NASA’s Vision

We reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.

Can you guess whose vision statement it is?

NASA

Did you guess it right?

But don’t you think that vision statement is under more pressure than any other vision statement on this planet?

Because every year NASA’s vision needs to hold good for millions of taxpayers in the US

But come to think of it, when the equity is replaced by tax, it is a different ball game altogether

When the NASA director uses words like “moonshot”, he means that in a factual manner and not a metaphorical sense

And we don’t even know how they define their ROI, revenue, profitability?

Based on what? What are the benchmarks? What is the competition like?

We know that NASA has competed against Russia during the cold war, but not anymore

But, NASA has remained true to its vision

It has conducted extraordinary missions on Mars and Moon

But where is the ROI you may ask

Well, the ROI is right here. An Indian citizen is writing about the vision of NASA and you have read thus far

It is the soft power that the USA has built over the years

But have you thought what would have happened if NASA were a public listed company with a #vision like that?

The trap of Duopoly

Here is something you should be worried about.

The telecom space in India is now controlled by two companies.

Airtel and Jio.

Both are just a few million customers away from being termed as a duopoly.

Like Boeing and Airbus.

Unfortunately, in my region, Airtel is a natural monopoly.

I use airtel broadband and airtel sim.

Currently, I face frequent call drops and internet outages.

The costs and efforts of switching broadband and telecom services are prohibitive.

During the early days of broadband circa, 2006-07, one such natural #monopoly was BSNL.

There was nothing I could do once the BSNL connection conked.

All I could do was wait.

Yesterday I had the same feeling.

All I could do was wait.

Every time Airtel customer reps assure me of better quality, I have to believe them.

Sometimes I ask them, have you read the SLA (service level agreement)?

And they kindly say, no.

And I believe that’s ok.

Customer representatives are trained to speak what you want to hear.

They are doing their job.

But we all are slowly sliding into a dangerous trap.

It is the trap of duopoly.

Even if the new Boeing 737max crashes due to technical challenges, we really don’t have a choice.

We have to trust Boeing.

Or painstakingly find an airline that only uses Airbus.

This company sells hope and not products

Are you looking for some passive income?
How long are you going to sustain the uncertainty of your job?
Then pave your way towards financial freedom! Join us

I can’t believe Amway representatives are reaching out to people on LinkedIn.

I was always puzzled with the business model of Amway.
I remember 15 years back a distant relative visited us with the Amway proposition.
We couldn’t make out the head or tail of how we are going to earn money.
My father was generous enough to only listen, offer tea and biscuits and kindly showed him the way out.

But as I think about the Amway model now, I get some clarity.
Amway is an awesome business.
They are in the business of selling hope.
And the hope is everybody can generate some passive income.
Amway’s core products are very expensive.
They have some great product line trusted by millions of people.
But someone selling you Amway will sell you the idea of becoming rich and financially independent and not products.
All you have to do is network, network, and network.
The confidence with which they sell hope will make you crazy.
Anyway, I don’t know what is the reality and do people really make money.
Amway sells hope nicely packaged with all the glittery paper.

Tell me the time someone sold you dedication, perseverance and hard work ? 🙂

#business

The time and money game

All our life we struggle to balance these two resources: Time and Money

If all you have is time and little money, you might invest that time to make more money.

You try to be modest, reduce your activities, and seek discounts.

If you have all the money and little time, you might invest that money to buy some time for your hobbies, leisure, travel, and family.

You intensify your experience.

Live more in less time.

You spend a premium on travel, adventure, and buy special editions.

The third type: With all the money and all the time! They are a rare breed.

Also, there is the fourth kind, the ones who optimize the equation between the two resources and write self-help books on it.

The challenge is you always have to do a trade-off between the two

No resource can act as a proxy for time.

Nothing will act as a proxy for money.

But out of the two, time is a finite resource.

Your net worth will fluctuate, life will always give you opportunities.

But the world is designed to treat time as an infinite resource and money as a finite resource.

What do you think?

Reflect 🙂

The double-edged sword of incentives

Back in the 18th century, Britain was overcrowded with prisoners

Convicts from Britain were transported to Australia

Rise of crime owning to poverty in overcrowded cities was the main reason

These convicts were usually transported on Hulks( transport ships)

Life on these Hulks was terrible, more than 40% of the convicts died on the way

The captain/owner of the Hulk was paid on per convict basis

More the convicts he carried, more money he minted

However, these convicts were poorly treated during their journey; low rations, unhygienic conditions and cramped quarters

The management wanted to keep the costs low

Over a period of time, the British Government learned about this

They changed the payment system to transport the convicts

Now, the management of the Hulks would be only paid on the basis of per convict that safely landed in Australia

Post this, the number of convict deaths on the hulks dropped by a mere 2%

Nothing changed actually, the Hulk management was now incentivized to cram more convicts on the transport hulks

Towards the beginning of 19th century, all private Hulk ownership was phased out

British Government took the ownership of transporting convicts

Any reflections?
#incentiveprograms#rewardsprogram#perks

Home : Buy or Rent ?

