Renew Bank fixed deposits

New year is a time for reflection and these are the thoughts that came to my mind:
Q1: Should you check the “auto-renew” option in your FD?

NO, Never! Seems to be that this is a huge scam. The banks seems to offer interest rates based on the duration of the FD and the slab for the highest interest rate changes every month/quarter. Hence an auto-renew option will only lock you in an unfavorable interest rate slab. Refer to the Citibank interest table to understand what I am trying to say.

Q2: Is FD best investment options?

It provides good flexibility (you could open an FD any day for any amount and withdraw it at an hour’s notice) but this comes at a cost. i.e. interest rate/returns are substantially lower. So generally speaking it is better to keep money in FD rather than savings bank account, but not for multiple years.

Also one should be aware that there is TDS (tax deduction at source) and interest income is fully taxable. Hence one should look for more tax-friendly options. Generally I use FD for 2 purposes:

1. Planned expenses: purchase of house/car, insurance premium, vacation, tuition fees etc. FD allows you to accumulate funds whose maturity matches with your cash-flow projections ensuring that one is not cash-strapped at any time.

2. Unplanned savings: Procrastination & asset sterilization: Excess money in one’s bank account always gets spend. Many people avoid credit cards as it prompts them to spend more. Fixed deposit is a good place to park the savings (esp. excess monthly surplus) till one finds a more lucrative use for them.

So essentially use FD as a planning tool rather than an investment tool.

Q3: Should you break an FD or take a loan against it?

As a rule of thumb any FD opened less than 6 month ago should be broken rather than restructured (loan/borrowed against). the accumulated interest will not be substantial enough to make a difference. Similarly for a long duration FD, if you want to liquidate just a few days before maturity, it is advisable to take a loan rather than break it. This way one saves a lot on the penalty and reduced interest rate due to pre-mature closing.

If you are somewhere in the middle, one has to make an assessment on the difference between the FD interest rate vs. prevailing interest rate, how long do you need the funds for, and how much do you lose due to premature withdrawal.

Q4: What is the ideal tenure of an Fixed Deposit?

rule of thumb: make it long enough that it is meaningful and earns you a decent interest rate. However don’t make it so long that you are locked in and cannot use when you need it. The purpose of FD and money is storage of wealth and what good is a stash if it cannot be accessed easily. If you want to park the funds for 2 years and interest rate for a 365 day FD is same that for 2 years, then go for 1 year FD and renew it on the second year (provided you believe interest rates are not going to change) this way if you want to premature withdraw the funds, then you loose lesser money.

Q5: Should you opt for monthly, quarterly or interest payment at maturity

If the amount is small and the duration not in decades then it hardly matters. However a periodic interest credit in your account is a good reminder that you have and FD and at maturity it needs to be processed.

Here is the Citibank India’s Fixed deposit interest rate

Tenure In Days 7-14 15-25 26-35 36-45 46-60 61-90 91-150 151-180 181-270 271-400 401-731 732-1095 1096-3659 >=3660
For amount <1 crore* 3.00% 3.25% 3.50% 4.50% 6.25% 7.75% 7.00% 7.75% 7.00% 7.75% 7.50% 7.75% 6.75% 6.75%

Although one of the lest glamorous of the investment instruments, bank fixed deposits are widely used by individuals and corporate to park their surplus. It is flexible, but it is not as simple a instrument as it appears to be.

Engineering services outsourcing industry 2020

If all industries and businesses die or get commoditized in seven years, then how is it that engineering Global Development Centers (captives in low cost countries and engineering outsourcing service providers) managed to escape this fate? This is especially remarkable when one think that most Global Development centers were strategized and conceptualized fifteen years ago post the success of Y2K led boom in IT offshoring.

  1. What are the drivers that are going to shape the industry? How are the Global development centers respond to the changes in the technology, needs of the parent industry verticals and changes in the customer behavior, demands & demographics?
  2. What is the impact of the convergence? (CIO-CTO, integration of technologies, convergence of the way we define industry verticals)
  3. Will the tail ever wag the dog? How critical are GDC going to be to their masters? “Does ESO matter?”
  4. Essentially what is going to be the landscape in 2020? How should the industry react and how will it react? Will it be able to transform and keep up with the pace of the silent revolution that is happening?

Engineering Product Manager

Like any Tier-1, the fate of the ESO is tightly linked to the industries and companies it serves. Hence the GDC’s future cannot be predicted without clearly understanding how the parent’s industry is faring, what challenges and opportunity they are seeing. What are the questions that every product company would be asking in 2020 and what does it mean for their ESO partners?

Am I fashion ready?

Although Francis Bitonti did 3D print a wonderful dress for Dita von Teese, we are not discussing that. Like the fashion industry, engineering products would face the same seasonality, anxiety and pressure to repeat the performance and predict the trends.

