Festival Demand prediction


The crackers, lamps and Diwali decoration sales start from zero, increases slowly and converts into almost a mad rush on the eve of Diwali. Bulk of the crackers is bought in the last 2-3 days of Diwali and none on the next day. How do you do the demand prediction of a product that is sold for only 3 days in a year? Not to mention that all unsold inventory has to be disposed of at a fraction of the price as there is no longer any market till the next year. Also the lead time for any item would be weeks/months, hence if you are stock out of did not guess the fashion correctly, you have no recourse. Most festival collection is sold to retailers on cash and carry (rather than credit) and there is no mitigation for unsold inventory.

Furthermore it rained on the Diwali night in Bangalore which means people were less eager to light crackers and the poor drainage in the streets means fewer footfalls of customers. A conventional shop would lower its prices so that it does not end up with unsold inventory. However seasoned sellers know that the buyers are here out of compulsion/family pressure. They will not have enough time to browse through the shop and would buy only the essentials. Hence it is best to raise the prices (earn the same amount per customer and compensate for the reduces sales)

Every merchant dreams of a hot-selling item, but it is a nightmare for festival retailers. Last thing they want is a shop that sells 100s of different kinds of crackers but their sparkles/fooljhadi is sold-out. Smart retailers need to work with their customers trying to influence them to buy a larger variety and manage a more evenly sales distribution. Since the entire sales happen in a few days, the bundling, pricing, placement decisions have to be taken in real-time.

Sometimes we get daunted by the complexity of simple business but we fail to realize that the shopkeeper who aces it often has not even completed his high school.

Individual sponsored terrorism


Countries like Iran, North Korea, Myanmar, Cuba, Syria and Sudan are labeled as sanctioned countries/rouge governments which are breeding ground of international terrorism. However I am beginning to question the very assumption that it needs state sponsorship to incubate and promote terrorism or technology/devices needed for it.

It will take $100/- (INR 6,000) for an individual  to make a crude bomb using an propane/LPG tank, radio control from DIY aircraft hobby kit/cellphone and some detonators fabricated from fireworks. A chat friend from Israel had lamented that it is Diwali for them every day as homemade Palestinian mortars and short range rockets light up the sky. Today crafted explosives kill more life then the much feared IEDs.

Wright brothers not US government made the first practical flight. First space flight was remote control. It does not need an Einstein to create an autonomous vehicle/flying object today. Almost all modern guns are made by individuals and named after them. Today Defense Distributed has proved that anybody can print 3D guns. The 2001 Anthrax attacks did not need any sophisticated pharmaceutical lab and were mostly created by individual. David Hahn created a breeder nuclear reactor in his backyard at the age of 17 using materials he could afford and source locally in USA. Ricin & mustard gas formulae is available to everybody and in the fictional TV series “Breaking Bad” a high-school professor could craft it at home/RV. Alfred Nobel in 19th century created the stable explosive, but lost his brother in the production/testing. Today’s anarchist has much better access to raw materials and safer mechanism to test their prototype.

Somehow we have created a myth around the need or a soulless nation/fanatic organization is needed to fabricate WMD, armaments, chemical warfare, bio-warfare, nuclear; missile & submarine technology. What we forget are two things:

Firstly copying is a lot easier than original design. Most terror labs today only try to replicate on what has been developed and tested (with minor modifications). It is said that humans perfected the weapon technology in the 40s, nuclear technology in the 50s and aviation technology in the 60s.Individuals today are a lot smarter and resourceful and can reverse engineer and improvise with ease.

Secondly internet has made it a lot safer and easier for people to form special interest groups and collaborate and exchange ideas. Mankind has much better access to raw materials, literature & production technology then it had decades ago when these technology was getting developed.

I would ask the same question that I did in 2006. What would you do with an individual who has created a technology in an undesirable area (without any ideological fanatic or malicious intent)? Should we appreciate their genius or punish them for their audacity?

