Friday, June 28, 2019

BookMarks #58: Rich Dad Poor Dad

Title: Rich Dad Poor Dad 
Author: Robert Kiyosaki 
Genre: Non-Fiction, Self-help, Finance 
Published: 1997 

Robert Kiyoaski's “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is a book about getting wealthy! The author contrasts his father (the poor dad) and his friend’s father (the rich dad) to explain how they came to have disparity in wealth in their lifetime. As per the author, to become rich, one must be
  1. Financially literate. Understanding cashflows and taxes play a major role. 
  2. Invest in assets and not liabilities. As per the author rich people acquire assets while the poor and middle class acquire liabilities, but they think are assets. The rich buy assets. The poor only have expenses. An asset is defined as something that brings money. 
  3. Keep expenses low, reduce liabilities while diligently building a base of solid assets. 
  4. Rich people buy luxuries last, while the poor and middle class tend to buy luxuries first. 
  5. Employees earn and get taxed and they try to live on what is left. A corporation earns, spends everything it can, and is taxed on anything that is left. It's one of the biggest legal tax loopholes that the rich use. [The author himself is a good example here. While he is multi-millionaire, many of his companies have gone bankrupt!]
Major lacuna in this book – While pretending to be an autobiographical account, we never learn what the author did to earn his millions! There are hints of companies started and real estate investments made but no account of how the first investment was made, how things actually panned out or the time taken for the "asset" to mature. To me, that would have added actual value to the book, rather than statements which are of more global nature. 

Although there are no real get-rich-quick tips in the book, the overall takeaway from the book is to “keep learning” and “act” on them!

Previously on BookMarks: India in the Age of Ideas

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

BookMarks #57: India in the Age of Ideas

Title: India in the Age of Ideas
Author: Sanjeev Sanyal
Genre: Non-Fiction, Economics, Compendium
Published: 2018

"India in the Age of Ideas" is a collection of essays, written over a decade on subjects of economics, urban infrastructure and history. The author Mr. Sanjeev Sanyal is currently the Principal Economic Adviser to the Government of India.

The writings offer a fresh perspective to the three subjects, especially in the field of urban planning. Some of the ideas are radically different from the conventional point of view. The author presents a contrarian approach to the philosophy of rigid five-year plans. The author doesn’t believe in meticulous planning but rather being agile and having a quick response to ever-changing dynamics - a case of Complex Adaptive Systems.

New urban developments should be integrated with existing infrastructure. There is no point in fresh buildings far off from the cities. He contrasts the F1 tracks in Singapore against Noida, the university towns in US & UK versus our universities which are inside walled campuses usually far away from urban centers. 

The author presents his ideas about making cities more livable by improving connectivity through walkability and integrating public transport with last mile connectivity. 

There is an interesting contrast of Chandigarh with Gurgaon. One a modern planned city which has become a center for retired bureaucrats. And the other which has grown in a haphazard manner but providing a major boost to the economy. And thus, comes the question, do we build to a meticulous plan or manage a random growth better? The author certainly believes the second is a better option!

The post-independence policies of socialism and centralized five-year plans of Mahalanobis model come in for heavy criticism. Rightly so, if the results are compared to the potential. But never given the perspective of the world just after independence. The balance is not there in the criticism.

History is another interesting subject which is touched upon. Was Ashoka really great? Why are our history books only Delhi focused? Why are many of the major empires of North-east & South India barely mentioned in our text-books? Why do we not talk about our naval successes in South-East Asia? Interesting questions all. Certainly, we need a more representative history rather than rewriting it completely.

A radical suggestion (and an easily implementable one) is having the Independence Day speech from different locations of historic importance every year! But doesn’t every politician aim for giving a speech from the Red Fort?

Because it is a collection of articles, there are passages which are repetitive across the book. Also, the original date of publication of the article should have come at the beginning to give a perspective of the time-frame. This is especially true in our ever-evolving VUCA world, where the past decade has led to huge technological evolution.

While reading the articles, remembered a chart which showed the most populous cities of the world and different times. India had three entries- Pataliputra, Agra, Delhi. Interestingly, none of them are even the largest Indian city now. Cities are living entities. How they are managed will lead to how long they stay as a center of economic & social importance!

Previously on BookMarks: Stories from Tagore

Monday, June 03, 2019

LearnNBlog #16: A Lesson from Sir Edmund Hillary

29th May 2019 marked 66 years since the first successful summit of Mt. Everest. Sir Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay's successful ascent (and return) was a trimuph of human spirit and collaboration. A Kiwi and an Indian of Nepalese origin had climbed the world's highest peak as part of a British expedition - making it a truly global venture. 

Mt. Everest has had a special fascination for me. This could be attributed to having read and re-read the autobiographies of Tenzing and Bachendri Pal multiple times. Tenzing's autobiography throws a fascinating insight in Hillary's character. When asked which of them reached the summit first, tenzing clearly says it was Hillary. Meanwhile Hillary always maintained that both of them climbed it together and there was no first. [Aside - In mountaineering, if you are tied to the same rope, you are together, neither is ahead or behind, so technically Hillary was correct]. 

Also, Hillary had brought a camera with him to record the summit. At the top, he took pictures of the world below and Tenzing's pictures but refused Tenzing's offer to have his own taken. Tenzing's pictures made it to the world press celebrating the first human ascent to Everest. There were other pictures taken on their return to base camp.
Tenzing on the summit of Mt. Everest
What a contrast to the modern selfie-addicted us (yous truly is also guilty of the same), for whom taking candid selfie at a location to be shared on social media is more important than taking in the actual sight of the location itself. Definitely, a lesson for the tourist us!

Also, there was a recent news item about deaths on Everest due to excessive climbers going at the same time. There was also a picture of the traffic jam on (ironically) Hillary's Step! We certainly need to take a step back and think if our insatiable appetite for adventure and thrill-seeking is taking a toll on this planet! Can we not destroy the Earth?

Previously on LearnNBlog: Perfect Numbers

Also about Everest, in this blog- Because It's There