Friday, December 25, 2020

2020 - TYIL

TYIL – This Year I Learnt 
2020 AD – certainly one of the weirdest years in history since the World Wars with restrictions in place almost across the globe. But that also meant more time locked up trawling the interwebs. Which in turn provided an opportunity to capture and store the occasional bit of trivia which came up in covid-filled minefield that the web had become. So here goes, my sampling of the interesting (at least for me) learnings from 2020 
  1. Swami Vivekananda had a 7-wicket haul in Eden Gardens (New Indian Express)
  2. Gini Index - is a measure of inequality of wealth distribution in a country (Wikipedia)
  3. 8,549,176,320 – the only number with all ten digits arranged in alphabetical order (Braingle)
  4. Kuuki o yomu – Japanese for the art of “reading the air” – knowing the unspoken societal rules with comprehensive understanding of the environment including non-verbal communication. Should be more interesting in these masked times. (BBC
  5. Larry Tessler – the inventor of cut, copy, paste commands. The key reason why the volume of material on the internet keeps growing! (BBC
  6. Pitt-Hanks Continuum – describing the likelihood of an actor winning the Academy Award based on how much their performance is like Brad Pitt or Tom Hanks in the roles they play. The more like Pitt an actor’s style and roles are, the less likely he is to win. Although now that Brad Pitt has won an Acting Oscar, maybe something to be relooked at! (Vanity Fair
  7. Pheme (or Ossa) – Greek Goddess of Gossip – they have one for everything! (Theoi)
  8. Nintendo started as manufacturer of playing cards in 1889 in Kyoto. They still are in business of creating fun for people. (BBC)
  9. Shireen Kiash represented India in Cricket, Hockey and Basketball – a triple international. (Parsi Khabar). Learnt this from the Book "The Fire Burns Blue"
  10. Leavism – Trend of working on holidays. Need a new adaptation for 2020, where the very concept of a leave has gone for a toss. (The Guardian
  11. Herfindahl Index - measure of market concentration (calculated by squaring the market share of each of the companies in the industry and then summing the resulting numbers) (Wikipedia)
  12. Exter’s Pyramid – for visualizing organization of asset classes in terms of risk and size. (Miles Franklin
  13. Fernweh – German word for an “ache for travel” – especially relevant for all those afflicted by #wanderlust in the times of coronavirus. (BBC
  14. Hunter’s Moon – A phenomenon creating another object bright as the Sun in the sky (Universe Today)
  15. Letteral Words – A word which can be pronounced using a few letters (e.g. Queue has same pronunciation as Q) (Link)
  16. In the 1970s there was a bus service between London & Sydney and London & Calcutta! (Indiatimes
  17. Margherita pizza is named in honour of Queen Margherita’s visit to Naples in 1889. Also, pizza is a corruption of the word pita (the bread) (BBC)
  18. India Syndrome - described as the delusional behaviour which “hits people from developed Western countries who are looking for a cultural space that is pure and exotic, where real values have been preserved” (Firstpost)
  19. Veblean Good – Luxury goods whose demand increases as its price increases. (Investopedia)
  20. Hybris – Greek for outrageous arrogance that makes for abuse of power, which leads to the imposition of your will at all costs. (Wikipedia)
  21. Pointillism – creating an image from dots (Britannica)
  22. Hing – India is the largest consumer & yet is not grown in India at all (till now) (BBC)
  23. Aan (1952)- first Indian movie to get a global release. Thanks to Ruskin Bond’s “Journey Down the Years”  (MovieMahal
  24. King of Hearts is the only King in a standard suit of cards without a mustache (Technology)
  25. Daddles is the name of the cricketing duck created by Channel 9. All these years of seeing it didn't realise it had a name (Wikipedia
So this was the random trivia list for 2020. Lets see what 2021 has in store. 

P.S. Here is the list for 2019 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Corona Chronicles: The Word List

The year 2020 A.D. was to put it mildly a bit different! And that difference, among other things, introduced more than a few words into the everyday lexicon. So, in keeping with the theme of the year, presenting my word list for 2020! 
  1. Virus – after years the biological virus once again became a primary global threat regaining its crown from the digital version. (Also, Covid & Corona
  2. Pandemic – the virus went global truly establishing how the world has shrunk and turned into a global village! 
  3. Lockdown – to keep the virus in check, governments across the world, imposed lockdowns of varying severity & duration and yielding mixed results. There was a major dispute between the economists & medical professionals on who suffered more – the economy or the health! The dispute remains unresolved in this race to bottom 
  4. WFH – Many worked from home or anywhere (WFA). Some took workcations. Whatever the form the way we work has changed. Work is anywhere you place your laptop and have an internet connection! 
  5. Zoom – Connecting the working world virtually (alongwith its siblings MS Teams, Webex, JioMeet, Google Meet etc). Also bringing office into home & vice versa! And on a related topic lead to “Zoom Fatigue” setting in as well from being in and out of meetings/calls throughout the day. 
  6. Unmute – It’s a meeting, you raise your point and realise that no one is noticing you. Mostly because you had kept yourself on Mute and forgot to “unmute” yourself. 
  7. Social distancing – To maintain lockdowns governments asked us to practice social distancing. Shouldn’t they have rather termed it physical distancing
  8. Bubble – Sports figured a way to get back in action. It was replicated by other agencies as well. Just put the required people in a bubble life with breaches being severely dealt with. But only after making them spend considerable time in Quarantine (been through one – not particularly a fan) 
  9. Superspreaders & Hotspots – the anti-bubble, places with multiple cases and causing exponential growth in the infected. (Also, Contact Tracing
  10. Covidiot – Individuals who don’t bother following simple guidelines – no Masks or necessary PPE using non-essential services! Making themselves a easy prey for the virus as well as potentially becoming a spreader while making contact tracing difficult.
  11. Pandemic fatigue – And to round up this word list – pandemic fatigue, from being locked down, attempting to balance household work with office work, sanitizing everything, no general entertainment avenues and the prevailing news environment. The fatigue had to set in! And there were many more variants of above!
Word List as per WHO

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Corona Chronicles – The DJ Playlist

So here I am quarantining prior to making an entry into the bubble life. The pandemic and consequent precautions have killed the to & fro day trips. Now any work visit is strictly monitored and becomes a month-long exercise starting with tests and quarantine. But that is not something worth blogging about (or maybe it is, after all, there suddenly seems a bit more time to do nothing). 

