Day 30 – 30 Things in 30 Days – #Lockdown #COVID-19

Brown Cave Great Outdoors Month Facebook PostWhile we wait for the situation to normalize after the extended lock down due to the COVID-19 situation, we recently completed the 30 days of quarantine.

If nothing else, everyone went through a life changing experience in ways of working or in the ways of connecting with people.

The following are the 30 things that I have experienced or mulled over in the last 30 days of the lock down.

Some of these could be a repeat from a similar earlier post for 7 days or so. However, it is still worth enlisting the current thirty we have.

  1. Freedom to move is a big freedom. We should preserve it without taking it for granted to be with us always.
  2. Man made problems are closer than we think they are.
  3. Technology cannot solve all our problems but can definitely make it easier for us to live with it.
  4. There is no substitute to good home made food.
  5. More time with family is the best stress buster one can have in their lives.
  6. Internet is definitely an essential utility and we should perhaps have a ‘Right to internet’.
  7. An essential service that is not counted as one is barbershops and saloons. Well-being requires good hair cut and well-being of hair as well.
  8. Content on Netflix is the best if you are interested in international content and not just local language/national programs.
  9. One should try something new. I am experimenting with multiple things at the same time. Succeeding in few and failing in some.
  10. You should learn the side effects of performance hacks that you try or they can be counter productive. One must take proper precaution before trying them as well.
  11. I tried the performance hack of increasing your grey cells by taking shower in ice cold water. As I didnt put a warm jacket after the shower, I fell sick with fever for two days. So read the fine print, surrounding notes and foot notes properly before trying anything new.
  12. One should definitely take up writing as an important part of their everyday life. it improves your control over your thinking significantly.
  13. The best first task of the day is to make your own bed when you wake up. It gives a huge feeling of accomplishment.
  14. Regular news channel have the potential to make your thoughts toxic.
  15. Whatsapp and FB are still full of filth and spoil your ability to think clearly.
  16. One can achieve a regular schedule with little effort.
  17. I took up Yoga and have been practicing it for last 15 days now. Its an excellent exercise to start your day.
  18. Breathing as I learned in Yoga helps in multiple ways such as regulating your blood flow, reducing stress, helping you calm your minds.
  19. Human needs are much simpler than what we usually exercise. We survived without a mall visit for the last 35 days. Isnt that strange?
  20. Technology detox is required and essential. Best way is to take breaks in between your work to ensure that you are in your best performing shape.
  21. Participating in household work is a great foundation for team play.
  22. Mankind is far off from preserving itself from itself. A whole lot of inventions are required to achieve a state of steady preservation.
  23. Many people dont understand that risk taking works both ways, as was seen with recent six scheme bust of Franklin Templeton.
  24. Indian startups are yet to come to main stage with essential inventions. Fact that still most of the users hook up to tools like Zoom etc for conferencing shows the lack of local innovation in large countries like India.
  25. We should have many new chefs by the end of the lock down. So there could be a glut in the market of household cooks for hire.
  26. Majority of world population does not know what their priorities. In advanced countries like US people are protesting in name of freedom while in lesser advanced countries like India, people are crowding in some places to grab essentials for their survival.
  27. Virtual communication is here to stay and will change the way we operate in the world.
  28. The obvious impact of 27 should come on commercial real estate. So, one should stay away from it.
  29. Social interaction is a definite grease one requires to smoothly control their overall well-being.
  30. There is no better way than engaging in some fun activities with your families and kids. The video below is the proof of the same.

Day 22 – The Jumper Problem – #Lockdown #COVID-19

The Jumper Problem for the economy is taking more time to come to any shape as compared to what I initially thought.

Here is the first part of ‘The Jumper Problem’, just in case you are one of the uninitiated.

The lock down extension to May 3, 2020 has increased the economic impact of this pandemic and clearly is becoming a use case for generations to study.

