International Currency (Part 1)

Today USD is considered as an international currency. However this was not always the case.

Older International currency
1. Denarius (silver coins issued by the Roman Empire) First stuck in 211 BC was in trade till 275 AD. The coin weighed 4.5 gms in silver. The legions of Rome provide stability and its widespread empire provided liquidity/acceptability to these coins. Its influence went beyond the borders of the Roman Empire and even today many Islamic country use the word Dinar for their currency.

2. Ducat: it weighed about 3.5gms of gold and was issued by Venice in 1140 AD. Till the time Venice was the center of trade, Ducat remained the measure of gold and wealth. Even in Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare), the loan was given in Ducats. Mediterranean has always been the center of exchange of goods between Asia, Africa and Europe. Since Venetian Galleys ruled the water there the currency was widely accepted.

3. Soon after the discovery of the New Worlds and the Passage to Asia via Cape of Good Hope Italy’s influence in the world trade declined. The center of international trade and finance shifted to Spain and then Finally to England (because of its widespread colonies). Pound Sterling hence became the currency of choice. All other currency were pegged against Gold or this currency.

4. Dollar: Dollar’s rise to supremacy was not smooth. Early dollars were issued by the merchant bank (and not the US Government) Hence it was not uncommon for an individual owning 10-15 different issues of dollars each valid in different states. Even after the Civil War when US government started issuing dollar, the currency initially failed. Till 1932 there were 2 dollar the Green paper (fiat money) and the Gold Coin. The exchange price of the two were determined on the basis of gold prices. It was only after the World War 1, when the European government owed US huge sums of money that Dollar Supremacy was established. The Fact that Fort Knox had at one time almost half the known bullion in the world further strengthened US Dollar’s position as the international currency of choice.


Bald salesman

These days I worry a lot about my receding hairline.. and unfortunately there is not much that i can do about it.

However this post by Scott Adams of Dilbert really made my day. He asserts that as long as a person is fit and dresses well, nobody will pay attention to his baldness. More people concentrate on the positives of the person, the things that makes them stand out… than on petty things on which one has no control

Furniture Retail in India

In India, the Housing boom came and went by. The retail boom came and cooled down. Yet the way furniture retail operates has changed only a little. The only perceivable changes are
1. Modular Plastic furniture
2. Imported furniture, use of newer materials like wrought iron etc to make designer furniture.

However the real change that I am seeking is redefining the way in which the whole industry is organized. The problem is that in India there are 2 options for the people
1. Hire a carpenter:
a. He if unprofessional. i.e. never sticks to the schedule, if hired on a daily basis would loaf around a lot, if hired on piece meal basis would often rush the job producing shoddy work. They also often tend to supplement their income by charging commission to the retailers and a lot of supplies are wasted (hence inflating the bill of materials)
b. Since the work would be done in the backyard or a temporary shed, a lot of productivity that can be brought because of mechanization and proper tools and fixtures is lost. There is no economies of scale.
c. A carpenter has to do all the tasks hence there is no room for higher quality because of specialization.
d. Furniture now is not confined to A good design demands not only good workmanship, but also different materials and latest styles. Beautiful pieces of art is often not the specialty of unorganized carpenters.
e. You cannot commission a carpenter for a small stool. It has to be a significant assignment involving atleast a week of labor for him to be interested.

2. Do it yourself.
Thanks to the cheep labor available its not a popular option. I have not known many people who can do more than basic repairing and installation/assembly.

3. Retail Shops.
World over most people buy modular furniture from companies like Ikea etc. because its cheap and affordable. The workmanship is good, and the furniture is designed in a way that eases packaging, transportation and assembly. This not only saves cost, but increases the usability.

However most Indian stores don’t have economies of scale. They operate like boutique stores. i.e.
1. High inventory
2. High markup/price
3. Smaller revenues

Whats even more starling is that modular furniture, ready made items costs 2-3 times more than their customized counterparts.

There has to be a way that can resolve these inefficiencies and pass on the benefit to the common man. Afterall spending 1Lakh in furnishing and woodwork even for the most modest of the homes is not uncommon.

And I thought SI names were long

What do you think of these words:
Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg
Well its not a name of the members attending a summit, but the name of 1 single person “Germany’s new economic minister”

I think he can beat all South Indians, hands down, when it comes to length of the name.

- Thanks to Satya for pointing this interesting info to me.

Buttermilk theory of Love

A friend of mine today reminded of this interesting theory

In India, most of the good girls find their match while they are still in their High School.
Of those who remain, many of them take advantage of the increased freedom that the hostel life offers.
Still eligible ones go for the arranged marriage immediately after their graduation.
The unlucky few who survive fall prey within the first year of hitting the job market.
So finally what is left is Butter Milk….
i.e. although the name suggest presence of Butter, it has everything but butter.

World’s Most Reputable Companies

This week’s economist had published this list of world’s more reputable companies.
I was surprised to see that inspite of all my claims of being aware of the world, etc etc, I knew the existence of only 9-10 companies in the list. I have seen no advertisements, nor have ever used any product marketed by a majority of them.

To see how other people react, I showed this survey around and asked people what they find most startling about this survey
1. A majority of them felt happy that Tata (thanks to Nano, Chorus etc) is in the list.
2. A few questioned the relevance of putting a Chocolate Manufacturer and a furniture retailer in the list.
3. What surprised me is that even though almost all of them were not aware of many of the companies in the list, they were nor surprised of this fact.

Are we Indians so ignorant (and worse accept our ignorance) that the fact that we are not even aware of the presence of these reputable companies?

Rabbit and the hunter

A rabbit is in a circular pond and on its edge stands a hunter who wants to catch it.

The hunter can move across the circumference of the pond at 4 times the speed at which the rabbit can swim. However the hunter cannot enter the pond and if the rabbit swims to the surface without the hunter being close by, then the rabbit escapes.

Can the rabbit outwit the hunter and escape?

Thomas Cook holidays

This was sent around from Thomas Cook Holidays – listing some of the guests
complaints during the season. ” Some people should not be allowed to go on

“It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I
often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time – this should be banned.”

“On my holiday to Goa in India , I was disgusted to find that almost
every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food at all.”

“We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to
bring our swimming costumes and towels.”

A woman threatened to call police after claiming that she’d been
locked in by staff. When in fact, she had mistaken the “do not disturb”
sign on the back of the door as a warning to remain in the room.

“The beach was too sandy.”

“We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your
brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white.”

“Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was
ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women.”

“We bought ‘Ray-Ban’ sunglasses for five Euros (£3.50) from a street
trader, only to find out they were fake.”

“No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were

“It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England it only
took the Americans three hours to get home.”

“I compared the size of our one-bedroom apartment to our friends’
three-bedroom apartment and ours was significantly smaller.”

The brochure stated: ‘No hairdressers at the accommodation’.
We’re trainee hairdressers – will we be OK staying here?”

“There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks Spanish.
The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners.”

“My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a
double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find
myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room
that we booked.”

Bull Power

During my recent visit to Aurangabdad District, I was amazed by the novelty of the traditional method of sugarcane extraction. I had earlier seen a similar process used to extract oil… but still i could not admire it being used to crush sugarcane