Friday, December 09, 2016

Demonetisation: Initial admirer to now skeptic

It has been a month since the Indian Government announce demonetisation. Over time I have emoted at extremes about this move - starting with immediate elation, defending the move among skeptics, to now being a critic of the move. This post is an attempt at documenting some of the thoughts.

Let's start by discussing the Government's motives. Among analyses, here seems to the list of benefits:

  1. Elimination of black money w.r.t:
    1. Untaxed wealth
    2. Reducing corruption
    3. Crime uses
  2. Getting a special dividend of about 2 Lakh Crore that could be used by Government to fund public initiatives
  3. Eliminating the cash in the hands of political opponents
  4. Defending the currency against counterfeiting by terrorists
Depending on whether you are a supporter or critic of the move, you may believe in one or a combination of the above factors to be the real reason behind the move. Personally, I feel it is a combination of 1 & 3 with 2 being a bonus. Modi has spoken about eliminating unaccounted wealth since the election campaign, and if that can be done together with eliminating the opponent's ability to compete, why not do both in the same shot? Getting a special dividend from RBI to pay for public initiatives is icing on the cake. 

Leaving aside the real motive, for us to truly support the move, we must believe that 1 & 2 has a key role in Government's true intentions. Let's assume that and move on.

Let's move then to the effects. While at one extreme, there is extreme shortage of cash in some segments, specially the rural ones, many segments of the economy has adjusted by using cashless transactions. Given India's natural size, and its generally inventive citizenry, their ability to react and adapt shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. 

Without belittling the consequences to the poor and rural populace who are perhaps worst hit by the move, we need to consider the long time positive effect on the economy - would that long term benefits outweigh the immediate pain and suffering of the masses? 

My initial reaction to that was a resounding YES. Here is what I thought:
  • Some of those with unaccounted wealth will lose it altogether. Good riddance.
  • Those who hoarded that wealth in realty would ideally convert the entire value at market rate, pay a higher capital gains, but end up benefitting the economy overall by eliminating cash in realty transactions.
  • The move will instil a fear of establishment among the common trader in India and force them to think of moving towards better accounting of transactions and avoid a repeat of the uncertainty they went through this time around.
  • It will move the country towards a cashless society, which in itself reduces the scope for a lot of the evils that cash brings on its own. (India has substantially higher use of cash as a share of GDP than any other big economy, including the US, whose biggest export could be arguably USD currency)
However, with time, I want to go back on almost every single argument. Here are my rebuttals:

  • No one seems to have lost unaccounted wealth. Most of them held very little in cash, and those who did manage to launder it back. Sure, some of it will be lost, but not enough to either benefit the government in terms of taxes or to act as a punitive effect.
  • From what I hear, the realty argument was only in my head. No one else believes it. Everyone, even those involved in realty in a big way, are just waiting for enough cash to come back in circulation to go back to old ways. If those involved in realty think otherwise, then my singular arguments, however sensible it is, won't make much of a difference.
  • On fear of establishment, it might still work, but the general response is either one of admiration (by those who had nothing to lose) and anger (by those who were affected by it) - no one seems to have taken any moral lessons. 
  • On moving to cashless society, the reality at ground is absolutely counter. I am going to spend rest of the article talking about this.
India is not ready for a cashless society. We are very far from it, so far that it looks comical that we even attempted to move to one in 2016 without the fundamentals in place, if of course we believe that was one of the intentions.

