Friday, October 26, 2007

The hunt for fancy places

My office is in Connaught Place in Delhi. For those who dont know much about Delhi, it is pretty much the geographical center of town.

Often, on Friday evenings, I ask my wife over to pick me up from office, and plan an evening out. We are constrained by the fact that we dont want to leave one car behind in my office, and so we need to go to places nearby, so that we can pick up the other car while leaving for home. A couple of weeks of this, and we have already exhausted most places where we can get dinner and generally hang out.

We have made a couple of good discoveries in our adventures though. One is the bar at the Shangri-La. This place has a couple of performers who sing REALLY well (and all our favourite songs too!!), and is not too crowded or smoky. The other is a restaurant that goes by the name of Veda. The decor is dark and antique, the food good, and the service excellent. The wine list, though expansive, is not very reliable. And prices are not too bad.

But now we are pretty much at the end of our least in and around CP. Any new ideas are always welcome!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

PNs and all that...

Those that punt on the stock market would know something of the bourhaha that has been happening the last few weeks over SEBI's circular proposing a ban on Participatory Notes (or PNs as they are popularly called).

The BSE Sensex has gone from being on a spectacular uptrend, to being locked at the 10% lower circuit, to gaining the largest single day rise, all in a matter of 2 weeks.

Without going into the technicalities of the matter, and in no way trying to undermine the copious amounts of opinions, reports etc. etc. in the media, all I can do is look and yawn...

As much as I see it, this noise over P-Notes is an annual occurance, and is just a cooling mechanism that the market finds for itself. It usually results in a sharp fall with a sharp rise in volatility, and enables new buyers to come into the market. In other words, it is just evolution.

So I look at it as a golden opportunity for going long. Now only if I had any capital :-(....


I was reminded today of the power of leverage. I was shooting breeze with a couple of friends, and one of them mentioned the following (true) anecdote.

This buddy of mine is a banker, and was talking about the bad old days of '03, when bankers were lucky to hold on to their jobs, and no bonus in sight. During such desperate times, with liabilities in the form of student loans, this canny dude bought a house in South Delhi worth 1.25 crores with just 15 lacs of equity, the rest leveraged as debt. The house is today worth 4 crores, and there is still Rs 80lacs outstanding on the loan.

To work out a simple equation, 15l has grown to 3.2cr in 4 years, or 21 times return. This is an annual return of 114%!!

Harnessing the power of 1) leverage and 2) real estate seems like a quick way to untold riches!!

To the big apple and back

First, the good news - my country count has gone up by 1. The big one - the USofA is done with. The largish (big is not big enough a word, and giant is too big) apple has seen one more soul pass by.

Now for the middling news - its no great shakes. Times Square, central Manhattan, Broadway are kind of ok.. a bit touristy, massively densely populated, of course. Though not pretty, what with the sky not very visible amidst the giant towers all around, yet not foreign either. Truly cosmopolitan and not at all unwelcoming (which Europe can be, I must confess!!) It didn't help, of course, that I had to travel for 36 hours each way to spend 36 hours in the damn place. The resulting jet lag was quite an experience, to put it mildly.

And now for the bad news - one of the torchbearers of the Indian renaissance disappointed me. Jet Airways, with its promise of great service, flat beds, all new aircraft, great food, etc etc seemed the ideal airline to fly. And yet, twice within the week, once while going and then on the way back, the supposedly new aircraft developed technical faults - resulting in a delay of 14 hours at various airports one time, and a relatively mild 3 hour delay at the other. Though I must admit here that once the damn planes did take off, the experience was quite quite nice (among other things, great crew, and the most amazing movie - Paris Je' T' Aime with the perfect accompaniment - a nice bottle of red wine - but more on that later). But I think Jet needs to pull up their socks especially on punctuality and maintenance if they are to compete with the BAs and the Continentals of this world, let alone Singapore Airlines or Cathay. Would be interesting to see how Kingfisher fare when they start international service - though of course I think they will start with flying Deccan to the gulf.

All in all, the week was nothing to write home about!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Johnny G

I saw a movie recently after a fairly longish time. With a rather unusual title, Johnny Gaddaar is actually a great viewing experience. I found it quite gripping and real. And though quite violent, the story kept my interest alive at all points.

The movie tells the story of a gang, each of which could be out to double cross the rest, and how coincidences and twists and turns keep each of them guessing about the motives of the others. I wont detail out anything else in this post though...

The music is also good (the movie thankfully only has very brief snippets of the songs, Hollywood style) and the acting competent.

Altogether a good watch. I'm also hoping to watch another strangely titled movie soon. This one is called Manorama, Six Feet Under!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Interesting conversation - rooted in economic theory

This is an email I received today. It is about an apparently true conversation that took place on a social networking website:

What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I'm tired of beating around the bush. I'm a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I'm articulate and classy.
I'm not from New York. I'm looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don't think I'm overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board?
Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 - 250. But that's where I seem to hit a roadblock.
250,000 won't get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she's not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

Here are my questions specifically:

- Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me
specifics- bars, restaurants, gyms
-What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won't hurt my feelings
-Is there an age range I should be targeting (I'm 25)?
- Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I've seen really 'plain jane' boring types who havenothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys.
I've seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village.
What's the story there?

- Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows - lawyer, Investment banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

- How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY

Please hold your insults - I'm putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I'm
being up front about it. I wouldn't be searching for these kind of guys
if I wasn't able to match them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

And then the reply:

Dear Pers-431649184:
I read your posting with great interest and have thought
Meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament. Firstly, I'm not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here's how I see it.
Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a cr@ppy business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful!
So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I
am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your
depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!
So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold...hence the rub...marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather
lease. In case you think I'm being cruel, I would say the following. If
my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It's as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.
Separately, I was taught early in my career about
efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as "articulate, classy and
spectacularly beautiful" as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn't found you, if not only for a tryout.
By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn't need to have this difficult conversation.
With all that said, I must say you're going about it the right way. Classic "pump and dump." I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.