Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Power Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega

A democratic government means a government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by their elected representatives under a free electoral system. The representatives are elected on the basis of their party’s ideology or in some cases without any party affiliation (independents).

A political party is an organization that seeks to gain political power and form a government by participating in elections. Parties often adopt an expressed ideology or vision reinforced by a written manifesto with specific goals.

India has around half a dozen national parties and 100s of regional parties that are all fighting amongst themselves to represent Indians in the parliament.

Today, (May 13, 2009) the last day of voting for the 15th Lok Sabha is coming to an end and India has elected its representative for the 15th Lok Sabha (although results are yet to come out). The early projections which are coming from the media indicates that we are going to have another hung parliament and thus no political party or pre-poll alliance will get the mandate to govern.

In this election ideologies of all political parties are set to be thrown out of the window and every sort of combination is possible to grab power (barring perhaps BJP and Left, Congress and BJP, and BJP and Indian Union Muslim League) or perhaps Power Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega.

If indeed this is true and the post-poll alliances like Congress led UPA is supported by the Left front again, does voting really matters? The MPs from Left Front predominantly comes from the states of West Bengal, Kerala, and Tripura. In all these three states, Left Front and Congress are the principal opposition, either alone or in alliance. How does the mandate of the people matter if these two parties come together? A person voting against Left will feel cheated if the Congress forms an alliance with the Left and similarly a person voting against Congress will feel cheated if the Left supports Congress.

In Bihar, NDA (BJP and JDU), Congress and the Yadav Front (Laloo, Paswan and Mulayam) are fighting against each other. In this state also there are talks of party's crossing over and thus making the process of going to the people redundant.

Same is in the case of Uttar Pradesh where BJP, BSP, Congress, SP are fighting each other and post-poll BSP and SP might go to support either of the 2 alliances (UPA or NDA). Now the voters have every right to feel cheated as their votes really does not matter.

Tamil Nadu presents another peculiar situation where the Congress and DMK are pre-poll partners and AIDMK is the main opposition. The DMK is going to do badly in the elections, if the media reports are to be believed, and there are talks of both BJP and Congress making an attempt to woo AIDMK. If the Congress succeeds in getting AIDMK under its fold and dumping DMK then does the voter matter?

I think India should move to a 2 coalition formation politics and anti-defection law should come into force if any pre-poll alliance party crosses over to another formation post-poll. Otherwise, the entire process of voting becomes an unnecessary exercise where millions of rupees are wasted and many of our policemen and paramilitary men have to make the supreme sacrifice in the Naxal belts and other poll related violence, and yet the mandate of people is manipulated by the political parties to bring themselves into power.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fake IPL Player and Buzz Marketting

The latest buzz in the IPL II is not about the cricket but the Fake IPL Player who is writing a blog and claims himself to be a member of the KKR.

The Fake IPL Player claims that he is a member of the team of KKR. He describes himself as a “perennial no hoper” and he goes on to say “there's one thing I do very well. Serve drinks. And that's what I am expecting do in South Africa” and promises (throughout the IPL, I will be bringing to you the "aankhon dekha haal", right from inside the dressing room, meeting room and players' bedrooms.)

He goes on say in a later post how the team management is searching for him and he is posting the post when his “rommie” is sleeping and via SMS from his brother back in India because laptops have been banned in the hotel.

I believe the Fake IPL Player is not a cricketer because no cricketer would ever risk his entire career in cricket for writing a stuff from which he would not benefit in anyway. The language flow, the use of punctuation, the use of satiricalnesses goes on to show that the writer is writing the blog with lots of time in his hand and not writing in a hurry as he claims to be. Finally, no cricketer or support staff would be a poet and our Fake IPL Player has even composed a poem in his blog titled “BubLee aur Babli.” The writer, to my mind, is no doubt a professional satirist.