While scurrying through multiple ideas and literature around it, it dawned to me that I should reach out to the sensible and smart readers of this blog to help me with the ideas as well.

A combination of my thoughts, my readings from the experts around us and of course the readers will help me build stronger content for this vast topic.

I have put together a very simple survey.

I sincerely request you to kindly take 5 mins of your time and fill it up. This will help in enriching this very thought.

I also request you to circulate it in your circles so that I can get more and more ideas from as many walks of life as possible. Appreciate your help here.

This will be open till Sunday afternoon (April 19, 2020) so that I can publish the findings on Sunday evening or Monday morning tops.

Thank you.

Here is the direct link for the survey OR you can fill below.

Day 18 – The Jumper Problem – #IndiaFightsCorona #Lockdown21

How to Use Jumper Cables | HowStuffWorks

Ever since COVID-19 has created havoc in the world, there are different kind of intelligence that is visible, largely on social media. This group is very much interested in different kind of capacity problems and do a great favour in quelling some irrelevant myths floating around.

Here are few things that this group of intellects has highlighted –

  • In the initial days, while the world was still coming to terms with the reality of COVID-19 and its impact on our everyday lives. The group compared India against a skewed data set and concluded that India is faltering in its ‘capacity’ of testing.
  • Some went on to question the entire selective testing strategy citing that this was purposefully being done by the government.
  • The image below is from March 17 HT.

  • Right or wrong the strategy to have selective testing seems to have worked in India’s favor so far. Besides, proximity to China had put severe risks to South Korea as compared to India.
  • Anyway, the second capacity problem that the intellects grappled with is whether the clapping and utensils banging going to eradicate COVID-19?
  • No one made any such claims but the intellects helped in quelling any doubt being circulated about this on whatsapp or other social media.
  • Next came the real test of capacity planning when PM Modi announced that on April 5, 2020 at 9 p.m. people should shut down the lights at their houses for 9 months and light diyas, candles and mobile phone torch lights instead.
  • The intellects immediately jumped in with their varied level of expertise in Electrical Engineering to cite grid failure.
  • The national Power Grid custodian had to issue a clarification to all the warriors that this is not an unusual activity.
  • Everything went smoothly on April 5, 2020 and there was no grid failure or power tripping or any kind of voltage fluctuation or low ampere current.

The new-enlightened me understands the line of thought and the typical analysis that goes behind this type of cold calling on the capacity problems.

With this new found logic, I think there would be two unique but similar type of problems that will happen in the country.

Both are the ‘Jumper Capacity’ Problem.

  • Taking the multiple logical conclusions given above, one can hypothesize that the day lock down gets over, we would run short of car jumpers.
  • Car jumpers are specialized external probes that help in triggering a car battery, after prolonged period of non-ignition.
  • So, its fair to assume that there would be a disproportionate demand of car jumpers and more so for the ones that come with a battery.
  • The regular car jumpers may not be able to solve the problem alone as we would not have another car to kick start the chemical reaction.
  • This to me is the next horizon for our Whatsapp knowledge factory champions.

The other and the more serious ‘Jumper Capacity’ problem is the one required for the Indian and world economy. With stalled consumption, no factories running, credit lending frozen, no tourism etc, we have a serious problem in hand.

In my blog coming soon, I shall try to put some thoughts on the more serious ‘Jumper Capacity ‘ problem i.e. the one required for the economy.

Till we meet next, keep reading 🙂

Day 17 – The Lock down Reader Part 2- #IndiaFightsCorona #Lockdown21

Study Session Email Header

(Seems like there was an error in my counting somewhere so I have fixed the number of days in the post title now)

This is the concluding part of this 2-part series on Ram Charan’s The Amazon Management System. As was earlier mentioned, its an easy read and gives a good insight on the working of the company that is pioneering in many ways.

Amazon continues to amaze the management consultants worldwide. Like all management writing, the book keeps mixing Amazon with Bezos’ personality as is the case with every first gen entrepreneur’s successful venture.

