Welcoming research on business anthropology and community anthropology…

November 20, 2017

Prof. M Romesh (anthropology, University of Hyderabad) has an interesting paper on business anthropology:

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Godrej Locks aiming to be ahead of thieves

November 20, 2017

Godrej Locks has roped in reformed robbers.thieves to talk about security:

Traditional wisdom has it that the best place to hide things from a thief is right under his nose.

Security solutions company Godrej Locks has gone a step ahead, getting the thieves themselves to dispense advice on how to secure yourselves from risk and theft.

In a series of three videos, three robbers, now reformed, let viewers into some tricks of their trade – such as ways to break a lock – and reiterate that thieves will stop at nothing, even murder.

Shyam Motwani, Executive Vice-President, Godrej Locks, says the persons featured in the videos “have done all kinds of gruesome things to achieve nefarious objectives”. The company tapped many sources, including the police to track these people. They have all done time in jail. “Now that they are reformed, they were more than willing to talk,” Motwani says.

The videos are primarily to spread awareness but end with the former thieves certifying Godrej Locks as ones that cannot be tampered with.

Mention the scores of movies where robbers overcome sophisticated technology to carry out heists and Motwani says that in real life, electronics and biometrics make it difficult. Unless someone has placed a spy cam atop your door and figures out your passcode, they cannot gain entry. It’s important to change the code regularly, he adds.

Also, with mechanical locks that have several bolts, it’s not worth a thief’s time to get through every single one because he may well be discovered before he finishes the job, he says. He adds, though, that it’s a fact that thieves would want to get ahead of the technology, “so it’s our challenge to develop even more sophisticated technology and be ahead of them”.

Hmm..

Weather prediction: Can individuals challenge central agencies?

November 20, 2017

Came across two posts today:

So two individuals whose track record of predicting weather. rains etc has been seen as decent.  I am sure there are some more around in other places as well. Given track record of the Indian Meteorological Department, perhaps we should encourage more such decentralised ways to manage and predict weather patterns..

Open your eyes to (the ills of) Federal Reserve

November 20, 2017

For a moment one thought this piece would have been written by an economist who was a follower Austrian School.

But it is written by Joel Thornton who is a businessman in Tallahassee. He says Federal Reserve is the “greatest business monopoly and swindle in the history”.

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How shops use tricks to get you spending..

November 17, 2017

Nice piece by Prof. Cathrine Jansson-Boyd of Anglia Ruskin University. One knows most of these tricks but still get tricked..

In the business of shops and selling, times are tough. Retail sales indicate that shops are are struggling to persuade customers to part with their cash.

But there are some innovative methods which retailers are using to address the challenge of enticing and engaging consumers. And it’s not just about slashing prices and Black Fridays. Many well-known businesses make use of psychology to connect with customers and increase sales.

Here are some of the tricks they have up their shop sleeves.

Read on..

Bernanke, Geithner, Paulson to lead new project explaining decisions of financial crisis…

November 17, 2017

One does not know how to react to such research projects. When the chief actors during the 2008 crisis get to figure what was behind their very decisions:

Ten years after the onset of the worst financial crisis in generations, the first-person “we were there” accounts by the those who led the rescue have been published, journalistic accounts have been written—and even turned into made-for-TV movies—and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has disbanded after publishing its report on the causes of the crisis.

But in one important respect the record is incomplete: There is no coherent and detailed explanation of the dozens of design decisions the first responders made as they crafted the many rescue and stabilization programs. Why, for instance, did the Federal Reserve conduct auctions for its Term Auction Facility on Mondays, but provide winning banks the cash on Thursdays instead of immediately? (So no one would conclude that a bank that borrowed this way was so desperate that it needed the cash to open the next morning.) More generally, what options were rejected and why? In hindsight, what worked as anticipated and what did not? Besides completing the historical record, answers to such questions may clear up some lingering controversies and may prove useful the next time the U.S. or any other country confronts a severe financial crisis.

To fill that gap, the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings has teamed up with the Yale Program on Financial Stability to commission papers from those who crafted the rescues in the Bush and Obama administrations and the Federal Reserve.