  1. Social media and e-commerce has allowed cottage industries to compete head-on with P&G and HULs of the world obliterating their leadership in marketing and distribution channels. As a result companies are seeing a sudden (unplanned) surge in the product demand from a particular category which might not be their primary focus area. These customers demand a continuous upgrade of the services else they migrate equally fast because of low switching cost and limited brand loyalty.

Forget five year of NRE amortization (non-recurring expenses/R&D) and ten year PLM contracts, even conventional industries will be looking to recuperate their investments in one season. They would be spending lesser on each individual product, but spending much more in making sure that the season lasts longer. This means ESO need to revamp their business models to be able to match the responsiveness and business models (e.g.: risk sharing partnership, ability to recover NRE through multiple derivatives) essentially create a supply chain that can keep pace with the industry. Applications are moving to cloud, customizable and reusable components are being used but the industry is yet to pick up the full momentum for it.

  1. Traditional approach of market sizing through pricing, distribution/marketing channels and utility (customer needs, quality, features) will become less reliable. Like fashion industry, product demands would be based on non-core externalities. Eg:
  2. Point of origin: solar/renewable energy, blood diamonds, Made in America
  3. Process & traceability (accuracy of GI logos, eco-friendly initiatives, labor policies of suppliers)
  4. Ethics and political considerations

The sad thing is that like gluten free food and corn base bio-diesel, the premium from customers and sops from government are not permanent. IoT powered automated factories, French vineyards and Dutch dairies have bridged the economic cost of delivery for companies which are trying to address to these niche demands. However by 2020 companies need to come up with processes that are uniform, economical and yet cater to the idiosyncrasies of each region/market they sell to.

  1. Not every company will be fortunate enough to have Steve Jobs or Warren Buffet on their rolls who can consistently predict (through common sense) what people need and where the markets are headed. This will be replaced by grunt work, number crunching, data mining and big data analytics to understand the customers better. Companies will be increasingly spending on gamification platforms (increasing the customer interaction by making them pursue worthless points and trinkets) to improve the ARPU (average revenue per user) of their Fremium products (free products with premium upgrades)

Essentially by 2020 it will be far easier for a company to create a $1bn market but more difficult to maintain its leadership. Companies will always be on their toes and would be dedicating an increasingly larger budget towards engineering services. Also the need to rapidly scale and cut back would lead to larger outsourcing. GDC would be expected to provide white-label goods and services that could be rapidly integrated and deployed along with the client’s core.

Paranoia!!

In the soap opera Frasier, Frasier Crane and Niles Crane used to repeatedly torture their souls by indulging in activities they did not enjoy, buying items they could not afford or attending gatherings for social causes that they did not care about. They underwent all this trouble, just to ensure that the world perceives them as sophisticated, successful professionals. Although not everyone invests in understanding their own Johari window, almost everybody is very careful about what facets of their life they are willing to share to public and what portions of their past they would like to be purged.

As the big data & internet of things matures, people will increasingly get paranoid of programs that can understand an individual much better than their spouses; programs that can deduce one’s identity or predict individual’s future actions/thoughts.

Today most of Europe understands it but is not too much bothered, but Americans are closely watching all developments. Tomorrow there could be serious consumer backlash if “fair use of data” “identity protection” and “limitation of what is gathered” is not defined by the company voluntarily. Tighter regulations would be enforced and breaches would be harshly punished.

Standard Oil and Bell Telephone Company were forced to split because they grew too powerful. It is not unimaginable if the search-engine and data analytic giants were to split into 10 different companies which need to compete rather than collaborate. The share-holders could with-hold funding and pro-actively split the technology powered company and retailers who have diversified too much.

Unlike what paranoia means to the parent company, the GDC flourish under tight regulations and compliance. Client has to invest substantial time, effort and training in setting up the operations, improving the standards and stabilizing the process. This raises the switching costs and allows the GDC to charge a premium for their services. Also inferring more from lesser data, means more processing and more fees.

Are my products relevant?

  1. Firing multi-million dollar cruise missile on a thatched roof of a training center is not economical. Collateral damage is strengthening the will of the enemy more than acting as a deterrent. Countries are finding increasingly difficult to wage war, limit its casualties and achieve quick demonstrable results against an enemy without a centralized command center. Individuals are able to run multi-billion dollar Drug Empire using the free Wi-Fi of a library. Internet has empowered individuals to leak classified information and destabilize governments while enjoying the asylum of a remote safe haven.

Unfortunately the armaments we have today were designed to cater to the threat of the Cold War. They are not tailored to cater to the terrorism threats of today. A 3D printer could be printing an assault rifle anywhere; a cellphone powered propane tank is more powerful than an IED. Archimedes was chief of Defense for his city state. Leonardo da Vinci primary occupation was designing armaments. Armed forces have not only employed most of the sharpest brains, but backed most of the cutting edge technologies. 1940s is considered the golden age of engineering due to number of ground-breaking advancements that were made in response to the challenges of the era.