Ram Charan’s book is no different. He dissects the entire mantra of Amazon’s success and consolidates them into six building blocks. They are detailed below –

  1. Building Block 1 – Customer Obsessed Business model: The book emphasizes that over the years Amazon has built a strong culture of customer orientation. For everything, customer is kept as the center of Amazon’s universe. Bezos believes that companies that stay focused on customer are always going to be relevant. So, he has driven this culture in the company. That is visible in almost all businesses that Amazon runs. However, the book does not tell why did this strategy not work in the multiple cases where the company failed.
  2. Building Block 2 – Continuous Bar-Raising Talent Pool: Ram Charan emphasizes that Amazon and Bezos invest a lot in hiring the best talent in the market. The system shown by Ram Charan highlights the concept of ‘bar-raiser’ in the interview panel. The purpose of the bar raiser is to try to assess whether the new hire is going to raise the talent bar in the company or not. An interesting concept that the book explores is that of ‘Builder vs Owners’ to provide an insight into the environment that is stitched around this talent pool.
  3. Building Block 3 – AI powered Data And Metrics System: The book dedicates a very significant portion to the various metrics that help in deciding the every aspect of decision making and day to day working of the organization. The key thing is that these metrics are ultra-detailed. In one example, the metrics run into 25 pages, scaled down from 70 pages. Topped with almost real-time delivery, this makes it easy to make instant decision, rather than making monthly or quarterly decisions. This one aspect differentiates Amazon in many ways from others. The mere access to information with very thin hierarchy makes it easy for teams to make decisions. Another aspect covered is the empowerment done at the right levels. For example, the book reflects upon the significance of having the front line staff to make decisions on product listing etc or even removal. This is not routine in many places. But is commonplace in Amazon. Perhaps due to the large size of catalogue.
  4. Building Block 4 – Ground-Breaking Invention Machine: What is really clear is the fact that Amazon is an radical innovation and ground-breaking invention machine. As compared to many other companies that have one big invention and then years of complacency, Amazon has only increased its bouquet of radical inventions. This is emphasized in the book with the invention process instilled in the culture of the company –
    1. Thinking really big
    2. Use of a Press Release kind of deep dive document
    3. Acceptance of failure as a pillar for success, not just in words
    4. Immense appetite and patience for things to shape up
  5. Building Block 5 – High-velocity and High-Quality Decision Making: The book further goes to identify decision making as a key to the high velocity that the company has achieved in execution. Once an idea has been successfully agreed upon then execution requires very quick decision making. Bezos practices (and so does Amazon), the principle of ‘Disagree and commit’. The decision making has a tiered view, as per the book , – reversible and irreversible decisions. Reversible are highly decentralized as there is a state of return in case of a failure. Irreversible ones are the ones where decision making is more centralised and so involves the top leaders from the company. However, speed is kept as the essential element of overall decision making irrespective of the nature of the decision.
  6. Building Block 6 – Forever Day-1 culture: Lastly, Ram Charan highlights the fabled ‘Day 1 culture’ imbibed in the organization. The best way to summarize is the excerpt from the book where it quotes Bezos –

‘Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by Death. And that is what it is always Day 1.”

The book further emphasizes on the 14 Amazon leadership principles of –

  1. Customer Obsession
  2. Ownership
  3. Invent and Simplify
  4. Are Right, a Lot
  5. Learn and Be Curious
  6. Hire and Develop the Best
  7. Insist on Highest Standards
  8. Think Big
  9. Bias for Action
  10. Frugality
  11. Earn Trust
  12. Dive Deep
  13. Have backbone; Disagree and Commit
  14. Deliver Results

You can read through from their careers site here.

The book is a good and easy read as  I already mentioned. However, there are many things it doesnt answer.

  1. What external factors helped in Amazon’s success?
  2. Why were the stock pile of failures is so high if the building blocks are so strong?
  3. The book is silent on all the articles that were published about the working culture within the company.
  4. Aspects like marketing that propelled the organisation.
  5. And many more…

Below are my lessons from the book.

