and to some extent sulking over the CMU Results. Zeopane along with 11 other teams could not make it to the final round or even the challenge round. This might sound like a huge negative - but it really isn't.

    In hind sight, we definitely had come up with a great product and a decent presentation. There were a few major issues with the business plan itself which were pointed out to us. And this feedback and the contacts we made is probably the greatest take-away from the competition. For future students, when looking for a product, you will need to look for a product in your area of strength. Pharma / Medicine wasn't any of our subjects of specialization and Diabetes / Insulin wasn't too except that I have more than a handful of diabetics in my extended family. This definitely hurt us to a great extent (not having someone with the tech expertise in there). Although I was able to answer most of their technical questions, I think having the expert speaking would have been a lot more effective.

    Pharma was definitely one of the tougher tracks to be in. There were some really good teams in the Pharma track along with ours that didn't make it through to the next round.

    Our team not having anyone familiar with the drug-approval mechanism in the US was definitely a weakness. Some of the terms like the 510(K) approval - our team hadn't even heard of it. On the other hand, some teams had already met the FDA and sought their views on how they should seek approval for their products.

    And looking at the other presentations, one other huge weakness was not having the inventor alongside us. This greatly shows the inventor's commitment to the cause and the company (especially if he comes all the way from Hong Kong). We are now trying to convince Prof Yeung to accompany us to Rice since we do not have a faculty advisor for the competition since Prof. Larry is already in the US teaching in Darden.

    One of the other suggestions we got from one of the judges was that we should probably just focus on manufacturing the microneedles and let the specialist pharma companies decide where they want to use it. The only problem we have with that approach is how to convince the Pharma companies that this works.

    Overall, some great feedback, lot of learning and the realization that HKUST has a long way to go in terms of even being close to a good school for entrepreneurship. HKUST does not claim to be big on entrepreneurship. But just what being a good school for entrepreneurship dawned on me during the competition looking at the other teams, their commitment to their product, the huge investments they had made (more than hundred thousand dollars) and how much further they were into making their product commercially viable.

    Looking forward to leveraging some of this feedback and giving an improved performance in Rice.

    Saturday, March 01, 2008

    Rice and CMU - Two B-Plans / One Team

    Just heard from Rice University, Texas that Zeopane, our company has been accepted into their business plan competition. We are really excited about it. This seems to be a great week. Here's an excerpt from their mail.

    "Congratulations! ZEOPANE Microneedles has been invited to compete in the 2008 Rice University Business Plan Competition! This year we have had a tremendous response, receiving over 280 intents from graduate programs across the world.

    As one of only 36 teams selected, you will be able to compete with teams from top programs for a Grand Prize package of over $225,000; a total of 52 cash prizes will be awarded raising the competition total to over $600,000.

    In addition, you will have the unmatched opportunity to meet and network with over 160 venture capital principals, early stage investors, and successful entrepreneurs who will serve as judges for the competition. Winners from previous years were offered additional seed funding from these judge/investors."

    The only thing that we are not too happy about is the school insisting on us having to split our teams instead of allowing us to go for both. Hard decisions to follow. Will keep you, the readers posted.

    Thursday, February 07, 2008

    HK and overhype!!!

    After seeing the HK CNY Parade, I'm really passionate about India and the prospects of Indian Tourism. If we can find the right marketing gurus, I think India can be branded as the destination of choice for every damn traveller in the world. This is what I've been thinking since my Thailand trip after seeing the fascinations of the whites I met during that trip. Oh, and when I say fascinations, I am not referring to the Thai and Fillipino maids of the old white men.

    Today's parade was probably a little better than the "Republic Day parade" in Nagaland or Mizoram (no offence meant to these states of course) and slightly better than the other overhyped Fire Dragon festival last year and this was tagged as "the focal point of the city’s celebrations" and "truly spectacular". If this was spectacular, wait till you see a Yakshagana or a Kalaripayattu show in India. I'm surely not going for the fire-works tomorrow, come what may? If the focal point wasn't good enough for me, anything less surely won't.

    Maybe my post-MBA venture should be focussed on Indian Tourism and the marketing of that across US and Europe. Go India, Go!!!

    Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    Exchange school essay ...

    Just can't motivate myself to write an essay on:
    1. What is your biggest learning so far from being an MBA student at XYZ and to what extent has this learning contributed to your growth and development?

    2. After you graduate from the MBA program, how would you like to be remembered by the school and your classmates?

    I really don't know how this is going to help someone evaluate me on
    • Cultural Fit
    • Cultural Exchange Benefits
    • Ambassador Skills
    • Academic Interests
    • Career Development
    • Extracurricular Activities
    Trying to answer all this in an essay on my learnings and keeping that under 500 words is going to be a real challenge.

    Sunday, January 13, 2008

    I hate this ...

    The school trying to fit in all these stupid core courses that I feel are totally useless. Take the Managerial Communication course for example ... I know I have a lot of improvement in my public speaking abilities. But how many times will just beating round the bush, the same stupid ideas of how to do presentations help.

    I know I have a problem and I know the solution to the problem as well. I just need more practice. But charging me two credits for talking 4-5 times in class in front of my class-mates is a total waste of my time and my precious credits. I'd rather spend a few hundreds on a Toastmaster Lifetime membership and practice and improve all my life versus spending 2 Credits (each worth around 5K HKD). Is that unfair or what?

    Update: For those that are not going to be doing an MBA, sign up for your nearest Toastmaster right away. Am sure that will do your public speaking abilities and in turn your overall confidence wonders. :-)

    Saturday, January 12, 2008

    Much ado about B-cards!!!

    Business practices in China - A few important things I found out in a recent meeting with a Chinese Business Partner (Yeah - I have a Business Partner now)
    • The exchanging of business cards in customary in Chinese business culture. One side should be printed in English and one in Chinese. You should present your card with both hands and with the Chinese side facing up. When accepting your colleague's card study it carefully before placing it on the table, never in the back pocket, as this is extremely disrespectful.

    • During negotiations, humbleness and patience is the key to success. The Chinese sense of time means that they use it knowingly and there is always enough.

    • In most cases, initial meetings may be more of a social opportunity as oppose to a negotiation discussion.

    • An important element before commencing a business meeting in China is to engage in small talk. Be prepared, as this may include quite personal questions.