A lot of money is being poured in network centric warfare, video/audio analytics, drones etc. for these much needed upgrades. India which has not purchased any significant system for the past 10 years is opening its coffers for modernization. The offset requirements mean that a significant portion of these procurements need to be designed and developed locally.

  1. The concept of acquiring asset is being replaced by acquiring experiences. Today, luxury is less to do with craftsmanship or scarcity and more to do with convenience, uniqueness and customization. The shared economy has made leasing cheaper and made people ask critical questions on the cost of ownership rather than the cost of acquisition. Rather than replacing their old models, consumers expect periodic upgrades.

Tesla recently gave a multi-year comprehensive warrantee with its cars. How are companies designed to subsidize the car sale and recoup through expensive service/repairs going to respond to the threat. The consumers perceive, use and evaluate the products very differently. Increased reliance on social media for news and reviews limits the company’s ability to control dissimilation of information and positioning of its brand. Cosmetic changes to the features and price discounts will not solve the threat. Product companies in 2020 will have to rethink their USP, product features and strategy from square one. GDC will its ability to scale and enable the laggards to catch-up will come handy.

  1. There is an emergence of eco-system. Products are not evaluated on its stand-alone features but on the basis of how they interact with the other products and service the customer subscribe to. Big companies are focusing in providing platforms, defining standards and promoting compliance certification/logos. This involves a lot of porting, testing and standardization activities which GDC specializes in. A lot of new entrants are emerging that only understands the customer and services and know very little about product development and project management. All these are creating a ripe market for GDC for their picking.

Summary

These subtle but revolutionary changes would reset all historical definitions of product, company, supplier and service provider. Companies would have to redefine their focus markets and industries. The technological advances would lead to creation of competing eco-systems/platforms rather than competing companies/brands. The only organization that has a view and a capability to cater to the whole gamut of the value chain would be the Global Development Centers. However capitalizing on it requires some serious thoughts on the ESO’s value proposition, business models and modus operandi.

The question one needs to ask is that will the GDC be two hands without a face that executes an SOW or will they be an integral transformational partner? GDC were designed as auxiliaries for the core development teams. Today the product companies rather than driving their industry are becoming Tier-1 to the eco-systems. Status quo would mean that these auxiliaries would watch themselves being demoted from Tier-1 to Tier-2 and becoming commodities.

Types of waste

Picked from a six sigma class

  1. Overproduction: Creating module/report that is not required
  2. Inventory: Having staff that are not needed, procuring hardware not used
  3. Extra-processing: Unwanted route of approval & unnecessary steps
  4. Motion: Avoidable physical movement of goods and people
  5. Defects: Poor quality, not addressing requirements and anything that leads to re-work
  6. Waiting: Making people on board wait for work, tools or infra due to prolonged review
  7. Transportation: unwanted movement of goods, documents for approvals and review
  8. Intellectual: Using skilled workforce for mundane tasks and unskilled workforce for complex tasks leading to rework and strain.

All these made me wonder how much of our day to day work is actually relevant and productive.

Cultural sensitivity (terms)

During the cultural sensitivity classes today I learned 2 new concepts.

  1. ETHNOCENTRISM vs ETHNORELATIVISM
  2. Monochronic vs Polychronic

Monochronic time: Time is the given and people are the variable. The needs of people are adjusted to suit the demands of time – schedules, deadlines, etc. Time is quantifiable, and a limited amount of it is available. People do one thing at a time and finish it before starting something else, regardless of circumstances.

Polychronic time: Time is the servant and tool of people. Time is adjusted to suit the needs of people. More time is always available, and you are never too busy. People often have to do several things simultaneously, as required by circumstances. It is not necessary to finish one thing before starting another, nor is it necessary to finish your business with one person before starting with another.(1)

To summarize, in monochronic societies people work around schedules, whereas in polychronic societies, schedules are worked around people.

Ethnocentrism: A simple way to conceive of the three stages of ethnocentrism is in terms of attitudes toward cultural differences: those in the denial stage deny the existence of cultural differences, those in the defense stage demonize them, and those in the minimization stage trivialize differences.

Denial: People in the denial stage do not recognize the existence of cultural differences. They are completely ethnocentric in that they believe there is a correct type of living (theirs), and that those who behave differently simply don’t know any better. In this phase, people are prone to imposing their value system upon others, believing that they are “right” and that others who are different are “confused.” They are not threatened by cultural differences because they refuse to accept them. Generally, those who experience cultural denial have not had extensive contact with people different from themselves, and thus have no experiential basis for believing in other cultures.  A key indicator of the denial stage is the belief that you know better than the locals.