The project will be led by former Treasury secretaries Tim Geithner and Hank Paulson and former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, and will culminate in the presenting of research at a Brookings conference close to the tenth anniversary of the crisis on September 11 and 12, 2018. The conference will end with reflections by Messrs. Bernanke, Geithner and Paulson. My colleague, J. Nellie Liang, Miriam K. Carliner Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings and former director of the Fed’s Division of Financial Stability, will serve as editor for the papers.

Scholars will be studying and writing about the causes and consequences of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession for decades to come.  We hope the unique nature of this project—the first-hand accounts by those who were in the trenches—will inform that work.

Looking forward to this…

A Tale of Two Cities: Why Hamburg succeeded and Lübeck declined?

November 17, 2017

Nice post by Prateek Raj.

The German cities of Hamburg and Lübeck have an interwoven and eventful history. Whereas Lübeck offers an example of how dominant cities may become unattractive and decline when they end up serving the interests of a privileged few and refuse to change, Hamburg serves as a tale of how cities can reinvent themselves by changing with the times.

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Got a cold? How and why Indonesians trust coin rubbing on their bodies..

November 17, 2017

Traditions vs. medicine. Who wins?

Prof Johanna of Universitas Indonesia has a piece on how traditions win in Indonesia. People prefer to rub coins on their bodies to the extent it leaves red marks on their bodies:

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Why the worst humans are able to rise to power? (cues from Hayek’s Road to Serfdom…)

November 17, 2017

As debates rage over the Mugabe era and whether Zimbabwe will see democracy or dictatorship.

Recent scholarship finds that while “democratization coups” have become more frequent worldwide, their most common outcome is to replace an incumbent dictatorship with a “different group of autocrats.”

Signals in Zimbabwe are mixed so far. Experts generally describe the latest developments as “an internecine fight” among inner-circle elites and ask two key questions: Which side will prevail, and will violence break out?

In my assessment, the answers hinge on Mnangagwa, a hard-nosed realist and survivor who was critical in securing Mugabe’s four-decade rule. Mnangagwa has an appalling human rights record. Many consider him responsible for overseeing a series of massacres between 1982 and 1986 known as the “Gukurahundi,” in which an estimated 20,000 civilians from the Ndebele ethnic group perished.

More recently, in 2008, civil society groups accused Mnangagwa of orchestrating electoral violence against the political opposition and rigging polls in Mugabe’s favor.

It is also true that Mnangagwa is massively invested in ensuring his continued and unfettered access to power, which has proven highly lucrative for him. The vice president is “reputed” to be one of Zimbabwe’s richest people. All of this suggests he might become yet another dictator.

The big question is how do these people come to power at all? Brittany Hunter picks cues from Hayek’s Road to Serfdom:

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Lucknow Bank of Montreal celebrates 200th birth anniversary?

November 16, 2017

For a moment I was totally surprised to come across this news. Lucknow Bank of Montreal? How come one knows nothing about this bank>

It took me time to understand that Bank of Montreal recently completed 200 years of existence. And there is a place in Canada named Lucknow which was named after the Indian counterpart:

The village was named after Lucknow, India where, the Indian Rebellion of 1857 took place between the Indian rebels and the East India Company army. Lucknow takes the name of “Sepoy” which refers to the Indian foot soldiers who fought on the British side in the Relief of Lucknow. There are two theories about the origin of the name of Campbell Street-one is that the main street was named after Sir Colin Campbell, leader of the relief forces. The other is that the street is named after Malcolm Campbell, the community’s first merchant. Several Lucknow streets bear the names of some of the British generals involved in the Relief of Lucknow: Campbell, Ross, Outram, Havelock, Willoughby, Rose and Canning.

Eli Stauffer first settled the unnamed land that was to become Lucknow in 1856 where he constructed a dam and built a sawmill. In 1858, Ralph Miller purchased a parcel of Stauffer’s land and built “Balaclava House”, a log tavern. James Somerville purchased the Stauffer mill and land rights in 1858 and had village lots surveyed, earning Somerville the title of the “Father of Lucknow”. With the “Gravel Road” open into Kinloss in 1866, the village continued to grow and had a population of 430 in 1868.

Wow! Imagine how Lucknow inspired naming a village in Canada in 1857!

