Economics of taxi industry in India…too good to be true?

November 28, 2014

A superb article detailing how India’s taxi industry is changing. Mix of technology and huge VC interest is driving the taxi business. The only problem is one does not know whether the low fares are sustainable and too good to be true:

Will have to wait and see how all this pans out. Till then, the customers can enjoy the rides, a rarity on Indian roads..

Bank funding costs: what are they, what determines them and why do they matter?

November 28, 2014

BoE has an interesting article/primer in its latest quarterly article.

It uses colorful scales to show how banks manage their liabilities:

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Precisely the reasons why we should worry about Indian stock markets…

November 28, 2014

A sustained rally in stock markets and people are out giving all kinds of reasons for its sustenance. Even seasoned pros who have seen boom and bust make the same clamor just to keep the factor going. Dance till the music stops and make sure others dance with you as well.

Akash Praksah chips in to debunk two questions – Are India stocks over-owned? And are they too expensive? He points to how there is so much excitement around India and how this time is different. You know what to do when you start hearing these four words from many a faces.  Replace the article with India in 2007, US in late 1990s, Japan in late 1980s, US in late 1920s. The story is the same.

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How Snapdeal is connecting dots between supply and demand in india??

November 27, 2014

Nice interview of Kunal Bahl co-founder of snapdeal.

How the company changed from being an online discount site to a player in e-commerce space:

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RIP: Phil Hughes

November 27, 2014

Ever since Phil Hughes’s freak accident, cricket fans have been praying for his life. But it was not to be. He just passed away at the age of just 25 years, ahead of a promising cricket career.

A pretty emotional tribute by Daniel Brettig of Cricinfo.

What can one say? All condolences to his family and may you rest in peace mate..

Living in two Colombias (just like two Indias, two US..)

November 27, 2014

How most countries have become divided into two halves — one the prospering and the other decaying (in some cases ever decaying).

Andres Velasco writes of two such Colombias:

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Is Thanksgiving just a lesson on free markets?

November 27, 2014

Richard Maybury of Mises Institute has this really interesting article. I have no idea really on why thanksgiving day is celebrated. 

So Maybury explains why it is celebrated and why much of the traditional wisdom is plain myth. The real story is vastly different:

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Why both Keyensian and Free market economic schools are wrong…

November 26, 2014

Jess Sachs says recent crisis has exposed both these dominant schools of thought (just read on..he actually advocates planning!!):

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The Federal Reserve’s Escape from New York..

November 26, 2014

Prof Simon Johnson’s recent piece is on governance at Federal Reserve. In his typical style, he lambasts what has been going on at Fed esp. at NY Fed.

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Is ECB a rabbit in the rabbit/tortoise story? (and Fed/BOJ tortoise??)

November 26, 2014

Harley Bassman of Pimco thinks so.

Aesop relays the tale of a hare who ridicules a slow-moving tortoise, who then challenges the hare to a race. The hare soon leaves the tortoise far behind and, confident of winning, takes a nap midway through the race. When the hare awakes, however, he finds that his competitor, crawling slowly but steadily, has crossed the finish line before him.

Investors may wonder how long the European Central Bank (ECB) will slumber after taking an early lead in the race to expand its balance sheet to facilitate growth across the eurozone – the world’s second-largest economy.

We could call it an economic fable…

It has come to pass that the first- and third-largest economies on the planet – the U.S. and Japan, respectively, and the tortoises of our tale – have engaged in massive quantitative easing (QE) programs as a means to spur monetary velocity (via increased asset velocity – that is, the rate at which assets circulate). Yet some analysts insist the eurozone may not follow suit.

He goes on to suggest that QE may not work in theory but does in practice…

Book Review – A fistful of rice

November 26, 2014

I guess this blog  should just focus on books instead of research papers which take you no where.

Just stumbled upon this book which is story of Vikram Akula, founder of SKS Finance. SKS Finance as we know jumped from nowhere to dizzy heights only to crash.

This book fistful of rice is quite an inspiring tale (even if we believe 50% is truth) of how a person really tries to bring abouct a change in India. And that too someone who did not have to given he was fairly well-settled in US. It is interesting how his father migrated from Andhra to US to escape from poverty and how his son just about ended up doing the reverse. Of course, his parents were not amused with his decision to move to India to work on addressing poverty.

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Should Russian Ruble follow Keynes proposal of Currency board?

November 25, 2014

Prof Steve Hanke argues how Russia has just lost its control over Ruble. It makes sense for the country to adopt a currency board first suggested by Keynes (did not know this):

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Africa’s Failure to Industrialize: Bad Luck or Bad Policy?

