Monday, March 28, 2016

Kohlinomics: Investment lessons from the ace cricketer

Sudhir Raikar , IIFL | Mumbai | March 23, 2016 09:20 IST

Batting maestro, chase master, heartthrob, poster boy, fitness freak, role model...Virat Kohli means different things to different people. Though his staple flamboyance doesn’t make it apparent, his incredible life story - of many a trial and triumph – is a treasure trove of priceless lessons for just about everybody including investors – aspiring and veterans alike.

See more at: http://www.indiainfoline.com/article/opinions/kohlinomics-investment-lessons-from-the-ace-cricketer-116032300240_1.html#sthash.lMgB7NGv.dpuf



We share the top five lessons in the form of this Kohli primer that would help you put investment plan in perspective before you expect to reap rich rewards from it. Here goes:

A long term plan is MUST

This mantra may have been chewed like gum before but Virat Kohli has made it the in-thing, almost as glamorous as him. As soon as he comes out to bat, his self-belief is evident, you know he’s here for the long haul, ever mindful of his stay at the crease including that tiring and trying phase of little or no action. He has a master plan complete with contingency routes to counter unexpected developments. He knows periods of lull are not only an integral part of the game; they are accident prone too. Not every shot during this time would be fulfilling but he’ll get enough opportunities to unleash himself and steer his team to victory. He relishes the responsibility.

One can gainfully adopt the same approach to stocks – the markets go up and down from time to time and there are several junctures where you are tempted to make ad hoc emotional entries and exits in the heat of the moment. If you firmly believe in the long term story like Kohli, you will stay put. But this is possible only when your investments follow a well-researched plan in the first place in line with your money needs at key life milestones, financial capacity (current and future), and risk appetite. Once you have made your thoughtful pickings based on your master plan, you won’t read too much into the transient market movements. At every stage, you will evaluate short term gratification for the likely long term consequence. It does take time and effort to get into that “big picture” frame of mind in the living waters of field action but you can take heart from the fact that even Kohli went through a curve on this front.

This is not to negate the value of short term gains but the best investments are essentially ‘buy and hold’ picks that beat inflation and build wealth for you. A good plan will account for life events, short term included. So don’t confuse volatility with risk and play for the long haul …just like Kohli. Relish the responsibility.

Count on Common sense, not sixth sense

Virat Kohli is always open to opinions, advice and suggestions but he trusts his instinct the most. In an age of tech-enabled decision making and analysis, he likes to keep things simple, in paying attention to smaller details that are often discarded as humdrum. His common sense approach is his most uncommon trait powering his successful strides. He prefers to build his strategies in the guiding light of actual experience. There’s no divine intervention to help the cause. It demands hard work of self-analysis at the end of each game which Kohli invariably seems to do. No wonder, he’s able to come up with smart counter plans, proactively thinking of all possible attacks the opposition may have planned for him or deciding on strategies in line with pitch conditions on the given day (and never shy of neatly articulating them during award presentation ceremonies)

Investments also demand this level of articulation aimed at demystifying concepts for practical use. Of course, one must seek expert advice especially in areas where knowledge and experience both are in short supply but borrowed wisdom is no substitute for thought. It’s elementary to know the “what, why and how” of your plans in entirety. Simply put, you need to know your portfolio constituents in and out – what’s their mix and why, what purpose they would serve, what are the underlying risks, how liquid they are, what are their expected highs, how long should one hold them and the like.

Think Risk and Return intuitively

Kohli is one of the few players who are ever conscious of risk-return trade-offs. This assessment is embedded in his though process. He contemplates every delivery for the perceived risk and return in the exact context: how’s the delivery like – what’s the risk involved – is the situation demanding. No wonder, he is never found ‘too correct for comfort’ or unduly slow. At the same time, he steers clear of rash strokes and waits for the right opportunities to free his arms (save for the very few occasions when he falters and so does India following the Tendulkar pattern) Both his aggression and defense are never hard coded functions of time, they change with situations. And he doesn’t let them get adversely impacted by the failures of his team mates.

Same holds true for stocks. It’s always recommended to consider every asset class, every entry and exit action, and every market situation matching Kohli’s pace and precision. Of course, things could go wrong against your expectations at times but never lose sight of the risk-return trade-off that influenced your choice of investments. In other words, you should never fix your portfolio without answering two fundamental questions: what’s your readiness to reshuffle it in the event of unforeseen circumstances and is it in line with your intrinsic risk appetite? Then you won’t mistake volatility for risk.

It’s imperative to manage the manageable about your investments. The markets can be elusive, economic cycles are beyond your control, but your financial goals and risk appetites are your own. One’s risk-taking ability is linked to the kind of person one is, not the kind of instrument. Often investors are risky, not the investments.