But the question is this Fake IPL Player also gives some facts about the team that looks to be correct and also the weather conditions of South Africa before the day of the match. This does prove that this guy is in South Africa and doing all the writing from there. The KKR team site writer that Fake IPL Player is a "poison pen of the dirtiest variety."

Buzz marketing or undercover marketing is an unconventional strategy that is used to attract end users (consumers). It is where the consumers do not realize they are marketed to. The goal of any undercover campaign is to generate a buzz about a product. The largest appeal of undercover marketing is that it offers free word of mouth publicity that can reach huge number of consumers for free.

Now, look at the recent controversies around KKR which has made the team to be in limelight for quite a long time now.
1. Removal of Kolkata from the jersey and putting only Knight Riders. This act was an instant controversy and the team got free air time on TV, and newspaper.
2. Once this controversy died, there was the multiple captain controversy. This one was a bigger hit and again all TV channels (news and sports) gave coverage to the event and there were so many discussions about the same. This issue again gave the team unlimited coverage for free. Once the matches started there were no multiple captains, although the captain was changed.
3. Fake IPL player is the mother of all controversies that has been created around the team KKR. We have newspapers devoting an entire page to this controversy and television again giving free air time discussing the issue. I am not sure, now that Fake IPL Player has created the hype, if we are not going to get any more of the “aankhon dekha haal” from him.

From all this controversies KKR, the team, has gained huge interest among the teams playing the IPL. I won’t be surprised if with all these controversies KKR matches are getting more TRP ratings than other matches. As the team comes on the minds of the audience so does the sponsors supporting the team.

I wonder if the team management feels Fake IPL Player is a "poison pen of the dirtiest variety" why they did not approach Google and got the blog deleted. Google has in the past deleted many a fake Orkut IDs, when complained by the offended party. In my mind there is not even an iota of doubt about who is behind the “Fake IPL Player” and who is benefiting from him the most.

Friday, April 17, 2009

White Supremacy and IPL

"White supremacy is the belief that white people are superior to people of other racial backgrounds. The term is sometimes used specifically to describe a political ideology that advocates the social and political dominance of whites." This is how Wikipedia defines white supremacy.

The naming of Brendon McCullum as captain of Kolkata Knight Riders proves another point of the typical Indian mindset that whites are supreme than us, brown Indians. KKR is not the first team though to believe in “white supremacy.” Before KKR naming Brendon McCullum as their captain, it was Deccan Chargers, Bangalore Royal Challengers, and of course Rajasthan Royals.

If retired players like Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist can be good for captain than it is hard to justify why Indian players like Sourav, Dravid and Laxman are not fit for captaincy. Age as everyone might think as the factor actually does not hold good when one has Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne as captains who are no younger than Sourav, Dravid or Laxman. Finally, age has nothing to do as far as captaincy is concerned.

Yes, it is a fact that KKR under Sourav failed miserably in the IPL but that had more to do with the team than his captaincy. KKR, last year, had players like McCulum, Ponting, Gayle for a very few matches and had to do most of the time without regular batsman in the side (even Taibu had to be included as a batsman in some matches). On his part, Sourav did perform well both with the bat and the ball in IPL session I.

It is a pity that the captains that these teams have chosen were never the regular captain of their own national side with the exception of Kevin Pietersen. With the captaincy in the hands of white foreigners, the local flavor, which was given by the city names and evoked immense support from the cities, will almost evaporate from the IPL II.

IPL was supposed to give Indian talents a chance to play with the world's best and thus improve their skills. Actually, this is what Mr. Modi had initially said when he conceptualized IPL. With all white non-Indians in the think tank as well as captains, I do not see how they will play a part in improving the local lot (excluding the members of the Indian National Team) as they do not have any understanding of the locals.

It is just not the captains who are being changed, if one looks at the support team one can hardly find any Indian in any of the teams, be it the coach, bowling coach, fielding coach, etc. It is indeed a sorry figure considering India has produced so many exceptional players and yet no team can have faith in an Indian. The Indians in the support teams of various teams like Lalchand Rajput has been substituted with white people.