So, it is the Lucknow branch of the Bank of Montreal which celebrated 200 years of the bank’s anniversary…

A closer look at history of small denomination coins…

November 16, 2017

Nice post by Hillery York. It also has a picture of the Lydia coin, the first ever coin produced.

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How Iceland persuaded teens to give up drink and drugs…

November 16, 2017

Interesting short film by Richard Kenny on how Iceland collectively worked to address teen problems in their country. One hears that this drinking and drugs  =is already a big problem in some of the regions in India as well…Some lessons here..

Nothing Natural About the Natural Rate of Unemployment

November 16, 2017

Edmund Phelps debunks some macro myths. In a short piece, there is fair bit if history of macro thought as well:

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Story of Thomas Cook: How an Alcohol-Hating English Preacher Founded Global Tourism

November 15, 2017

Quite unbelievable to read this piece:

…when the Industrial Revolution dawned in the late 18th century, England—and then much of the rest of Western Europe and the U.S.—suddenly had a middle class with some disposable income. They, too, wanted to see the world, but their limited means meant they had to vacation close to home. That’s where they might have remained had an ambitious young cabinetmaker from central England not spotted this glaring gap in the market—and moved to expertly exploit it.

Cook’s venture was rooted not in a tourist’s desire to kick back a pint and visit a few historic sights, but in his fervor to keep would-be globetrotters from drinking in the first place. Convinced from an early age of the evils of alcohol, he spent much of the 1820s and ’30s walking the English countryside, spreading his religious message to all who’d listen and distributing pamphlets extolling the dangers of beer to those who wouldn’t. It was a desperately inefficient means of advancing his cause.

And so when the world’s first railway network began to open right on his doorstep, Cook was quick to recognize its value. By arranging free or discounted train trips, he could ferry large cohorts of temperance supporters to rallies across the country. With the development of telegram wires, 2,000 miles of which were laid in Britain by the early 1850s, he was soon even able to direct his temperance tourists’ itineraries from afar.

It didn’t take Cook much longer to grasp that these cash-churning expeditions might earn him more than heavenly favor. Putting his missionary work on hold, he started organizing and then guiding sightseers on trips around Britain. In 1855, he ventured over the English Channel to France, then to Switzerland a few years later. No sooner had the American Civil War ended than he shepherded a tour across the Atlantic to New York.

Really!

Great Depression research remains the holy grail..

November 15, 2017

Bernanke called Great Depression the holy grail of macroeconomics.  It is perhaps one of those few events despite being historical continues to inspire so much research after all these years. Books continue to be written and debated vigorously on the crisis .

Came across two recent posts in this regard:

  • David Glasner argues how Friedman was not the first to argue about France’s role in gold standard which eventually was one of the key reasons for the Depression to become global. Lots of history of monetary thought in the post.
  • In another post, Robert Murphy says Gold Standard was not responsible for Depression.

Phew…Keep breaking heads over it…

From tea to chai: a slideshow..

November 15, 2017

Sreedeep of Shiv Nadar Univ has a slideshow of the tea to chai journey:

This is what goes into every sip: centuries of colonial plantation history, hours of labour withstanding the sun and the rain, meticulous plucking of the freshest leaves, series of mechanised crushing, rolling, packing; and most importantly — a passion for tea. Only the fresh leaves on top make it to the factory. Labourers are paid a paltry amount of ₹300 for a day that includes nine hours of hard labour.

While the finest leaves are hand plucked, a tea processing machine chops the rest of the leaves to produce regular tea. Leaves are gathered and transported to the factory at the end of the day. At the factory, the leaves are spread on withering troughs, after which a mixture of hot and cold air is passed through them for 12 hours. This removes the moisture from the leaves, before they are thrown into the crushing machine. Roughly 4,000 kg of leaves produce 1,000 kg of packaged tea dust.

 

‘Portuguese architecture’ in Goa has little to do with the Portuguese and everything to do with Goans..

November 14, 2017

Vivek Menezes who earlier had written a piece on Goa cuisine, now has another one on  Goan architecture.