Build a wholesome portfolio

Unlike many cricketing stars that have developed their niche spaces, Kohli has stamped his authority in all three formats – Tests, 50 over format and T20s. His adaptability is of course superlative, as sparkling as his ability and agility, but his success is also because he has no preconceived notions about any format. So his core remains the same – he doesn’t throw caution to the winds just because it’s a T 20 game, nor does he turn a tortoise in tests. This way, he learns more about the real nuances of each format with that much more clarity that enriches his experience game after game. He can leverage this versatility for career progression as a failure in one format can be offset by the success in another.

Like Kohli, one needs to get rid of pre-conceived notions about equity, debt, real estate, gold and other asset classes. Each class has a unique value prop and follows different trajectories in line with governing market movements, so a balanced portfolio will most likely fetch you consistent returns over time through the collective churn of different asset classes. If one fails, the other will make good the loss or minimize it. That doesn’t mean you should buy a slice of all asset cakes or fake knowledge of intricate products like Futures & Options but you should be certainly be more open to learn more about as many in line with your financial capacity and innate interest. Who knows, you may find a new avenue of handsome gains. In any case, irrespective of your life situations, you always need predictable cash flows of fixed income instruments as well as the inflation-beating prowess of equity and real estate. Why not make the best of both worlds?

Update and upgrade all the time

Not only does Kohli think on his feet, he learns from past mistakes in real quick time. That’s precisely why the database of his weak spots, superb graphics notwithstanding, becomes redundant very fast as Kohli is ever conscious about weeding out the grey areas the moment he spots them or they are brought to his notice.

He’s a proud student of the game. He continuously works on his mindset, tries to probe deeper into the nuances of the game, and learns by observing other greats or discussing cricket with his coaches and even friends who wish to learn more about the game.

Investments also call for fast learning from past debacles, blunders, careless actions and even trivial errors. It could be anything – too many funds locked up in ‘year-end’ tax saver funds or bank FDs, too much or too little insurance, investment in asset classes or mutual fund schemes with the least idea of how they work, trusting tips and half-baked analysis more than sound research, holding on to duds and selling booming stocks at lower prices with contrary expectations in mind. Be a proud student of the game and you’ll have more clarity about where you tend to go wrong or succumb to the lure of windfall gains and short cut routes. The database of your weak spots will then require constant updation like in Kohli’s case. It will also be sparsely populated over time.

If investors emulate Kohli in true spirit, there’s no reason why they can’t celebrate success in true-blue Kohli style, minus the cuss words of course. That is one lesson you don’t need to learn from him, Virat will profusely agree with us. Happy planning! Happy investing!

See more at: http://www.indiainfoline.com/article/opinions/kohlinomics-investment-lessons-from-the-ace-cricketer-116032300240_1.html#sthash.lMgB7NGv.dpuf

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tete-a-tete with Pranav Anam, Founder, The Gene Box


Sudhir Raikar , IIFL | Mumbai | March 16, 2016 10:08 IST

“Put simply, genetic testing is most useful to individuals who are knowledgeable, curious about their genetic disposition, conscious about their health and who are capable of using this information in a prudent and proactive manner.”

- See more at: http://www.indiainfoline.com/article/editorial-perspectives-technology/tete-a-tete-with-pranav-anam-founder-the-gene-box-116031600246_1.html#sthash.Um2Hki8f.dpuf



How would you explain genetics in layman’s terms?

Genetics is largely about likelihood, akin to a weather forecast predicting a 60 per cent probability of rain, which means that given the evidence, chances of rain are higher, although there is a 40% chance that it may not rain. However, not all Genetics is like that. Certain genetic conditions called monogenic conditions carry cent per cent likelihood. In certain other conditions, it varies between 99% to 1%. Scientists often combine the likelihood of multiple genes to increase the certainty of likelihood for a certain event. The proper way to interpret genetic likelihood is to develop your awareness of your inborn susceptibilities and tendencies and verify them through other pieces of information to the extent possible, acting on the side of caution.

Can you elaborate with an example?

Assuming genetic tests reveal a higher likelihood of diabetes, one should look for family history of diabetes and also monitor blood glucose periodically. They should also take all possible preventive action to keep Diabetes at bay. Not all conditions are easy to spot through family history, like Diabetes. This is where wide-ranging genetic testing such as nutri-genomic profile, fitness profile and profile of other health conditions are highly helpful. Put simply, genetic testing is most useful to individuals who are knowledgeable, curious about their genetic disposition, conscious about their health and who are capable of using this information in a prudent and proactive manner.

How big is the genetic testing market?