SRK, the owner of KKR, himself is a performer and had a long list of failures. Flops of SRK includes but are not limited to Guddu, Chamatkar, Dil Aashna Hai, King Uncle, Anjam, English Babu Desi Mem, Maya Memshaeb, Zamana Deewana, Badshah, Ram Jaane, Oh Darling Yeh Hain India, Phir Bhi Dil Hain Hindustani, Asoka, Paheli. With so many flops under his belt, SRK has not stopped acting as hero in films neither has producers or directors taken the faith off him. It is a pity that SRK being a performer himself could go in for such a step because Sourav could not bring laurels for his team in the inaugural session of IPL.

The present trend of appointing foreign captain and foreign coaches is driven by the typical Indian mentality that everything foreign is good, especially if it is from a white country.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bulls Bears and Third Front

With the election in full swing, the speculation of which party or parties will come to power after the formation of 15th Lok Sabha is rife. All the analysis on TV and newspaper are showing that neither the UPA nor the NDA is likely to garner the 271 seats required for the formation of a government.

The capital market does not favor any political formation over other and generally looks at stability and will be happy with either the UPA or the NDA coming to power with absolute majority and lasting the full term. In case the third front comes to power with outside support of the congress or BJP, the stock markets are expected to move southwards. The third front will mean a combination of about two dozen regional parties with no focus of policy or ideology and with left being a part of it will have foreign policy and economic policy which will perhaps take India back by a few centuries.

The third front will certainly frighten the investors away from India for the following reasons:
1. Left’s anti-market policy and labor friendly policy (left has successfully shut down industries in West Bengal in their 3 decade rule and only recently started getting investor friendly again).
2. SP’s anti English, anti computerization (as in their manifesto) policy will perhaps make India competitive only with the SWAT areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia.
3. Banning of forward trading as proposed by SP and left will only make hedging impossible and bring in more losses for India Inc and needless to say taxes for the government.
4. Finally, and most importantly any third front formation supported by one of the big 2 will not be able to last for long.

Historically, it has been seen that the capital markets do not like the amalgamation of a myriad of political parties coming together and giving an unstable government (like in the times of Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral) with outside support.

If the third front does come to power this time, it is my guess that the share markets will see a new low in the month of May and June 2009.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kaun Banega Prime Minister

India goes in election mode from April 16 to May 16, 2009, to elect the 15th Lok Sabha. The 15th Lok Sabha will have 543 seats and therefore for any party or formation to come into power would require at least 271 seats. That no single party will be able to garner 271 seats in this election is a foregone conclusion. Who becomes the prime minister will depend on which formation comes to power. At this moment there seems to be three political formations that has more or less taken shape viz., the United Progressive Alliance or the UPA, National Democratic Alliance or the NDA, and the Third Front.

Let me now profile the prime ministerial candidates and the chances of their becoming the next Prime Minister of India:
1. Dr. Manmohan Singh: He is the Congress’ choice for the Prime Minister from the UPA. For Dr. Manmohan Singh to be the next Prime Minister of India, Congress has either to gain a few seats than last time or at least maintain the number of seats it had and reach somewhere in the vicinity of 140-160. I do not see Congress reaching the number after it has lost the Hindi heartland alliance in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand. Congress is likely to do very poorly in the southern states of TN and Karnataka. So I would not give Dr. Manmohan Singh (or any other congress candidate) more than 35-40% chance of becoming the next Prime Minister.

2. Lal Krishna Advani: He is the BJP's and NDA's choice of prime minister. Again for Mr. L. K. Advani to become the prime minister, BJP has to win somewhere in the vicinity of 140-160 seats by itself and hope its allies will get the rest 111-131 seats. I do not see BJP getting anywhere near 140-160 seats on its own as it is very weak in UP, no presence in WB, TN, Kerala (accounts for 181 seats). So I would not give Mr. L. K. Advani (or any other BJP candidate) more than 40% chance of becoming the next Prime Minister.