I have always been a staunch supporter of renting. And I was very logical about that. And my simple contention of renting vs buying a home was that the monthly EMI will be at-least three times higher than the monthly rent you pay. Adding to that, instead of owning a real estate you can invest the surplus money (after you pay rent) you got into equity. Equity will beat real estate in long term.

But beyond logic and finance , a universal thought pervades inside me; debt is an unnecessary stress inducing element. Avoid it wherever possible.

Having said that, it is foolish to imagine people logically weighing options to buy or rent. Most of the rent payers do so simply because they don’t have the money neither the income to service debt. Most of the people buy a home driven by emotions. Some have surplus money and are very sure about their future cash-flows.

But again, beyond logic and finance, buying or renting is simply a choice. People who buy a home want to anchor themselves at one place. They are driven by emotions of owning their own home, decorating it to their taste and calling it their own.

But hear this, the reality of real estate is that people rent from those who buy. If there are no buyers there would be no renters. If everyone wants to rent then the builders who build homes don’t really have a business case for building homes. Builders take the risk to build homes in a hope that they would liquidate them for immediate returns.

The bottom-line: Buy or rent a home? it really doesn’t matter. It depends.

 

Value of Bitcoin lies in the eyes of the beholder

“You have to really stretch your imagination to infer what the intrinsic value of bitcoin is. I haven’t been able to do it.” Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Last year , I had a long conversation with a friend who wanted to invest in Bitcoin. The outcome of the discussion was uncomplicated. Since we did not understand the concept, we simply tagged it as stupid while appreciating the good old equity market which worked on some underlying logic. We were obviously wrong about the immediate future of Bitcoin. We could have made 8x on the capital by the end of 2017 or 4x as I write this article.

I still do not understand the concept or the mania.But during my quest to understand Bitcoin, I have arrived at the following realization : Bitcoin is a beautiful concept when studied in isolation from the block chain technology it employs to function.Nevertheless, here is my one sentence attempt to describe a block chain ; Group of computers across the world using enormous power (think global warming) to solve some puzzles to maintain the integrity of a ledger.

I thus stripped down Bitcoin from the technology it used and the prefix “crypto” it was known by. Now Bitcoin was simply a currency of some planet , let’s name that planet as Bitland. The citizens of Bitland used Bitcoins to buy groceries, arms , drugs ,massage services, space travel tickets etc. There were only a limited number of Bitcoins, 21 million to be exact. But since it was a digital currency, a single Bitcoin could be broken down to 8 decimal places. Unlike other planets where currencies were printed and demonetized at the whim of the governments and regulatory bodies, Bitcoins were mined by the citizens of Bitland as per their own demand. As a result Bitcoin was self regulated.

In Bitland, Bitcoin was only a commodity . It had no intrinsic value of its own unlike gold or platinum. It was an utility which provided a seamless way for trade to happen in a cashless economy. Meanwhile the citizens of other planets in the galaxy were fascinated by Bitcoin when they learnt about how they were mined and the tremendous potential they had in terms of utility.

It was not long before wise people from planet Earth realized that if there are only a finite number of Bitcoins to be mined , then as a commodity, its value should always increase. It is simply the supply demand rule. Earthlings were known for trading in gold, salt and even currencies. Unlike bitcoins, there was a value for every currency used on planet Earth. A currency of a particular nation appreciated or depreciated depending on various economic factors and supply-demand parameters. Earthlings approached the Bitlanders to setup an exchange where Bitcoins could be bought and sold. A deal was struck and Bitcoin was assigned a value in the open market. Factually nobody knew how the value was determined. But everyone agreed that value of Bitcoin has to go nowhere but up.

As years passed, Bitlanders went on with their routine of doing their business while Earthlings were only euphoric about the prices. Trading intensified, more people on earth began to invest in Bitcoins.Soon there were Bitcoin millionaires. But little did the Earthlings know about the fact that there were millions of likes of Bitcoin in the making .There was Ethereum from planet Ether and then Zcash and Monero from used by the beings of planet Nobo. A camera company on planet Earth went on to form its own currency for photographers.(read Kodakcoin) Suddenly Bitcoin was not the only alien currency to be traded on the planet. For several years Earthlings remained confused about the real value of Bitcoin. But the currency continued to make news because of its irrational appreciation and depreciation.