The Genetic testing market, rapidly moving from a service driven model to product driven model, is expected to touch USD 2.2 billion by 2017. The US represents the largest market for genetic testing worldwide led by the fast growing importance of prognostic and predictive screening. Running parallel to the ‘provider market’, Genetic counseling services are on the rise. Notwithstanding its prolific growth over the years, the genetic testing industry faces two key challenges: one, lack of a fool-proof method to cater to individual needs given the vast differences in genetic structures and two, acute need for standard regulations for the genetic testing process.

What is The Gene Box?

The Gene Box (TGB) - http://www.thegenebox.com/ - is India’s first holistic health platform providing cost-effective nutrition and health care solutions and services based on wide-ranging genetic analytics. Genebox procures your saliva sample - in a special kit dispatched and collected from your home - and performs a series of core tests to determine your genetic constitution. Our comprehensive data analysis forms the basis for customized food and fitness recommendations across various age groups and health goals – from schools kids keen to excel in physical activities to senior citizens aspiring for a healthy lifestyle, from sports enthusiasts participating in marathons to professional athletes playing competitive sport.

What role does technology play in TGB?

TGB provides information on eight common lifestyle conditions that, proven research shows, are preventable through nutritional, exercise and lifestyle modifications suited to your genotype. Taking the genetic predisposition is crucial to your health plan as no two individuals are alike, except for identical twins although every individual receives DNA from his/her father and mother in equal proportions.

We use a technology called Genotyping that utilizes hundreds of DNA markers associated with lifestyle disorders that have been identified using Genome-wide association studies across the world. We process the test data through our unique algorithms to study your genotype and develop customized food and fitness plans in line with your health goals. Lifestyle diseases include atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke; obesity and type 2 diabetes; and those caused by smoking, alcohol & drug abuse. TGB, unlike most genetic testing players, does not subscribe to a one-size-fits-all approach. Our nutritional and fitness advice is necessarily based on the insights drawn from your genetic predisposition. Genetics technology is a relatively nascent but rapidly evolving field. In the near future, it’s inevitable that most individuals in one way or another would have experienced some level of genetic assessment. Currently, most genetic assessments are based on genotyping, which selectively looks at certain portions of the individual’s genes

What makes TGB unique given scores of providers claiming respective USPs?

Currently, the analysis and recommendations of most players in the nutrition and fitness industry are symptomatic in nature (solely focused on physical attributes like the individual’s body type and subjective interpretations of food and fitness habits and tendencies). No analysis is done to gauge whether the recommendations are in line with the individual’s genetic constitution.

Genebox does exactly the reverse – it studies the person’s food and fitness specifics in the guiding light of his/her genetic makeup thereby arriving at tailor-made recommendations that are free of generic conclusions or convenient conjectures. We also advise you on lifestyle diseases you are genetically prone to and how to keep them at bay. There are a few players who carry out genetic testing but they are focused on a Lab model that makes testing an end in itself. Genebox adopts a Consumer-centric delivery model, where testing is only a means to an end. We explore and exploit the test results to deliver the desired health results to the end consumer.

How does TGB’s USP help the end-consumers?

We are all unique in mind and body... We respond differently to the same diet plans or fitness routines, thanks to our genetic makeup. So when the makeup differs, how can the makeover be the same? TGB helps you identify the root cause of your health problems: if you are overeating, it may be because of the FTO gene that impairs the body’s feeling of fullness and Fibre & Protein-rich diet could help your cause. If you don’t seem to lose fat, your fat genes may be responsible and we can recommend special dietary and weight management program that boosts your fat loss in response to exercise. Your inability to build muscle could have resulted from your genetically low satellite cell activation. TGB can help put you on a highly focused training program, tailored diet and supplement regime in line with your genetic predisposition. TGB caters to the needs of three distinct consumer segments: one, budding sportspersons of schools, colleges and sports academies, two, active Healthcare spenders, organic food shoppers and fitness tracking device users and three, people with lifestyle disorders seeking generic food, fitness and wellness solutions.

Big Data, Bigger Names

Sudhir Raikar , IIFL | Mumbai | March 08, 2016 09:15 IST

Even as companies big and small are busy declaring their Big Data initiatives ahead of driving them, IIFL pays tribute to a few nonconformist champions – some central, other tangential – who together lend meaning and substance to the over chewed buzzword, thanks to their intuition, insights and inquisitiveness.




- See more at: http://www.indiainfoline.com/article/editorial-perspectives-technology/big-data-bigger-names-116030800132_1.html#sthash.6KGIry2R.dpuf

In a world of unabashed corporate antagonism, replete with umpteen “founding” and first-mover claims to breakthrough ideas, concepts or methodologies, certain mavericks stand out for their quiet authority.