  1. Amazon has a very deep market research thinking in its DNA – One of the key findings that I saw in the book was the emphasis on data-driven decision making. The Building Block 3 gives a broader view of the AI implementation and the metrics based organisational thinking. This also means Amazon is tracking much more data that we imagine we are knowingly providing it. Here is an article that tells you what all Amazon tracks. Its amateurish in writing but takes the point home.
  2. Amazon has strong execution orientation with rigor coming from the top i.e. with Bezos himself – Quite often I come across a lot of talented people who soon in their career decide that they do not want to ‘get their hands dirty’ and are more interested in managing others or for ‘strategic’ work. What the book clearly demonstrates is the ability of Amazon to build execution focus at scale with ‘no exceptions’. I think this is a very important lesson that people at various stages of their career can learn from the book.
  3. Engineers have a unique ability to simplify management work – Old saying says managers create work. I also see it happening in multiple realms of life – at work, in conversations with my friends etc. However, with the different books I have studied (this is fifth after Steve Jobs, From Zero to One, Losing my Virginity and How Google Works), my conclusion is that engineers tend to simplify things. This one aspect makes them better at managing things at scale.
  4. Amazon may have a succession problem in the post Bezos era whenever it starts – The book is heavily shadowed by the Bezos personality. One can literally see the page after page where you feel that Ram Charan has cross border from the company to the founder. This to me is a problem. As it tells that Amazon may have a succession problem. There is hardly any discussion about any leader other than Bezos. While it would be naive to assume that there is no succession planning, it is important to explore, whether they would be able to continue this upward swing or not? This only time will tell.

The first part of this blog is here.

Stay tuned for more content in coming days… Stay safe and stay healthy!

 

 

 

Day 14 – The Lock down Reader Part 1- #IndiaFightsCorona #Lockdown21

The one thing that has benefited me the most in the #lockdownBright Pink Accelerated Reader Poster

is the ability to explore some good old habits.  Few days back, I had done some poetry in this post. I plan to continue that more frequently.

In addition, I intensified my old habit of ‘reading and then writing’.

Luckily, reading as a habit never died. At times, I am reading three books simultaneously. However, two simultaneous reads is my usual. Though surprisingly in this lock down, its only one at a time. I had hoped to be doing the opposite i.e. having to read more than two at a time. I think my young son is taking more of my available free time, which I am happy to share with him as movement to Chennai certainly had an impact on father-son bonding, even though temporary and early in nature.

So, the one book that I recently finished is  ‘The Amazon Management System‘.  This is a fairly recent book by the  Ram Charan and Julia Yang.  Prof. Ram Charan is a renowned name in the world of management education, research and consulting.  He has spent significant amount of time in studying world class companies and translating The Amazon Management System: The Ultimate Digital Business Engine ...

  his observations about the companies and their management practices into books that are easy reads and with a purposeful takeaway at the end of every chapter.

The Amazon Management System is no exception.

Though not really required, the book starts with the typical Ram Charan-style build-up of the greatness of Amazon. This is largely demonstrated by the movement of Amazon stock on NYSE. Ram Charan further goes on to write about the building blocks of the company that seems to have defied the gravity in the stock market and continues to dominate the e-commerce world.

Ram Charan has largely relied on Amazon’s publicly available information like annual report, shareholder communications, Bezos’ YouTube videos and news articles. He does mention that he has interviewed some company officials as well but I couldnt find any reference in the content that he published. Nonetheless, the book is a treat to read for people interested in the management research and science.

Here are my 4 key takeaways from the books. I will split this into two blogs as one may become too long and will go into the ‘tl;dr’ list.

I had a total of 4 key takeaways from the book.

  1. Amazon has a very deep market research thinking in its DNA
  2. Amazon has strong execution orientation with rigor coming from the top i.e. with Bezos himself
  3. Engineers have a unique ability to simplify management work
  4. Amazon may have a succession problem in the post Bezos era whenever it starts.

