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Nassim Taleb on Euro

"EURO IS DOOMED AS A CONCEPT", declares the author of "The Black Swan", Nassim Taleb, at a recent interview with CNBC. Adding that "We had less debt cumulatively [two years ago], and more people employed. Today, we have more risk in the system, and a smaller tax base. [...] Banks balance sheets are just as bad as they were" two years ago when the crisis began and "the quality of the risks hasn't improved." Part I: While discussing the outlook for the global economy with Bob Long (CEO, Conversus Capital) on CNBC, Taleb says, "We have no other solution but to slash debt". Part II: "The balance sheets of banks are just as bad as they were" two years ago when the crisis began and "the quality of the risks hasn't improved," argues Nassim Taleb.

Infographic: Labour Cost Disparities

DISPARITIES OF LABOR COSTS: Interesting Infographic showing how long does it take other countries to make the equivalent of US minimum wage of USD 15,080. Click the image to enlarge Source: FixR With respect to India, the calculation considers the Government recommended minimum daily wage which is about USD 2.5. In practice, a common worker shall make double to three times of this amount, which is still very less compared to high cost regions but it would make the ratio less skewed. Further, if Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) is considered, the difference between USA and India costs shall be about 6 years and 3 months.

Goldman Sachs Under Siege (For Doing Good?)

FT point out: - clueless senators falling over one another to score cheap political points but the sense that outrage against bankers in general, and Goldman in particular, has reached unhealthy levels . - for millions of home owners and investors psychologically unable to admit at least partial fault for succumbing to the madness of crowds and lure of easy money . - [an older client on the respect for the firm] 1982 when Puerto Rican nationalists bombed Merrill Lynch’s Manhattan headquarters. “Didn’t they know all the money and brains are at Goldman?” And, finally, - some even wonder whether the group’s perceived Jewishness has infected legitimate criticism of it with centuries-old prejudices. See also: Go here for the FT article. Go here for a follow up by TT Ram Mohan in ET.

"Jugaad" - More Than A Fad?

BusinessWeek RAN A STORY LAST MONTH that focused on "Jugadh" and termed it as the new mantra for innovation. Colleagues and clients not too familiar with the Indian culture tried seeking second opinions on the word. Observers commented on the topic from the world over. Some compared the term with Quality techniques such as Lean and Keizen - doing more, with less . Others saw it as the new Agile. Jugadh or Jugaad was considered by the Economist as the latest cost-cutting technique in Asia. WSJ wrote that Jughad is the primary reason why Indian economy remained insulated in the recent Global economic down-turn. Someone else commented that ISB at Hyderabad conducts special workshops to tool executives with Jugadh, also citing the inclusion of the term in the management consulting arsenal . The original title of the article looked at "Jugadh" as the next big export from India. After due considerations and with due respect to all the views, "Jugadh" is a f

Malthusian Matters(?)

GOLDMAN SACHS PROJECTS THAT India’s middle class will outstrip China’s by 2045. This is some 15 years after half of China’s population becomes either too old or too young to be part of the workforce. Perhaps instant-ness of contemporary life induces a certain myopia. Social media - twitter , FB, and other "self trumpets" - may make one feel that 2045 is too far away to be bothered about. And perhaps that's true for some as well, those who would want to die out soon, but 35 years is a fairly short turn around time by economic standards. Malthusian Matters (pun intended), and stands nonetheless to see another day, another argument. See also: Go here for more on Malthusian catastrophe . Go here for more on this interesting article at Reuters.

Mushroom Theory Leadership

Mushroom Management Theory: Keep employees in the dark and fearful, feed them manure and dung, watch them grow and when they grow enough, get them canned. (try here for more at urban dictionary) IN QUITE A CONTRAST TO THE PREVIOUS post on model leadership , this is not only a different type of leadership, it is found being practices widely as well. Referencing their publication for this month (June 2009), John Landry of Harvard Business Review writes that Lehman would not have happened if they would have allowed a freer flow of information, or made it easier for employees to raise their concerns. Industry observers have drawn parallels of Lehman explosion with implosions of Enron and WorldCom citing the same "keeping in dark" issues where information is not shared. But before that, a brief 'story':

Depicting Consumption Behaviour in the Recession Era

INTERESTING ILLUSTRATION OF CONSUMPTION BEHAVIOUR in the recession era by Armano on his personal blog Logic + Emotion based on a recent article on the topic in The Economist . Here is Armano's post, and here is the original write-up at The Economist.