Like computer scientist John Mashey, founder of the ASSIST assembler language teaching software and author of PWB Unix shell, or "Mashey Shell". He’s arguably believed to be the father of the term Big Data, having christened it in 1994 in a remarkably matter of fact fashion while he was chief scientist with Silicon Graphics, then a hot and happening Valley player working on Hollywood special effects and spy surveillance systems and hence playing with a lot of data.

Devoid of any academic attribution save for numerous technical talks, thankfully available on websites devoted to technical research, Mashey has only his unflinching conviction to fall back on. He doesn’t need to simply because he’s not staking any claim. Instead, he selflessly right sizes the imagination of people keen to confer the founding title on him, humbly summarising the coinage as only an attempt to settle on an all-inclusive phrase to convey the explosive growth and advancement in computing. This hiking, biking, skiing enthusiast is too busy with his intellectual and creative pursuits to seek reverence for his prescience. This introduction slide from one of his technical presentations (http://www.slideshare.net/amhey/big-data-yesterday-today-and-tomorrow-by-john-mashey-techviser) is a good window into his talent and temperament.




Like Gartner data analyst Douglas Laney, who first recalled Mashey’s name - in the context of big data - through a media correspondence. Douglas is the author of the 2001 pioneering research note 3-D Data Management: Controlling Data Volume, Velocity and Variety and among the earliest to discern that more than growing volumes, it was the data flow speeds, thanks to the collective handiwork of e-commerce and post-Y2k ERP application boom that posed a real challenge to data management teams worldwide. As expected, several vultures from the unabashedly ambitious market place claimed Laney’s research as their own, peddling muddled replications and variations of his 3-V (Volume, Velocity and Variety) framework. Laney’s retort befits his nonconformist nature. He’s posted the contents of his original paper (sadly no longer available in Gartner archives) “for anyone to reference and attribute”. Here it is: http://blogs.gartner.com/doug-laney/deja-vvvue-others-claiming-gartners-volume-velocity-variety-construct-for-big-data/

Like etymologist, editor and Yale researcher Fred Shapiro who traces the origin, development and spread of words as a means to study intellectual evolution, not for academic posterity.

Like University of Pennsylvania economist Francis X. Diebold, who initially claimed to have coined the term in his paper “Big Data Dynamic Factor Models for Macroeconomic Measurement and Forecasting,” but later wrote another research paper to humbly reverse the claim, circuitously acknowledging Mashey’s contribution. To quote him, “The term “Big Data,” which spans computer science and statistics/econometrics, probably originated in lunch-table conversations at Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) in the mid 1990s, in which John Mashey figured prominently.”

And last but not the least, like award-winning journalist Steve Lohr, author of the definitive software chronicle “Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists and Iconoclasts — The Programmers Who Created the Software Revolution” and “Data-ism: The Revolution Transforming Decision Making, Consumer Behavior, and Almost Everything Else.”

Mashey’s deep connect with Big data came to light through Lohr’s perceptive 2012 search for the term’s origins in loads and loads of digital archives. It was at Lohr’s behest that Shapiro dug out several digital references to trace the origin of Big Data. When he could not come up with anything conclusive, Lohr approached people with knowledge of the subject matter and Diebold and Laney were one of the many people to respond.

Unfazed by the inconclusive results of his hunt, Lohr kept it going, looking for the two words, not merely used as a pair, but used in a manner that would connote the essence as we know it today: massive volumes of structured and unstructured data that move too fast and call for new ways of management. Such usage, Lohr believed, could only be steered by someone with a computing context. Precisely why he zeroed in on Mashey, not on other intriguing but out-of-context references like these two lines from bestseller author Erik Larson’s Harper’s Magazine piece on mailbox junk spread by the direct-marketing industry: “The keepers of big data say they do it for the consumer’s benefit. But data have a way of being used for purposes other than originally intended.”

Hats off to Lohr for his inquisitive and informed search for the name of a phenomenon that’s a now a household name across spheres. Companies flaunting their smallest of Big Data initiatives would do well to learn from Mashey’s prolific nonchalance and Laney’s altruistic activism. Armed with the duo’s frame of mind, they would be in a better position to lock horns with the multihued Big Data challenges including curation, updation and integration. Read all about Lohr’s account in this dated but delightful piece: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/the-origins-of-big-data-an-etymological-detective-story/?_r=0 - See more at: http://www.indiainfoline.com/article/editorial-perspectives-technology/big-data-bigger-names-116030800132_1.html#sthash.6KGIry2R.dpuf

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Health care in India: Gasping for breath


Sudhir Raikar, IIFL | Mumbai | March 14, 2016 09:19 IST



A new health protection scheme providing a cover of Rs. 1 lakh per family, with top-up for senior citizens, Prime Minister’s Jan Aushadhi Yojana for providing generic drugs at affordable prices, National Dialysis Services Programme to make dialysis affordable and accessible in the same breath, all these are indeed heartening budget pronouncements. But are they adequate and effective, especially for a country with the highest tuberculosis deaths, maximum still born cases and the lowest per capita health care spending among BRICS countries? Despite India’s adoption of Global Monitoring Framework on non-communicable diseases (NCD), about 60 per cent of deaths in India are NCD cases, with one among every four Indians at a risk.