The calculations for either Congress of BJP might change only if there is any unforeseen wave coming out in their favor in the next few weeks. For anyone else to become the next Prime Minister, he/she has to get the support of one of the big two i.e., Congress or BJP.

3. Ms. Mayawati: She is the BSP's prime ministerial aspirant. I do not give her even 1% chance of being the next prime minister because I do not see any political party giving her support as she is too ambitious and can eat into the support base of other regional or national parties.

4. Mr. Sharad Pawar: Sharad Pawar may find support from Shiv Sena apart from his own party to become the next prime minister, but there would be a very remote possibility that BJP will support him and Congress just won’t support him as that might wean away some influence from the Nehru-Gandhi family and historically Congress has never supported any strong leader with mass support outside of the Nehru-Gandhi Family (leaders inside or outside Congress). I would give him less than 5% probability of being the next Prime Minister of India.

5. Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav/Mulayam Singh Yadav/Ram Vilas Paswan: They are the leaders of the newly found fourth front. Since they appeal to the same class of voters there is 0% probability of any of the two supporting the third as the prime minister as he (selected one) can then undermine the other two. So I would give 0.5% probability for any of them to be the next Prime Minister of India.

6. Ms. Jayalalitha/Chandra Babu Naidu: I do not see either of them getting the support of Congress as congress is the main opponent of Chandra Babu Naidu in AP and Sonia Gandhi will not support Jayalalitha due to the latter’s previous comments on the foreigner issue.

Who can then be the next Prime Minister of India? For sure, we won’t have back to back elections due to lack of decisive majority for any formation. Now if we go back in history and look at the other non-Congress, non BJP prime ministers of the recent past we find Mr. V. P. Singh, Mr. Chandra Shekhar, Mr. Deve Gowda, and Mr. I. K. Gujral. The one thing that was common to all of them was they either did not have mass following or their area of influence was limited to their own state only, so they got the support of the Congress party.

It is this logic that brings to my mind another complete outsider of national politics into the foreground, Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal. Although, I understand this is the most audacious or even hilarious prediction ever and seems to be impossible, but then who had ever thought Mr. Chandra Shekhar, Mr. Deve Gowda or Mr. I. K. Gujral will be the Prime Minister of India before the elections.

Why Naveen Patnaik? Congress will support him because primarily he or his party does not have any following outside of Orissa, secondly with less than 15 seats of his own Congress can dethrone him at an opportune time, and finally he has just been weaned out from BJP. The Yadavs (Lalu and Mulayam) will support him for the simple reason that Mr. Patnaik is not going to eat into their share of votes ever and they can have their sweet revenge on Congress. The Left will be more than happy to support him or any other non-congress, non-BJP person. I see more than 50% chance of Mr. Naveen Patnaik as the next Prime Minister of India because of his acceptability amongst the third front as well as the Congress. How long he can remain the Prime Minister is a different question altogether.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Indian Primier League or Indian Political League

Indian Premier League (IPL) was inaugurated in 2008 and was conceived in a way that eight Indian city teams will play each other in a home and away format in the lines of English Premier League (football). The first edition of IPL was held from April 18, 2007 to June 1, 2008, and was a huge success. The second edition of the IPL was scheduled to take place from April 10, 2009. Although IPL is a purely commercial venture, it was the first Indian sporting brand where cricketers from around the globe came to play cricket in India with Indian internationals and local Indian players.

BCCI on March 22, 2009, decided to hold IPL outside of India. This was done because some of the states (UPA ruled states) said they would not be able to provide security to the IPL as India will be going through general elections at the same time and they did not want to take the risk of a Lahore like incident during the IPL.