He says that these days brokers are selling some houses as “Portuguese houses” is wrong. These houses are basically Goan:

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How the Orient Express became the world’s most glamorous train

November 14, 2017

Nice story by Erin Blakermore on how the idea of Orient Express took shape. History of trains and technology around it remains as fascinating as ever:

As rail travel expanded, luxury hotels began to pop up to cater to travelers’ needs. But it took an entrepreneur named Georges Nagelmackers to combine trains and hotels in Europe. Nagelmackers was a member of a prominent Belgian banking family and had investments in European railroads. After the Civil War, his family sent him to the United States in an effort to help him get over a failed romance with his cousin—and while on an extended vacation, he fell in love.

The object of his affections wasn’t a woman; it was a train. While European travelers chugged along in sooty, jostling trains, Americans were beginning to travel in Pullman cars. These train cars, invented by George Pullman, were specially designed for long-distance travel. The hotel-like cars were clean and staffed by friendly workers who catered to passengers’ comfort. And they contained something European trains did not: beds.

Nagelmackers became fascinated by this comfortable mode of travel and even approached Pullman with a proposal to become his partner and spread his cars through Europe. When Pullman rejected him, Nagelmackers returned to Europe with a plan: copy Pullman and make his own, even more luxurious, train.

He was briefly thwarted by the Franco-Prussian War, but by 1873 he had formed his own company, the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. Nagelmackers wasn’t content with the idea of mere sleeper cars. He wanted to create something entirely new: a luxury travel experience that swept passengers from Paris to Istanbul (then Constantinople)  without stopping at borders. To do so, he recruited a powerful ally: King Leopold II of Belgium. The king was a notorious railroad enthusiast with family ties to some of Europe’s most powerful monarchs, and he helped Nagelmackers get permission to run his trains across international borders without interference.

In 1883, the opulent train the press dubbed the “Orient Express” made its maiden voyage. (It only went part of the eventual route due to infrastructure challenges.) It was unlike any other train Europe had ever seen. Instead of soot and bad service, it had gleaming wood surfaces, plush seats, and beds with silk sheets that rivaled those found in hotels. Inside was a restaurant that served fancy dishes like oysters and caviar, and musicians serenaded the passengers as they sped over borders.

Interesting how politics and business have always mixed at the top level.

There is more in the story…

Why study and research numismatics?

November 14, 2017

Nice post by Hillery York, Jennifer Gloede, and Emily Pearce Seigerman:

Whenever we tell friends and family where we work, their first response is typically, “What is Numismatics?” Of course, they pronounce it anywhere from “numismatic” to “gnomimatic!” The National Numismatic Collection (NNC) is the Smithsonian’s collection of monetary and transactional objects. It houses approximately 1.6 million objects spanning thousands of years and a great variety of materials. One of the best parts of our jobs is getting to share the collection with the world! Numismatics is a far-reaching field, and we’ve found connections to military history, facial hair, woman suffrage, and even Game of Thrones! We often share things about our favorite objects, but here are a few large, notable collections that you may not know are housed within the NNC. We’re making these available online, and researchers are welcome to contact us regarding their research in these areas.

Greco-Roman Collection

Ancient coins have long been collected because of their beauty, age, history, and sometimes rarity. Even dating back to the Renaissance, aristocrats and royals sought to add ancient coins to their collections. It makes sense then that the NNC would also have an extensive collection of these fascinating coins donated by various collectors over the years. Scholars recently dove into the collection to assess its strengths as compared to other notable museum collections. In doing so, they created a detailed listingof the holdings and discovered the collection contains approximately 26,900 Greek and Roman coins! These coins offer a great opportunity to study economics, art history, ancient coin production, classics, and more.

Numismatics is simply fascinating . It should be part of teaching monetary economics as it tells you so much about the monetary history and even politics around it…

We should move beyond just assembling these coins and put them in a museum. The idea should be to research and figure why certain coins were changed/modified, introduction of new coins and so on. Central banks should sponsor research on numismatics as there is much more to research than the usual “download data and run models”…

New Zealand should try build a central bank which has an open culture (applies to other central banks too..)

November 14, 2017

The earlier speculation of including employment in RBNZ’s inflation targeting mandate has gained steam as the new government has come to power.

Michael Reddell who has been educating us about NZ economy via his super blog says best way is to build a central bank which focuses on building an open culture environment. It is really nice when we hear things like culture etc in central banking and banking contexts where until not very long ago only models mattered. NY Fed has also been talking a lot about culture these days.

Reddell points how each central bank has a different culture:

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