I will discuss these in detain in my subsequent blog. In the meantime, if you wish to dive into some quick management reading, dont skip this book.

Its written in very simple language and provides a good level of insight into the way the company operates. And the fact that it is coming from one of the top management gurus, its authentic too.

Stay tuned for the next blog on this book 🙂

 

 

Day 11 – More on Stocks – Part 2- #IndiaFightsCorona #Lockdown21

Marketing Business Corporate Start-up Facebook Cover

Disclaimer: The views here are PURELY personal. But, they do have some weight because I have completed all the required studies certifications to become a SEBI registered Investment Advisor. Unfortunately, I could not get one required NoC. I still don’t have it. So SEBI has put my application on hold for 7 months. However, I still continue to study stock markets with the same rigor. Please read it but make sure you do understand the logic behind my interests in these stocks. Besides, if you make a decision for your investment based on this input, you still are ON YOUR OWN. In case you lose money, you can curse me but that you may do anyway to many other people anyway. So if I am added to the list, no sweat on that 🙂

If you wish to read part 1 of this blog series, then please go to this link. (Remember, disclaimer remains the same irrespective of the sequence of your reading the blog).

The current state of mid-caps and small-caps is extremely precarious.

See the chart for NIFTY MID 100 index below:

NIFTY MID 100

And chart for the NIFTY SMALLCAP  100 Index below:

NIFTY SMALL 100

Quite natural that such a beating opens a large opportunity for value picking. Remember that mid and small caps are more exposed to risks. So volume traded becomes a big consideration point in their selection.

Below are my mid-cap thoughts. Note that these are not recommendations of any kind but are ‘thoughts’.

  1. IRCTC – There is hardly anyone in the country who is not familiar with their website.
    • Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation is the primary and the only provider of following services to the Indian Railways –
      • Primary web portal for e-Ticketing for all of India Railways
      • Holiday planning
      • Station catering services etc
    • In Oct 2019, the IPO was awarded at Rs. 340/- per share.
    • Current price is Rs. 1002/-
    • Peak price before the meltdown was Rs. 2000/-. So market is ready to accept this valuation for the stock.
    • The train and so the reservation services are adversely affected due to the lock down. And the rail traffic will not be same for at least 3 more months. Given that the stock will be range bound for some time.
    • However, as it has a brute majority in the ticketing space, it should achieve its glory of March 2020 again.
    • In addition, with the emphasis on luxury segment by the Indian Railways, IRCTC would gain as the segment expands.
    • A great value play if you are patient enough.
  2. Finolex Cables – A market leader in wires and cables, Finolex has been in the wiring business for a very long time. The company had a rough 2018 due to the family feud between cousins over the ownership of business under the Finolex Industries umbrella. With that in the past, the company is doing the following –
    • It has forayed into the consumer electrical goods space with water heater, fans, switches, LED lighting etc.
    • A similar story was started by Havells few years ago giving multi-fold return
    • Given the current regime’s push on affordable housing and the long pending turn around in the real estate sector, the company is going to gain with expanded market for electrical goods and parts.
    • The consumer sentiment will take some time to pick up from here so one needs to be patient if they buy this thought.
  3. Federal Bank – A bank with a very old heritage, Federal Bank, has seen completely organic and conservative growth over the years. Here are some interesting things about this stock –
    • An extremely strong balance sheet with all the perimeters marked by RBI adhered to in the most convincing way.
    • One of the lowest NPA percentage in the banking industry. With anymore Yes Bank type episodes (RBL Bank and IndusInd Bank not hinting at you guys), Federal Bank is bound to gain for the consolidating market.
    • Current market sentiment puts it at a very interesting entry point.

AS promised, I did my bit of sharing my thoughts. Whether to align or not is your choice.

Dont forget the DISCLAIMER!