There are a few things to ponder about the security issues that the UPA ruled states and the UPA government has brought forward by making a direct reference to the Lahore attack of the Sri Lankan national team:

Is the situation of India and Pakistan the same, election or no election? I do not think there is even an iota of semblance between the security conditions of the two countries. Pakistan is a failed country which is going through chaos; more than 50% of the country is not in the control of the federal government and is controlled by Taliban and/or feudal warlords. State agencies in Pakistan sponsor terrorism and in all likelihood the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team was backed by some rogue elements within a state agency. On the other hand, India is as safe as UK or USA (sporadic terror attacks happen in UK, India, or in any part of the world but not sponsored by the government).

If government cannot guarantee the security of a sporting event during the election, is the life of the ordinary Indians (Aam Admi) safe during the same period? I am starting to wonder about the safety of malls, multiplexes, rails, metro rails, airports and any other place where large number of people assemble during the April May time period as the Government of India will not have adequate security forces to protect any one but election booths.

Will the Indian government send advisory to all foreign governments to prevent their citizens from visiting India during the same period because India cannot provide adequate security in the Indian cities and towns and chances are there that some of them might be kidnapped and killed (like in Pakistan).

Can India host gala sport events (commonwealth games) in the future and what if nobody wants to come here because the government has already given the signal that India is not a safe country anymore.

By denying IPL 2, I think Government of India has created question marks about India's ability to provide security to Indians and a handful of foreign players. I think the decision of not granting security to IPL 2 has more to do with Lalit Modi's proximity to the opposition (NDA) rather than the inability to provide security during the election process. If states like West Bengal (Third front ruled) and NDA ruled states like Karnataka, Punjab can provide security why can't UPA ruled states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh do the same?

The decision of BCCI to shift IPL out of India due to security concerns will not harm the game of cricket and will not harm the commercial interests of BCCI and/or the franchises but definitely will tarnish the image of India. It will also give India's adversaries a chance to equate the unsafe situation in Pakistan with India citing Government of India's inability/reluctance to provide security to a major domestic sporting event.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mumbai 26/11; Cricket and Comedy Circus

It is now almost 2 months that Mumbai was invaded by a bunch of Pakistani citizens. The response of India till date has been creating diplomatic pressure on Pakistan and that has yielded nothing concrete as of yet and I do not expect Pakistan to give in to any of India's demand post 11/26.

India has asked countries like Germany not to sell arms and ammunition to Pakistan because of their role in state sponsored terrorism. In this gloom doom economic scenario will the arms producing countries refrain from selling arms to Pakistan is anybody's guess.

It is common knowledge that every human will protest if their source of income is curtailed. There are hundreds of Pakistani's who are earning millions of rupees in India, in fields like acting, playback singing, comedy and not to forget cricket; Adnan Sami, Shakeel Siddiqui, Kashif Mehmood, and the full Pakistani cricket team are few of the examples. These guys come to India with the sole intention of becoming famous and earning megabucks as Pakistan as limited opportunities.

It is my belief when the common Pakistani's cannot earn megabucks in India, they will slowly but surely build pressure on the Government of Pakistan to stop terrorism against India so that they can go back and earn in India.

Though it is my belief that arts/sports do not believe in divisions on the basis of nationality, but at the same time we should not forget that there cannot be friendship between India and Pakistan with a one-sided effort.

Recently, MNS activists and/or Shiv Sainiks had barged in to the shooting of Chinchpokali to China (a sort of sequel to Comedy Circus) and asked Shakeel Siddiqui (a Pakistani standup comedian) to leave Mumbai and the country immediately. Although I DEPLORE most of the actions of the Thackeray cousins, I support this act wholeheartedly.

I think good sense will prevail on the IPL franchise owners to be patriotic towards their country and refrain from taking Pakistani's in their teams (for the second edition of IPL). I would appeal to the Government of India not to issue visas to the Pakistani cricketers to come and play in IPL and ICL.