So there I am minding my business when from across the safety of the window I hear the sounds of some function going on nearby, probably a reception. Which for some reason also had a DJ, who was trying desperately to throw some life into the small gathering (another collateral impact of the virus, no big, fat public functions anymore). 

Well, lets just say, the playlist was quite an interesting mix. And me, utilizing the solitude, diligently noted down the entire playlist as the songs came on. There were a few repeats as well. I guess some sort of musical chairs was also on, where the participation seemed, to put it gently, less than enthusiastic! But I digress, so coming back here is the playlist. 

Presenting the 2020 Corona Chronicles DJ mix 
  1. We will rock you – Queen (YouTube) Great song but for opening the reception party? 
  2. Sapne me milti hai – Satya (YouTube) Much better. 
  3. Bala bala – Housefull 4 (YouTube)  I don’t like the song
  4. Gangnam style – PSY (YouTube)  Why why why? 
  5. Aankh Maare - Simbaa (YouTube) Anything to embarrass the couple on stage! I liked the older version though
  6. Bolo tara ra ra – Daler Mehndi (YouTubeThey are getting into the groove now
  7. Khaike paan banaraswala - Don (YouTube) Where did this come from? 
  8. Zingaat – Sairat (YouTube) I liked this one 
  9. Kajra re – Bunty Aur Babli (YouTube) Heard this one after ages! 
  10. Dil chori sada ho gaya – Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (YouTube) Another appropriate one 
  11. Ishq tera tadpave – Sukhbir (YouTube) The Grand Finale - had to end with this one. After all which party in India doesn’t play this one & which DJ does not mute the oh ho ho bit.
Mile Sur Mera Tumhara could have done with this cultural mix - songs in English, Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi and Korean! A proper pot pourri of songs. But who am I to judge, it certainly kept yours truly engrossed for a while (and more).

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

BookMarks #76: The Unusual Billionaires

Title: The Unusual Billionaires 
Author: Saurabh Mukherjea 
Genre: Non-fiction, Business 
Published: 2016 

The book’s key message is how to build the best performing long term portfolio. To drive home its message, the book uses the example of eight of India’s best performing companies. Alongside the author brings out his own stock-picking methods following the principles of Coffee Can investing and John Kay’s IBAS framework. 

The book has a selection of stories of India’s leading corporates and how they came out to be such. These are 
  1. Asian Paints – focused on identifying gaps and how to fill them. Continuity in ownership. Building high entry barriers to competition. 
  2. Berger Paints – steadily grown to be #2 in India, despite constantly changing ownership. Steady management provides the right guidance. Having paint industry experience is the key factor. 
  3. Marico – took on the might of HUL and ended up buying their competitor product which had been launched to once buy-out Marico’s flagship products. Right innovations and timely product diversifications while holding on to their core strengths has been the key to success. 
  4. Page Industries – Bringing an international brand to India and capturing the market share. 
  5. Axis Bank – overcoming debacles to become a trusted name in Banking sector 
  6. HDFC Bank – rising to the top of banking sector 
  7. Astral Polyteknik – creating a new market space & constant innovation & scaling in the same. 
  8. ITC – distribution network & diversifications.
The author has also presented John Kay’s IBAS framework, namely innovation, brands and reputation, architecture, and strategic assets and how this framework has been applied by these companies. Timely IT systems upgrade, investments in people, a truly independent Board with people having relevant experience have been the key for success. 

As per the author – “An investment operation is one which, upon thorough analysis, promises safety of principal and an adequate return. Operations not meeting these requirements are speculative”. With this objective the author has given three broad themes on picking the companies. 
Theme A: Focus on the long term (more than ten years) without being distracted by short term gambles; 
Theme B: Constantly deepen the moat around the core franchise using the IBAS framework and 
Theme C: Sensibly allocate capital whilst studiously avoiding betting the balance sheet on expensive and unrelated forays. 

Additionally, the following checklist for evaluating businesses is provided 
  1. Industry Attractiveness 
    • Dependency on government regulation 
    • Competition – number of competitors & intensity of competition 
    • Overall industry size & growth potential 
    • Proportion of value addition in the industry 
    • Capital intensity & efficiency – lower capital intensity generally generates higher returns 
    • Dependency on country’s broad economic cycle 
    • Generates excess returns for shareholders (cost of capital >15%) 
  2. Management Quality 
    • Track record of good governance and clean accounting 
    • Political connections 
    • Track record of efficient capital allocation 
    • Track record of focussing on core operations 
  3. Competitive Advantage 
    • Brand & Reputation 
    • Company’s architecture strength 
    • Ownership of strategic assets 
    • ROCEs higher than industry average 
Overall, an interesting book which has tried to send the message of investing for the long run with the aid of narratives from some of India’s most successful companies. 

Previously on BookMarks: The Tales Next Door