The conventional symptomatic approach of the government – whether current or previous – of focusing on end-stage ailments, not their root causes - which include diabetes, high BP, hypertension, malnutrition and substance abuse and a host of other fatal triggers – has always proved self defeating beyond a point. We all know the state of primary and community health centers in India, which are invariably short of specialist doctors and devoid of even the most basic facilities at many places. On paper, these centers serve the poor but in practice; the poor are forced to rely on the private setup which is almost always exorbitantly priced.

Notwithstanding the 2016 budget provisions, health care is yet deprived of high-impact spends - whether in terms of infrastructure development, better access to health care services or significant insurance coverage. If pro-poor was the agenda, this sector’s priorities should have been right on top. The idea of sustainability that India pledges allegiance to on every forum is simply not possible without a healthy India – literally healthy we mean.

There’s no concrete plan either to improve the number of specialist medical experts in government hospitals, nor any scheme to improve their infrastructure. Privatizing Health care is fraught with risks in India even if one assumes the legitimacy of government intentions to promote it. As it is, many private hospitals are trying to emulate the hospitality model of BLD packages rather than focus on providing fundamental care. Umpteen hospitals and clinics in India have been reduced to insurance companies profiting from the fear of death and disease which, at best, allow mere scientific possibilities to dictate the patient’s curative and palliative ordeal.

We don’t negate the value of private participation – especially in the areas of telemedicine, digital document management and archival, R & D in biotechnology, integrated manufacturing and product quality control systems – but the government can’t shrug its responsibility, watching the action, or the lack of it, from the sidelines, more content to underline its role as a catalyst, rather than playing it.

‘Make in India’, Skill Development and ‘Start up Stand up India’ have the biggest role to play in improving health care facilities & infrastructure as also stimulate action in key areas including manufacture of active pharma ingredients. The government should provide as many fiscal and tax incentives to build traction in this low-key if not neglected space. Letting bidis remain cheaper is clearly not one of them.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Vijaynagar - The Forgotten Khomong By Dr. Y A Raikar


The booklet Vijaynagar: The Forgotten Khomong by Dr. Y A Raikar is about Vijaynagar in the Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh, the eastern-most portion of the country surrounded by the Burmese territory from three sides. The booklet unfolds the historical import of this place as revealed by the archaeological excavation carried out in April 1971.

The PDF copy of the book can be downloaded for free. Look atop the left side bar of this blog.

Indian History: A Study in Dynamics by Dr. Y A Raikar


Excerpt from Dr. Raikar's doctoral thesis....




"What is the meaning of Indian History?"

A survey of Indian history from the earliest times would reveal how closely our history follows the pattern laid down by geography, and how the vertical and horizontal developments, blended with the recurrent foreign penetration, go into the making of the personality of India. The Indian sub-continent has been since time immemorial a melting pot of conflicting races and civilizations. The story of Indian culture is one of continuity and conflict, with attempts of reconciliation and synthesis. Challenging forces have often made violent inroads, disturbing its continuity and intensifying the conflict.

Indian history has been a continuous conflict between centrifugal and centripetal forces. The centripetal or the pan-Indian forces represent the horizontal movement of certain cultural traits and operate wherever there exists a strong central power. On the other hand, the centrifugal ones have a tendency to assert themselves during the decay of the central authority. But while doing so, they disturb the vertical unity of the physical and cultural regions.

Under the pressure of invasions - whether the result of population movements or military raids of ambitious generals - the centripetal forces were weakened but the centrifugal ones went into nurturing the regional cultures of India. An immediate fillip was provided to the vernacular languages in the course of evolution and hence we find the growth of language-centric cultures, not race-defined. This aspect is often lost sight of and the whole period is condemned as one of decadence.

------

Dr. Yashvant A Raikar, a field archaeologist, taught and did research at the M S University of Baroda (1965-68). Thereafter, he held responsible positions in the Research Department of the Government of Arunachal Pradesh and traveled extensively along the North East Border. To his credit are: Dynamics of Indian History (Baroda 1960), The Forgotten Khomong (1974), Ita Fort (1976), Archaeology of Arunachal Pradesh (1980) besides several articles and reports. He was awarded Governor's Gold Medal for Meritorious Service in Arunachal Pradesh.