Here are the broader reasons:
  • How would vast majority of the illiterate population interact with this cashless society? Who is thinking of them?
  • The cashless society is for the banked. Everyone else is left out. And Jan Dhan accounts are not yet a passport to participating into a true cashless society, at least not in 2016.
  • The process of KYC and setting up an account and coming up with a reason to do ReKYC every now and then, is just painful.
    KYC is such a overwhelming function that banks have permanent counters for KYC, something I don't recall in 1990s when I observed banking as a son of a banker, or something I don't see in Singapore at all. (Every single year, one financial institution or the other I deal with blocks my account and asks me to KYC and my details haven't changed one bit in the past decade or more.)
  • Indian credit cards need an PIN to function. Other country's cards don't need. What's the result? We will have tourists not being able to use cards that they can use everywhere else in the world - not progress in the right direction.
  • Public institutions, like Metro, Museums, Canteens etc still don't have facilities to accept cards. Given the push, wouldn't it be natural that at least public institutions deals with its retail customers they way Government wants its private businesses to deal with retail customers?
  • As much as people may believe in Modi, why would anyone want to volunteer to pay higher taxes to a system that hasn't proven itself to be very efficient in allocation of tax rupees over the years? How are we bridging that trust gap?
  • Lastly, Indian trade is conducted with the assumptions of the benefits of cash. i.e if there is a shop that can operate at 20% margin on cash with minimal tax outgo, they would need to charge roughly 12.5% on the goods to maintain the profitability (2.5% on merchant fees on the transactions and 10% as added revenue so that after paying for taxes, the trader gets to keep the same 20%) - I don't think the economy is ready for that step up. 
Put together, even if we were to believe that Government had the right intentions, we are nowhere close to having a smooth cashless society going, and we may be at least 5 years away from one. And 5 years is too long a transition period for a developing economy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

पाहिमाम जानकीवल्लभ (paahimaam jaanakeevallabha) in Sanskrit


[Original at http://www.karnatik.com/c3341.shtml]

पाहिमाम जानकीवल्लभ
रागं : शंकराभरणं
29 धीर  शंकराभरणं  मेल
Aa: S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S
Av: S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

तालं : तिश्र एका
Composer: मुत्तुस्वामी दीक्षितर
Language: संस्कृत

पाहिमाम जानकीवल्लभ श्री हरे भारत ईशा प्रिया नन्द मूर्ते ।
देहि मे सम्पदं दीन चिंता मने  देवदेवोत्तम नंद कीर्ते ॥

एही काकुस्थ कोदण्डहस्त ।
ईप्सितार्थ प्रद ह्लादचित्त ॥

Monday, October 31, 2016

How not to be a Salesperson

At Vocanic, we often deal with vendors we use for access to products or data. One such vendor's contract was up for renewal in the past few weeks. If there is an example on how to come across as an arrogant, cocky salesperson, here is a great example. (In the interest of protecting the company's privacy, key details have been obfuscated)




Hi XXXXX,
Hope you're well!
Apologies that I did not catch this sooner, but our contract has expired. If you're interested in continuing access, please let me know so that I can have a new Order sent out.
Our pricing has changed a bit, so it'd be [Higher Price] and include XXXXXX and the reliability features.
Thanks,
Salesperson

Hi Salesperson,
FYI, XXXXX has since left Vocanic and I’ve taken over his duties. I’m surprised to find out that the ABCD contract has expired. Does this means that the service will be cut off soon? We have a lot of platforms that are relying on the data and having it cut off would be disastrous for us.
How do I go about renewing the contract? And regarding the price, is there any room for negotiation? We’re unaware of this increase, and we have on our part signed retainers with our clients without provisioning for this increase.
Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks. 

To prevent an interruption, we'll need to sign an Order Form and attached amendment to the MSA. I've already discounted this solution as much as possible, as our pricing has had some significant changes. What configuration [words edited] are you currently using?
Best,Salesperson

(In a few days time, since the person involved didn't respond):


Hi,
We'll have to disable the streams unless we can sign a new Order Form. Shall I send through Adobe Echosign?
Best,
Salesperson

Hi Salesperson, unfortunately I got ur email a little too late as I'm on a flight out now. Can I reach you at another time?

Sure, but we need to sign the Order, as finance would like to deactivate the account since we're out of contract.
Can I send this through for e-signature?
Best,
Salesperson 

Hi Salesperson,
Can we extend the service until mid-October? Because of the price increase, we're considering other options to acquire [XXXXX]. To be fair, we highlighted the price difference in mid August (being charged for less than a month) and no one from [Your team] gave a reasonable explanation nor an indication that there would be a price increase should we continue.We're currently caught in the quandary of having to absorb the sudden price difference and with no option to recover from our clients as they have all signed an annual retainer which only ends next year.Please let me know the cost for the extension. We are unable to commit to a 12 month contract right now.