It is high time that India should at the very least put economic sanctions on Pakistan and stop all cultural activities with that country. Pakistan is attacking India's sovereignty and we as a nation cannot expect USA or UK to come to our rescue. If we do not act, nobody will.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Asatya of Satyam

Satyam Computing Services was founded by B. Ramalinga Raju in 1987. In 1991, Satyam raised money through an IPO and subsequently listed on BSE and NSE. The company offers a variety of IT services and is listed in NYSE, Euronext along with BSE and NSE.

Satyam is headquartered in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, but has offices in 66 countries spanning over 6 continents. Satyam serves 654 global companies among which 185 are Fortune 500 companies. Satyam has roughly 53 thousand staff on its payroll.

Satyam until January 7, 2009 morning was the fourth largest IT Company of India with only TCS, Infosys and Wipro bigger than it.

Satyam was the recipient of Golden Peacock Award for Corporate Governance for the year 2008.

On January 7, 2009, Mr. Raju resigned from the Satyam board after notifying the board of the Directors of Satyam with copies marked to SEBI chairman and the stock exchanges wherein he confessed of fudging the accounts of Satyam and giving false account statements of the company for many previous quarters.

In his letter Mr. Raju confessed that balance sheet carries inflated cash and bank balances of Rs. 5040 crores, an accured interest of 376 crore which is nonexistent, an understated liability of 1230 crore and an overstated debtors position of 490 crore versus. 2651 reflected in the books.
He goes on to say, "What started as a marginal gap between actual operating profit and the one reflected in the books of accounts continued to grow over the years. It has attained unmanageable proportions as the size of company operations grew significantly (annualised revenue run rate of Rs 11,276 crore in the September quarter of 2008 and official reserves of Rs 8,392 crore).
As the promoters held a small percentage of equity, the concern was that poor performance would result in a takeover, thereby exposing the gap. The aborted Maytas acquisition deal was the last attempt to fill the fictitious assets with real ones.
It was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten.”

Within hours of his letter Satyam stock plummeted by as much as 80% and thus wiping out billions of rupees of the investors and thus many investor got eaten by "a tiger" along with Mr. Raju.

Mr. Raju will be remembered not as much as an entrepreneur or a wealth creator but as a wealth destroyer. Around 95% of Indians (maybe less than 5% of India's total population), who have exposure either to mutual funds or unit linked life insurance products or unit linked pension products are indirectly holding Satyam and thus suffered a huge financial loss.

Only the coming days will make it clear how many of the 53 thousand Satyamites will continue to have their job. The Satyamites will just not be losing their job, but also have lost 80% or more of value of their ESOPs.

Recently, World Bank had debarred Satyam from doing any business for 8 years due to data theft. With Barrack Obama and his known anti outsourcing stance becoming the US President within a few weeks, it is to be seen what action he takes on the outsourcing industry given the data theft by Satyam. The other question remains how much profit the IT companies of India are really making given Satyam is making just 3% profit.

The Satyam Fiasco throws a big question mark not only about corporate governance in India but a bigger question remains about the auditing fraternity. It is quite impossible that the auditors could not have detected such huge financial irregularity in the balance sheets for so long a period of time. It is highly likely that they were hand in glove with the management about the issue.

The Satyam crisis has all the ingredients to make it a bigger disaster than it looks now as more skeletons are likely to fall from the cupboard as time goes. If for some reasons Satyam goes the Bear Sterns way, there will be huge losses as more than a lakh of families are dependent on Satyam for their livelihood indirectly (the pool car drivers, security guards, canteen staff, computer maintenance guys, etc.) apart from the 53 thousand who are directly linked. Mr. Raju did what Ajmal Kasab and friends could not do, i.e., hurt India economically, tarnish corporate India's image, drive away investments from India. For me, B. Ramalinga Raju is no less a criminal than Ajmal Kasab and both should be given similar punishment.

If 2008 was bad for the investing community of India 2009 is proving worse. Since the fraud was done by the Fourth Largest IT Company of India, FIIs will think twice before investing back in India.