From 1980 to 1986, he was with the Nehru Centre, Mumbai, involved in the Discovery of India Exposition. Post retirement, his main interest was in studying the mysteries, enigmas and elusive aspects of Indian life armed with a holistic historical approach.

News-as-a-Service


News-as-a-Service
IIFL | Mumbai | August 31, 2015 09:18 IST
While content aggregation is clearly the need of the hour, it’s only the quality of curation that would make the success of news aggregation and curation apps sustainable in the long run. News Republic shows immense promise on this front given the sterling conviction of its founder.



Way back in the ancient times, the spoken word was supposed to say it all. Any public cause or campaign thrived on the charisma of the orator leader. Rhetoric was the key to influence masses. With the advent of printing and publishing technology, oratory took a back seat. The whole of twentieth century was dominated by the print media. The written word became a potent, powerful tool at the hands of those who could read and write. This new tribe knowingly and unknowingly gained dominant positions. Our fourth estate, with notable exceptions, is largely a product of this feudal psyche and has virtually made the commoditization of news as a virtual monopoly for long – initially as the moral police and concomitantly as moral judiciary. Even the electronic and web media despite their ubiquity and 24/7 reach could never challenge this authority, thanks to the cocoon of native protection - a joint patronage of political and business powers-that-be and their sordid ethos.

It’s therefore heartening to note the growing import of content aggregation and curation tools – popularly offered as mobile apps – which are doing an admirable job of bringing aggregated relevant content which they claim to carefully curate in line with the given context. While the claim must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny, there’s a definitely a potent collaboration happening here – between the algorithms responsible for the breathtaking aggregation, filtering and ranking of humungous, all pervading content and the human intervention for its validation and repurposing. We can’t think of a better blend of man and machine to serve a large cause where the human curator – a specialist in organizing, illustrating, repurposing and repackaging content with unflinching focus on the big picture – holds the key. The semantic technologies, no matter how wonderful they are, are not the differentiating factor. It’s only the intelligent human intervention that can make the content truly actionable – with a host of value-adds including purposeful reordering, re-titling, summarization, bias-freeing, referencing and smart syndication ahead of mere crap or pattern detection. Compare this potent curation with the conventional curation in print – a mere compilation from news wire agencies, news bureaus and direct reportage – and we get a fair idea of the premium on offer, that comes mostly free for common internet users.

Of all innovative news aggregators, News Republic (http://www.news-republic.com/) stands out - not for its technology or the range of news topics or its user-friendly interface – but for the sterling conviction of its founder Gilles Raymond. One can question the granularity of News Republic’s topic-wise elaboration or the depth and width of its news sources, but not the founder’s credence. Thanks to his IN-FUSIO and Mobilescope successes, he’s quite an authority on the mobile space and appears to be in a great position to measure the immensity of India’s mobile-only potential. Even a cursory glance at his thoughts in the public domain will tell you he’s quite adept at sense-making – a MUST-HAVE attribute for a content aggregating news service.

For instance, in one thought piece on the trials and tribulations of immigrants, he aptly observes, “Being an immigrant gives you an external, objective view on the country welcoming you, and also, after few months, on the country you left behind….For an immigrant, almost overnight, everything that was acquired as absolute truth becomes irrelevant in the new country. It is a complete loss of reference that has to be rebuilt as fast as possible for your survival. For the newcomer, from now to the coming years it is a daily practice of his “Darwin Intelligence”. This insight, more than semantic technology, is the key to unfolding the dynamic, essence and credence of evolving countries which are often slotted under the common name of developing countries.

In an illuminating tete-a-tete with Business Standard, he hits bull’s eye when he says, “Our mission is to spark global conversations about issues that matter. And no global conversation is complete without India.”

For umpteen years, newspapers were the ultimate source of definitive news and a handful of them did an admirable job of asking tough questions, challenging the establishment and lending neutral support to rebels, crusaders and activists. But somewhere down the line, media itself became an establishment – a fortified estate with its own agenda – where the prejudice of advertorials became more precious than the pride of editorials. After the internet gained traction and momentum as a news broadcasting vehicle, different variants of the infamous cut-copy-paste technology made the hotchpotch of borrowed wisdom more respectable than the exclusivity of original thought. There was now a thin line of difference between the ownership of the media house and its management and of course there’s no SEBI here to probe the conflicts of interest. Safeguarding citizen interest, barring few exceptions, is more about closing the stable door after the horse has bolted for most media outfits –even as a matter of policy in some cases. Worse, the undivided attention is now to make the trivial sound like monumental.