Unfortunately, that price is based on a discount for a 12-month agreement, so it'd change if you only wanted a 2-month agreement, and also wouldn't lock in anything for longer than that term. Can you offer some additional insight into what it'd take so long to sign the agreement this year?
The email requesting the number of rules you're using was addressed to you 5 days ago.

Hi Salesperson,Could you give me the 2 month agreement pricing please?
Regarding why it will take so long, we have policies in place where contracts above a specific amount are required to have at least 2 comparable quotes, among other documents. Getting those quotes and everything in order is not something that can be done within a day.
I saw your email requesting the rules, and apologies for missing that. FYI, we are currently using [xx] rules, which you already know, and it’s way below [your tier] limit.


It'll be 30% more which ends up being [Higher Price]. Please let me know how you'd like to proceed and I can send through the agreement for e-signature.
As long as we can sign by the end of this month (Friday), with an effective date of the first of this month (Sept. 1), we can leave access on.

Hi team,
Hope all is well and thank you for turning around those agreements before the end of last week. Can you let me know if you plan to transition to the longer term at [Lower price], to continue the short term rate at a premium, or if you're transitioning away from [our service]?Many thanks,Salesperson

Hi Salesperson,
We haven’t decided. We are also evaluating client contracts and renewals – at the end, we might decide not to use [your service].
May I know the reason for asking the questions – is there a negotiation/pricing option that you are exploring?
At this point, I was genuinely hoping there would be a serious engagement with us. But that was just misplaced hope.


The Order you signed allows for termination with 30-days written notice to avoid auto-renewal. You opted for the option that offers service through the end of this month, which means termination notice is due if you'll be cancelling.
I'll go ahead and put in the cancellation now, and we can revisit in 2 weeks.
-Salesperson
So the contract was sent our. On our end, it was disappointing to deal with this vendor who raised prices without explanation, put in little effort to discuss or negotiate with us, and was rather willing to put a gun to our head than any other approach. So, we were looking for alternatives, which we found. The alternative wasn't cheaper - but they gave us a shorter contract, which was a huge help for us to reduce risk, and they gave us additional add ons. There were gracious enough to get on multiple calls to see how we could migrate over and even followed up pro-actively on it. Guess what, we switched to them.


Hello everyone,
Will you need ongoing access beyond October 31?
Thanks,Salesperson

Hi Salesperson,
No.
Thanks.
I wish this salesperson learnt a little bit of humility and empathy - this contract could have been easily salvaged. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

वेन्कटाचल निलयं | Venkatachala Nilayam Sanskrit Lyrics (Transliteration)

[Original at http://www.karnatik.com/c1485.shtml]

वेन्कटाचल निलयं (venkaTaacala nilayam)
रागं : सिन्दु भैरवी

10 naaTakapriya janya
Aa: S R2 G2 M1 G2 P D1 N2 S
Av: N2 D1 P M1 G2 R1 S N2 S

तालं : आदि
Composer: पुरन्दर दासर
Language: संस्कृत

पल्लवी 

वेन्कटाचल निलयं वैकुण्ठ पुरवासं

पंकज नेत्रं परम पवित्रं
शङ्क चक्रधर चिन्मय रूपं

वेन्कटाचल निलयं वैकुण्ठ पुरवासं


अनुपल्लवी 


अम्बुजोद्भव विनुतं अगनित गुण नामं 
तुम्बुरु नारद गानविलोलं 

वेन्कटाचल निलयं वैकुण्ठ पुरवासं 


चरणं 

मकर कुण्डलधर मदनगोपलं 

भक्त पोषक श्री पुरन्धर विठलं 

वेन्कटाचल निलयं वैकुण्ठ पुरवासं 


Sang here by P. Unnikrishnan to help you learn:


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

भज गोविन्दं | Bhaja Govindam | Abridged Version matching MS Subbalakshmi's recital

[Original Version at http://sanskritdocuments.org/doc_vishhnu/bhajagovindam.html?lang=sa - the original version is 33 stanzas, but most common recitals found on Youtube, including MS Subbalakshmi's famous recital are all shorter - about 11 stanzas. So, I have put together this version for those who are trying to learn Bhaja Govindam from the Youtube versions.]