Indian Immigration Policy


Indians seriously need to be taught a lesson on love thy neighbor. The PIO card website states that the eligibility criteria for PIO card is “All persons of Indian origin who are in possession of the passport of any other country except Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Sri Lanka…” Who exactly is eligible then? Probably India would be the only large country in the world whose ALL neighbors hate/have dispute/cold war/active war(with no exception). That probably is a notable record for a so called peace loving nation.

At the time of Independence India had a sizable population of people from Chinese origin. But they locked them up for 5 years without any trial/justified reason. Between 1962 and 1967 differently looking people were rounded up (sometimes at the middle of the night) and shipped to remote desert concentration camps Deoli, Rajasthan. Some were never heard of again and some were forcefully deported. Defense of India Act 1962 and war with China were a convenient excuses to do an ethnic cleansing and seize the property of these folks.

This was not a one of incident. In Feb 2014 the Delhi law minster did a citizen arrest of Nigerian nationals living in Delhi. They were released soon afterwards because authorities could not charge them for any violations. Bangladeshi immigrants are prosecuted everyday due to political reasons. Infact we sometimes don’t even spare people of Indian origin. You don’t have to go in history to read about Mihirakula or find why Buddhism was eliminated from its birth country. Anti-sikh riots of 1984 or Anti-Muslim riots which happens several times every year are live examples.

What I am trying to ask is by what right do we ask Western countries modify its foreign policy when we ourselves are not tolerant of foreigners or cultural diversity?

Retail store: Museums of E-commerce


Yesterday, I walked into a Titan store, spend 30 minutes browsing through the display and trying on the different models of watches (expensive bracelets as many youngsters now call it). The second I spotted the perfect piece, I immediately logged online, compared prices and bought it online.

Are stores becoming relics of the previous generation/centuries? It is common place for people to bargain on the mobile, tablets & electronics by showing the retailer online prices/discounts. Buying purely on specs is also in vogue, but still most people like to physically feel, test and use the product before buying it online. The retail shop has now become little more than a museums where people visit not to buy but for the physical experience of the product.

People are caring less about physical world and more about the virtual world. The man caught without the gadget probably ran out of battery or was pick-pocketed.

Recently a product RedMI 1s has bypassed the physical store, distribution & logistics completely and decided to sell exclusively online. (it sold more phones in 4 seconds than what established brands sell in months) 10 years ago Reva’s G-wiz was sold in London not through showrooms but through online booking for test-drives. Several retailers now charge “slotting fees” to the various brands for stocking, display and demos of the products rather than a commission on the sale. It would be long before high rentals of physical store will make them unviable.

Raanjhanaa


Normally I am not a big fan of Hindi movies. Often I find the entire story of a 3 hour Hindi Bollywood flick can be summarized in 3 minutes, but Raanjhanaa was a pleasant surprise. It is a very emotional, sad story of love across religion. Yet it surprisingly handles it in a very mature fashion, which is realistic and yet does not offend Hindus, Muslims (or both).

Life is complex and the humans in it even more. It is a love story about a hindu boy who is madly in love and a muslim girl who likes that boy (but as a friend). Unlike the typical No item songs, inappropriate scenes/dresses (but lot of curse words), or unnecessary gore.

Since the movie was released 18 months ago. I will talk about it with spoilers.

The worst part of the movie is the opening song in which Sonam Kapoor and Dhanush, both in their 30s or late 20s dress up as teens and think the world cannot tell the difference, but the movie recovers after that. It starts with a street urchin, Kundan (Dhanush), a son of a Varanasi Pandit (hindu priest) who is madly in love with Zoya, Sonam Kapoor, a daughter of a muslim professor. Sonam likes the attention but rejects his advances as she does not have feelings for him.