Epilogue:

In 2022 , Bitcoin ceased to exist. That’s because Bitland was obliterated by a neutron beam from planet X. The intent was not clear but was assumed that Bitland was destroyed to generate demand for other currencies. The value of Bitcoin remained undetermined. It was deduced that value of Bitcoin superseded its utility.

May you rest in peace Bitlanders. You only wanted to make your world a fair and better place to live.

Warren Buffet Mania Needs a Break

Carl Icahn is worth $16 billion. Carl Studied at the Princeton University, married twice and has three kids.Some of you who might have heard about Carl Icahn may have a hint or two as to why I am opening an article titled Warren Buffet with introduction of Carl. For those who couldn’t connect, Carl is an American Businessman and also an investor.

Couple of minutes before I started writing this blog, I googled “greatest investors” and I was not really surprised to see around 50 plus suggestions given by Google. I was sure these were successful gentlemen with their unique investing philosophies and wondered how come I was not aware about 90% of such luminaries(also wondered why there was no woman in the list). And again not to my surprise the list began with our quintessential maestro ; Warren Buffet.

As I write this, Warren Buffet is worth $84 billion. He has given $30 billion to charity. He lives a modest life in a small town and drives his own car. He has married once. You might have even shelved his book for the day you might think of investing and follow his footsteps. He believes in Value Investing and doesn’t buy stocks with the intention of selling them. Buffet likes to play the ukulele at investor meetings and enjoys Bridge with Bill Gates.

I can write 20 pages on Buffet or perhaps a small book.The volume of space which Buffet occupies in minds of aspiring investors is not only mesmerizing but at the same time very disturbing and dangerous. And we really cant blame Buffet for the phenomenon he is. The poor guy is just being himself.

I will explain the “disturbing and dangerous” part later, but before that I will try to put down a causality for such skewed top of the mind awareness about Warren Buffet with contrast to his contemporary counterparts.

Buffets wisdom is omnipresent: You might find a friend yapping about it or a half page Mutual Fund advertisements suggesting you to think far . Buffet’s ideology also serves as a free marketing content for the following businesses.

  1. The multi-billion dollar publishing business: I believe there are more than 10000 books out there selling millions of copies of Buffet’s wisdom at $2.99 dollars a piece. These books promise to give you more than what Buffet knows about himself. Anyone can take a shot at writing an investment book by referring to 10 existing books and vast amount of data available online. There is no doubt that Buffet’s wisdom in books lays the foundation for a $100 million dollar Industry on Investment strategies.
  2. Financial services Industry :Mutual funds yap about Buffet’ way in their marketing communications. The idea is to convince people not to fiddle with their investment once they commit. A stable and growing asset size wins even more investors.
  3. Investment Guru’s (Investment Education Industry) : Buffet is a 87 year old god fearing man and an ideal who drives his own car. Discounting his love for coke (drink) it is easy to make him a role model rather than a 34 year old successful hedge fund manager who is an atheist and drives a Mustang.

Here is an exception and a trivia :It will be very tough to find a brokerage firm living by the Buffet philosophy because they simply want more transactions to happen. The more you buy and sell, the more they earn on brokerage fee.

The above factors make it impossible for other great investors like Carl Icahn and James Altucher to have a strong top of the mind impact on aspiring investors. But publishers are thriving on the content which Buffet inadvertently provides them. The quantum of Buffet’s wisdom floating around far exceeds and supersedes research on other good investment ideas. There is no incentive to study Icahn because his ideologies will be difficult to market or pull crowd.

Why it is Dangerous and Disturbing?

Stock markets work on information disparity. For a trade to happen the buyer and the seller needs to have different set of information , motives, beliefs and understanding of the market. Stock markets cant feed on one holy book. Imagine a hypothetical situation: if everyone holds on to their stocks forever (Buffets core philosophy), there won’t be any trade happening.Furthermore, it is too much of a risk for an individual to follow a single philosophy of holding an asset forever.

Buffet is an oddity. Buffet has evolved in different time and different place under starkly different circumstances. Replicating Buffet’s success is impossible. Buffet can hold on to his stocks till eternity and still earn billions through stable dividends. If Buffet writes his own book on investing , I am sure he wont even follow it. Buffet’s recent love for Tech Stocks like Apple proves that. Buffet Shunned tech stocks before he invested in Apple.Likewise, Buffet shunned airline stocks but changed his mind last year. But his evolved wisdom has not been factored into the publishing and marketing content which floats around us.

But an aspiring investor should take the overdose of Buffet’s wisdom with a handful of salt.Investing cant be rule based. Investment principles cant be built on the foundation of universal and popular ideas. Having said that, it would be still wise to borrow a page or two from Buffet’s book but borrowing the whole book wont be so wise, simply because it is not written by Buffet.