भज गोविन्दं

भजगोविन्दं भजगोविन्दं
गोविन्दं भजमूढमते ।
सम्प्राप्ते सन्निहिते काले
नहि नहि रक्षति डुकृञ्करणे ॥ १॥ 

Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh fool !
Rules of grammar will not save you at the time of your death.

मूढ जहीहि धनागमतृष्णां
कुरु सद्बुद्धिं मनसि वितृष्णाम् ।
यल्लभसे निजकर्मोपात्तं
वित्तं तेन विनोदय चित्तम् ॥ २॥ 

Oh fool ! Give up your thirst to amass wealth, devote your
mind to thoughts to the Real. Be content with what comes
through actions already performed in the past.


यावद्वित्तोपार्जन सक्त-
स्तावन्निज परिवारो रक्तः ।
पश्चाज्जीवति जर्जर देहे
वार्तां कोऽपि न पृच्छति गेहे ॥ ३॥ 

So long as a man is fit and able to support his family, see
what affection all those around him show. But no one at home
cares to even have a word with him when his body totters due to
old age.


मा कुरु धन जन यौवन गर्वं
हरति निमेषात्कालः सर्वम् ।
मायामयमिदमखिलं हित्वा  var  बुध्वा
ब्रह्मपदं त्वं प्रविश विदित्वा ॥ ४॥ 

Do not boast of wealth, friends, and youth. Each one of these
are destroyed within a minute by time. Free yourself from the
illusion of the world of Maya and attain the timeless Truth.



सुर मंदिर तरु मूल निवासः
शय्या भूतल मजिनं वासः ।
सर्व परिग्रह भोग त्यागः
कस्य सुखं न करोति विरागः ॥ ५॥ 

Take your residence in a temple or below a tree, wear the
deerskin for the dress, and sleep with mother earth as your
bed. Give up all attachments and renounce all comforts. Blessed
with such vairgya, could any fail to be content ?


भगवद् गीता किञ्चिदधीता
गङ्गा जललव कणिकापीता ।
सकृदपि येन मुरारि समर्चा
क्रियते तस्य यमेन न चर्चा ॥ ६॥ 

Let a man read but a little from bhagavadgItA, drink just a drop of
water from the Ganges, worship but once murAri. He then will
have no altercation with Yama.  


पुनरपि जननं पुनरपि मरणं
पुनरपि जननी जठरे शयनम् ।
इह संसारे बहुदुस्तारे
कृपयाऽपारे पाहि मुरारे ॥ ७॥ 

Born again, death again, again to stay in the mother's womb !
It is indeed hard to cross this boundless ocean of samsAra. Oh
Murari ! Redeem me through Thy mercy.


गेयं गीता नाम सहस्रं
ध्येयं श्रीपति रूपमजस्रम् ।
नेयं सज्जन सङ्गे चित्तं
देयं दीनजनाय च वित्तम् ॥ ८॥ 

Regularly recite from the Gita, meditate on Vishnu in your
heart, and chant His thousand glories. Take delight to be with
the noble and the holy. Distribute your wealth in charity to
the poor and the needy.


अर्थमनर्थं भावय नित्यं
नास्तिततः सुखलेशः सत्यम् ।
पुत्रादपि धन भाजां भीतिः
सर्वत्रैषा विहिता रीतिः ॥ ९॥ 

Wealth is not welfare, truly there is no joy in it. Reflect
thus at all times. A rich man fears even his own son. This is
the way of wealth everywhere.


गुरुचरणाम्बुज निर्भर भक्तः
संसारादचिराद्भव मुक्तः ।
सेन्द्रियमानस नियमादेवं
द्रक्ष्यसि निज हृदयस्थं देवम् ॥ १०॥ 

Oh devotee of the lotus feet of the Guru ! May thou be soon
free from Samsara. Through disciplined senses and controlled
mind, thou shalt come to experience the indwelling Lord of your
heart !


भजगोविन्दं भजगोविन्दं
गोविन्दं भजमूढमते ।
नामस्मरणादन्यमुपायं
नहि पश्यामो भवतरणे ॥ ११॥ 

Worship Govinda, worship Govinda, worship Govinda, Oh fool !
Other than chanting the Lord's names, there is no other way
to cross the life's ocean.


Administrative note

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