November 25, 2014

Brookings has released a series of papers on industrial experiences in Africa.

John Page summarises the findings:

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Book Review – Marwaris: From Traders to Industrialists

November 25, 2014

I just finished reading this book (written in 1978) by Dr Thomas Timberg of Nathan Associates. This book was basically his thesis he wrote on the origins of Marwaris. I was alerted to the book thanks to this interview of Timberg in ToI. He recently released another book on Marwaris recently which is perhaps an updated and revised edition of his thesis. But somehow missed the launch completely.

Luckily found the old book which is a decent read.

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Why can’t countries think like companies? (because both are different entities)

November 24, 2014

Well, countries can’t think like companies as two are very different entities. Just as we are told elephants can’t think like ants and vice-versa.

It is surprising to read such pieces from public policy professors. Kishore Mahbubani of Lee Kuan Yew Public Policy Institute actually argues something which professors of public policy have usually guarded against – countries are not companies.  So what works in companies does not really work at the country level.Actually, such kind of thinking will leave no role for public policy schools as well.

Much of modern economic thinking gets into this whole idea that country policies do not matter. One should just apply principles of economics (efficiency, profit maximisation etc) to country level and all shall be taken care of. The west has been influenced by this thinking for many years only to reap the enormous problems they have created for themselves.

So what does this article say? It speaks about missed opportunities in China and India:

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Look beyond India’s economic hotspots…

November 24, 2014

Rakesh Mohan and Anu Madgavkar look at the Indian maze and suggest we should look beyond the usual growth stories.

India is way too varied to fit in one basket:

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Economics is a dismal science for women..

November 24, 2014

Noah Smith has this piece which says “forget anecdotes, there is quantitative evidence showing that economics is uniquely biased against women”. So as per Prof Smith, the dismal science is harder on women.

He points to some examples of how male econs are not criticised much despite making some sexist comments. Then he talks about some research which shows how the profession is biased against women:

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Why are central banks getting concerned with gold reserves/location of gold reserves?

November 21, 2014

The gold fetters are worrying central banks once again. One keeps hearing some news or the other. Swiss are anyways going to vote on Nov 3o on whether SNB should hold 20% of its reserves as gold and hold all its gold reserves in Switzerland (currently 30% gold reserves held in UK and Canada; see one, two and three on this)

Now, I read this about Dutch Central Bank. It too has adjusted its gold location policy:

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Bankers were about as honest as anyone else — until they were reminded that they were bankers…

November 21, 2014

NYT points to this interesting bit of experimen on bankers.

In the experiment, people do not cheat as long as the are not reminded of their profession. The moment you ask them their profession and then get on with the experiment, bankers cheat:

As banking scandals have mounted over the past decade, some critics have suggested that the industry simply harbors a dishonest culture. Now, three economists from the University of Zurich have tested the idea.

They found that bankers were about as honest as anyone else — until they were reminded that they were bankers.

One hundred twenty-eight employees from a large international bank were assigned either to a group that answered questions about their profession (”What is your job?”) or general questions (“How much TV do you watch?”). Each employee was then asked to toss a coin 10 times and report the outcomes online.

There was an advantage, however, to lying: The subjects were told in advance that they would get a $20 reward if a given toss came up heads or tails — as long as the overall winning percentage they reported was greater than that of another randomly chosen participant.

The group that hadn’t been asked about their profession was largely honest, reporting a winning toss 51.6 percent of the time. The other group reported 58.2 percent winning tosses. The researchers calculated that 26 percent of the bankers in the latter group had cheated, compared with almost none of the first group.

To confirm their findings, the researchers performed the study again with people from other professions. Those people did not become more dishonest when asked about their work.

The findings, which were published in the journal Nature, suggest that bankers behave dishonestly only when they feel that is what is expected of them, said Alain Cohn, who is now with the University of Chicago. Perhaps, he said, banks should take a page from medicine and require their own version of the Hippocratic oath.

“It is very important to let employees know exactly what desired and undesired behaviors are,” he said in a conference call. “Then we could use a professional oath to activate these norms.”

Amazing sets of values the newgen bankers have accumulated over the years. Just make money in whatever way possible. The dangerous Friedman/Chicago School idea that the only purpose of the firm is to make money has become way too perverse..

The unsung billionaire… Qimat Rai Gupta of Havells India

November 21, 2014

Bhupesh Bhandari of BS pays tribute to Mr  Qimat Rai Gupta of Havells India  He just passed away recently. Mr Gupta made his billions through hard work but remained humble all through his life. One does not even know what kind of a company Havells is with most thinking it is some foreign company given its name.

So how did Havells come about?

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