Defense: Those in the defense stage are no longer blissfully ignorant of other cultures; they recognize the existence of other cultures, but not their validity. They feel threatened by the presence of other ways of thinking, and thus denigrate them in an effort to assert the superiority of their own culture. Cultural differences are seen as problems to be overcome, and there is a dualistic “us vs. them” mentality. Whereas those in the denial stage are unthreatened by the presence of other cultural value systems (they don’t believe in them, after all), those in the defense stage do feel threatened by “competing” cultures. People in the defense stage tend to surround themselves with members of their own culture, and avoid contact with members from other cultures.

Minimization: People in the minimization stage of ethnocentrism are still threatened by cultural differences and try to minimize them by telling themselves that people are more similar than dissimilar. No longer do they see those from other cultures as being misguided, inferior, or unfortunate. They still have not developed cultural self-awareness and are insistent about getting along with everyone. Because they assume that all cultures are fundamentally similar, people in this stage fail to tailor their approaches to a cultural context.

Ethnorelativism:

Acceptance: In this first stage of ethnorelativism, people begin to recognize other cultures and accept them as viable alternatives to their own worldview. They know that people are genuinely different from them and accept the inevitability of other value systems and behavioral norms. They do not yet adapt their own behavior to the cultural context, but they no longer see other cultures as threatening, wrong, or inferior. People in the acceptance phase can be thought of as “culture-neutral,” seeing differences as neither good nor bad, but rather as a fact of life.

Adaptation: During the adaptation phase, people begin to view cultural differences as a valuable resource. Because differences are seen as positive, people consciously adapt their behaviors to the different cultural norms of their environment.

Integration: Integration is the last stage in one’s journey away from ethnocentrism. In this stage, people accept that their identity is not based in any single culture. Once integrated, people can effortlessly and even unconsciously shift between worldviews and cultural frames of reference. Though they maintain their own cultural identity, they naturally integrate aspects of other cultures into it.

Redmi: FOMO genius

Majority of Cellphones purchases worldwide are triggered by two basic events: First is the celebration/festival/bonus/windfall which is the occasion for an indulgence into a luxury item. Second, is the need based emergency purchase due to your old device going Kaput or stolen. Unfortunately both of the purchase decisions require instant gratification which cannot be solved by precarious flash sales. So who is buying them and why? How is that Xiaomi (北京小米科技有限责任公司) a company that does not have any brand recall, advertising, store/physical presence or offer any warranties able to do $10mn worth of business in 4 seconds ever week? (100,000 phones @INR 6,000/- sold in 4 seconds every 2pm on Tuesday on Flipkart)

Like any Chinese product, specs wise it is at a 20-30% discount to similarly priced models but what is the nudge that is prompting a million Indians to risk their money without touching/feeling/testing the product? Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary had once said “passengers will crawl bullock-naked over broken glass to grab the cheapest tickets”, but is cost the only driving factor for this mad rush?

6,000/- is a considerable sum in India and the online reviews (at the only authorized seller website) is quite pessimistic. Almost everybody is complaining of the battery life issue and heating problem. Major problem in India where there are not many avenues to charge the cellphone and mobile is the exclusive means of employment and socializing for many Indian urban middle class. So a dead/discharged phone = loss of pay. A huge risk!

It is the classic case of FOMO (Fear of missing out), the entire purchase is converted into a game and 2pm every Tuesday people log on their screens in the hope/anticipation of getting lucky. It’s a strange buyer behavior I see where seemingly rational people are behaving impulsively. In such frenzy sales, the need for the purchase only arises AFTER the sale / event is announced.

I have known people who can spend the entire weekend indoors (watching youtube or wasting time). However the second you tell them that you have locked them in, they will have the urge of taking a stroll outdoors every 5-10 minutes. Similarly by denying people this phone for 6 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 56 seconds (and no guarantees even after that) the entire purchase decisions is converted into a binary groups of haves and have-nots.

Several people log on to the website just to get the thrill, some have bought multiple devices (for the entire family), some even call up friends and family to offer them the phones. Some even go to olx/quickr to resell and make some quick bucks. Essentially the flash sales has converted the consumers into not only adherent fans, but also (unpaid) sales agent, stockiest and retailers.

In the 80s the scooter were lopsided design (the engine/weight was not symmetrically distributed) as a result they were prone to accidents when braked hard. Even then my father loved his Bajaj Scooter…. Why he waited 5 years (and paid a bribe) to get one. Several Redmi fans simply yap endlessly about the difficult purchase process and several attempts they had to patiently make. The biggest call for fame for this phone is that it allows ordinary folks live the life of the trigger happy gun-slingers of the wild-west. They have a cute little trophy to prove that they are the fastest clicker amongst their peers.