No wonder, the quality and credibility of news suffers fatal wounds which won’t ever heal with the band-aid measures that some outfits adopt merely to prove they are different from the rest. Indian media, whether print or electronic, has lost much of its credence as news is now a mindless compilation of views with a glaringly lop-sided focus on Bollywood, Food, Astrology and Cricket, all fixations conveniently blamed on ‘market diktats’. Like how the hero and heroine of today’s Bollywood flicks have made the comedian and the vamp redundant – both specialist roles in yester year films - high-flying editors and celeb journalists of the mainstream tribe have now turned full-fledged film critics, cricket experts (none of the calibre of stalwarts like N Ram) and food and travel connoisseurs. But this is not what makes the tragedy truly Greek. That trigger emanates from Western shores.

It hurts to see how over the years the Western media has always looked at India with suitably tinted spectacles. Although the stories of Time, The Economist and Bloomberg Businessweek are a cut above the rest (read East) in terms of credence and comprehensiveness if not always conviction, the intractable focus is invariably on the emblematic third world issues of poverty, deprivation, exploitation, unemployment and corruption besides a host of rehashed success stories conveniently handpicked from the basket of native media coverage. As a rule, China gets more weightage than India when it comes to in-depth stories in each of these publications.

Agreed, India is a rich storehouse of staple issues under popular tags like Poverty, Deprivation, Unemployment, Bollywood, Cricket and Software, there's a new India across the length and breadth of the country with astonishing tales of trials and triumph that makes a better claim to put India in perspective. The real non-conformists provide the real stories, the kind that Discovery channel covers with amazing regularity.

There’s not even an iota of doubt that the web covers them best across spheres - sports or films, polity or social sphere, government or industry, healthcare or education. Countless blogs, webzines and news portals cover a mixed bag of little known news, happenings and people of universal reckoning, whether deserving reverence or defiance or both. Of course, some of it is trash but this is where a quality scavenger makes all the difference in separating the wheat from the chaff, an intelligent and dexterous job, which is often erroneously equated with cherry-picking. We have reason to believe News Republic can become such a scavenger provided it takes the effort to find and feed a fair share of nutritious and actionable content about India which can stem from the most unlikely of places - not necessarily rural or silver-screened, not necessarily about naked children or about meteoric executive-to-global-CEO elevations. Offer plenty of choice for the reader, only then go about improvising based on user response. Don’t hard code or restrict your categorized offerings based on your personal reading of the news appetite and preferences of the general public. Making strategic inroads into the wealth of regional media (steering clear of the garbage) is one way of facilitating this treasure hunt. Merely calling India news-hungry won’t suffice.

Raymond appears to be one of the very few democratic media barons who firmly believes news is much more than a commodity and hence calls for innovative ways to facilitate its holistic and seamless access. News Republic is clearly a player to watch out for, not just for its headline news, additional links or tagging system but for the promise it holds in India and for India.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

My Father - A stream-of-consciousness tribute


Thanks to an unimaginably difficult childhood and countless instances of injustice inflicted by mean, insular and insensitive superiors throughout his rich and varied employment tenure - whether as an academician, school teacher, professor, research officer or director, not to mention scores of odd, one-off jobs he did for a living - the real worth of his timeless work was never recognized in full measure. And he never believed in promoting his cause despite winning the admiration of and endorsement from renowned scholars like A L Basham of the University of London (and later Head of Department of Oriental Civilization at The Australian National University), Robert Bosc, S.J of the Institut Cath-olique de Paris, Institut d’Etudes Sociales, Action Populaire, France, Dr. J M Mehta, Vice-Chancellor, M S University Baroda, legendary geographer O H K Spate, eminent historians R N Mehta, D C Sircar and Professor Herbert J Wood and noted scholar A D Pusalker. His chart on the Dynamics of Indian History showing the operation of the Centripetal and Centrifugal forces in political history won critical appreciation from the world over.

These accolades did little to boost his official status in government, semi-government and private organizations alike. To make matters worse was his inherent inability to converse with the people at large. Many among them proactively came closer on the pretext of knowing him better. This often made him an hapless victim of hidden agendas and ulterior motives. The media and publishing tribe was no exception, conveniently drawing insights from him but force-fitting them in frameworks of their conceited and constricted minds, and, creative and counterproductive machinations. Somewhere the wounds of these experiences had left him scarred deep within. The most tragic fallout of this quandary was that he was neither able to spell out the Utopian independence he craved for all his life, nor could he ever measure his own greatness, often reaching out to the wrong people, trading instinct for intellect and vice versa in forging suspect relationships, largely ignoring the security checks to validate the trustworthiness and genuineness of the staged affinities extended from the other side.