It has one of the best performances of Dhanush and a masterpiece script. The story shows him maturing subtly but dramatically from a carefree kid to a man filled with remorse and guilt. The way the movie portrays the complex human emotions is also remarkable.

swachh bharat abhiyaan: 7 point metric


Just do a small experiment, don’t clean your room for a week, throw your laundry around, tilt your paintings & decos and you yourself will notice a perceivable difference in your attitude & emotions. Now imagine the entire country has been in the state of disarray for centuries. I cannot even extrapolate what benefits we can accrue by cleaning it up.

Hygiene is important not only for aesthetic and psychological reasons, according to UNO it has tangible economical benefits too. A substantial portion of productive manpower is lost due to illness and weakening due to chronic diseases caused due to consumption of unsanitary water, food and air. The degradation of environment due to human waste imposes additional cost to the consumers who need to clean their food, water and other natural resources before consumption. Foul smell and uncleanness triggers our primal survival instincts. Several research has proven that youth brought up in clean & green neighborhood are less prone to acts of vandalism & crime. Also hygiene is one of the most important criteria for tourism and even investments/expansions or even procurement decisions.

India has has a long history of clean and hygienic practices.  Even the religion degrees Hindus to take bath daily, daily clean the house before putting the rangoli/white powder drawing in the front yard. These were followed in the times when the rest of the world practiced weekly/monthly baths. However somewhere down the line we forgot to develop on these noble thoughts.

Modi’s mission of clean India is an amazing policy initiative whose benefits will accrue across demographics, industries & pan India. I have a simple metric to gauge to gauge the relevance of any public policy:

1. Is it tangible? The benefits/results of the movement can be gauged by individuals themselves.

2. Does it inspire? It primarily involves changes in attitude & behavior and can easily become a self sustainable engine.

3. Who benefits? Unlike subsidies that benefit only those who have connects/well to do, there is no license/document requirement to enjoy the fruits of the initiative

4. Can it provide some short term low hanging results immediately to sustain the momentum: 2nd Oct drive itself was a great showcase story.

5. Does it improve the socio-economic mobility? (help the poor to overcome adversity that limits their ability to achieve “pursuit of happiness”) The poor will benefit the most from improved sanitation, lesser instance of diarrhea, cholera, malaria, good toilets, clean drinking water and food.

6. Intangible benefits: Cleaner environment and improved state of public resources (streets, rivers, air, public places etc.), better health.

7. Investment requirement is also minimal. Hence it is unlikely to be reversed/slashed by the subsequent government.

The only other policy in the past 3 decades that had such remarkable impact on this 7 scale metric was mid-day meal which aimed at eliminating child malnutrition and poor school attendance due to pressure from the family to earn (child labor). I am hoping that this policy will make India a cleaner and greener place.

Don’t talk just message


There are some genuine advantages of leaving a message over a real conversation/phone call:

  1. Apologize to your angry wife
  2. Communicate with a deaf/mute or with a speech impairment (that includes spouses, girlfriend and anybody with a high pitched shrill voice)
  3. Silently communicate from meeting hall /movie theater/rock concert/lecture hall.
  4. Safely drop a note to a blabbermouth without giving them license to talk back
  5. You are a nervous wreck and you intend to pour your heart out without being judged/mocked
  6. Not being accused of disturbing somebody in the middle of night or act of copulation
  7. You are cheap and your carrier provides you with a zillion free sms/whatsapp

In real life you don’t get 15 minutes to think of a clever comeback line. You might impress someone temporarily through proofreading your message before sending. But messages are not literature and cannot hide the fact that you cannot hold an actual conversation without blabbering like an idiot. Forwarding jokes & links might be amusing but does not improve your social standing (unless you aspire to be the joker)

Messages allow us to skip the small talk, exchange pleasantries or even smile and say hi. This is good if you were a robot, but unfortunately most of us are not. This whirlpool of convenience might allow you to talk to multiple persons and indulge in plethora of pursuits at the same time but is it doing anybody any justice. On an average it takes thrice as much time to get your point across and yet is neither as emotionally gratifying nor as effective as meeting someone in person. If you respect that person, then they deserve your undivided attention. Spend time understanding the other person and show empathy.