Add to that the long list of his manufactured eccentricities, more the result of sheer dejection than any inherent tendency, that forced him to develop a coconut-like disposition. Those who cared to see through, and look beyond, the hard shell were generously blessed with the sweet nectar of his pioneering thoughts - insightful observations on matters of life and death and a remarkably detached, holistic scholarship that knew no bounds of academic or professional disciplines. As his children, we did manage to make a few inroads in several 24 carat moments of togetherness but there's no denying the fact that we largely failed to look at things from his perspective, ridiculously consumed by our circumstantial preoccupations all along. Such learnings, rooted in unconditional acknowledgment, unfortunately happen only in hindsight.

Amidst all this, something extraordinary happened during the last three days - as he was sapped of energy in a seemingly rapid onset of sodium loss as the doctors suspect in a convenient conjecture, he became exceptionally soft and mild mannered and we saw glimpses of my mom in his gestures and utterances. It's our good fortune that the three days had us wrapped together in a celestial bond of a lifetime that can only be experienced, never described. Towards the evening of the third day on 11th November, he was hospitalized for what looked like a case of chest congestion. Looking at his condition, we had given up all hopes but he came back in a miraculous recovery which we could sense was short-lived. Nevertheless, throughout 12th and 13th, as he went through scores of ups and downs, we had rich, fulfilling conversations that were amiss all this while.

My mom, although timid by nature all her life, won over her cancer when she called me and held my hand before she breathed her last. So we were more than sure something similar was planned for dad. And we were not disappointed. We have no reason to complain - for we were blessed with eleven wholesome years with him post my mother's demise knowing fully well that he was prepared to leave this world long before her exit.

Doctors could never confirm the exact cause of his demise but we know he timed his death in a manner befitting his sterling character. All his life, he played with words in a world of his own and the Jacques Derridas, Edward Saids, Bertrand Russells, Karl Poppers, Narhar Kurundkars, N C Kelkars and Dharmanand and Damodar Kosambis would have surely come to his rescue as he was going through the motions of the final act. No wonder, he was fully alert and mindful of everything till the very last.

To borrow his own words:

आता सरसावून पुढे जायचे नाही
केव्हा सरेल वाट ठाऊक नाही
पण चरैवेति चरैवेति
शिकायचंय अजून बरच काही...

No more putting my
best foot forward
for the dead-end lurks
around the corner
But I keep going,
keep going
for there's much yet to
learn and garner




Mumbai Known and Unknown - Dr. Y. A. Raikar


Thanks to the tremendous response from inquisitive minds across the globe, we are moving this page to a full-fledged site http://wheretogoindia.com/ The value-added, voluminous content is now bursting at the seams of this poor blog. Hate to leave this space but the shift is inevitable. For any queries, contact pariraikar@gmail.com

Today's Times of India carries a piece titled Mumbai - The Unknown by Nergish Sunavala & Ram on vintage statues of the colonial era that were dispatched to Mumbai's Bhau Daji Lad Museum . A rather sweet coincidence that their title and contents match those of this blog post. Given the falling standards of journalism in India, the coincidence seems suspect but we still give them the benefit of doubt. My dad would have done the same had he been around.

Dr Y A Raikar: Excavation in Lower Dibang Valley, Arunachal Pradesh








The archaeological background of Lower Dibang Valley district is traceable from the pre-historic period. Exploratory works of the Europeans and their Indian counterparts in this region made it possible to understand the long history of the district. Among the prominent explorers Captain Gregory found a Neolithic implement called rounded Butt Axe from the Mishmi Hills.

Dr. Y.A. Raikar of the Research department, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh collected three triangular Ground Axes and one Bar type polished broken celt during the excavation works at Bhismaknagar in 1970-71.

The Rukmini Nati (Ruins of Rukmini) named by Dr. Y A Raikar, officer-in-charge of the excavation, is situated at the heart of Chimiri village which is approximately 12 km from Roing. This is an hill-fort presumably of 14th/15th century. You find the remains of burnt and baked bricks, which indicates the progress of the erstwhile civilization. The legend, associated with the site tells that “Rukmininati” was the Palace of Princess Rukmini, the daughter of King Bhismak.

Excavation conducted at the site in 1972-73 reveals structure of two rooms measuring 10m x 10m x 12m, made of bricks up-to plinth level. About 19 kms from Roing at Injonu village a stone image of Ganesha was unearthed. It was made of granite rock, measuring 44 inches high and 27.5 inches wide. It clearly represents a pot bellied Ganesha in a seating posture. Of the four arms, the lower right is broken from wrist and other three arms are depicted with weapons like hand axe, conch etc. The mahout of Ganesha, the rat is also depicted at the bottom right of the image. There is a spiral line of decoration all along the boarder of the stelae. From the stylistic aspect, its antiquity could be placed in the 9th/10th century A.D.

Courtesy: http://roing.nic.in/archaeology.htm

PS: I had shown this web reference to him while he was around. His response was inimitable: a poker-faced look signifying "So What?"


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