Language, Commerce, and Google Translate

WILL DURANT CHRONICLED IN HIS HISTORICAL COMPILATIONS THAT ancient trade provided the necessity for the invention of the alphabets. A theory contested by many, but not rejected in its entirety. In this guest post, my friend and Language Technology researcher Jason M. Adams discusses the mutual history of language and commerce by looking at some of the ways that each has been changed by the other and how they will continue to shape each other going forward. * * * Commerce is a human convention deeply entwined with language. Economic motivations were among the many reasons ancient (and modern) empires conquered other lands, spreading their languages beyond their natural range. Traders would travel to distant lands, encountering speakers of exotic languages. Recent study of the immediate commerce and trade (focusing mainly around the era of last 500 years of European Maritime expansion) describes the exchange of languages at trade as follows: In cases where bilingual speakers were few t

Meltdown Graphics

SOME OF THE INTERESTING GRAPHICS recently found at certain online sources, two of which are real and one is creative. [Stock prices of three of the UK's largest banks bite dust. The most hit is Fred's RBS , which was eroded close to Zero pence. source: Economist.com ] [Three talk-of-the-doom-town financial phenomena: Long Tail , Tipping Point , and the Black Swan . source: Longtail.com ] [Fall of capitalism and the *new* United States by c.2010 (Or, apparently, Divided States?). source: WSJ.com ]

Britain Officially Slips into Recession

ONLY A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO, THE (SO CALLED) LEADERSHIP of the stalwarts from the land of the birth of modern finance and capitalism, namely the money streets of London, seem to show the way to the world, yet again. Leading economists from across the Atlantic cried to pay attention to the novel strategy through which the Britons claimed to wager a turnaround of the global financial crisis: by partnering the financial institutes and banks, not just bailing them out. Today, Reuters shows the data declaring that Britain is officially under recession [See Right. Source: Reuters.com] . Now, there doesn't seem to be a consensus on why this happened in spite of all that happened. Nobody seems to be knowing what's going on, where it came from, taking us where. And apparently, Taleb would be having a laugh. But loosing Sterling suddenly could be much harder than the steady weakening US Dollar - it would probably mean that the hedge would become the target; cover is blown. When George

The Financial Crisis: Who Let the Dogs Out

THE DEAL.COM HAS THIS USEFUL illustration explaining at a high-level chain of events leading to the current US financial crisis. The editor chose to describe it as chain-of-fools: [Above: TheDeal.com illustration of chain-of-events leading to the US Financial crisis.] The TIME MAGAZINE for this week features "Depression 2.0" through the following front-page across all editions worldwide. As the cover-story, economist Niall Ferguson narrates why it may not happen: [Above: A B&W photo of depression-era Free soup line in the U.S. featuring as the cover page of 13 Oct 2008 issue of the Time mag.] Update: Embedded this interesting video on the (simplified) explanation on "Crisis of Credit". The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis . See also: Related article: Sub-prime Crisis for Dummies . Go here for WIRED.COM version of "economic explanations [of the crisis] even we could understand" targeted towards the techie community.

The Financial Crisis: Explanations

HERE IS AN HONEST STATEMENT OF ALL by Kedrosky and so I found an echo in his words below - especially the last line: I pity [US] taxpayers wandering into the credit crisis story at this point. It is absurdly complex, and centers on a subject that most people neither care about nor understand. And the last time they looked in they were told this was about subprime and housing, which it no longer is -- at least not in large part. Instead, it is a costly and complex saga involving the unwinding of global credit markets, overlaid with debt syndication, new derivatives, the collapse of the investment banking business, the changing nature of leverage, flawed risk models, structured finance, greed, the housing bacchanalia, savings, paranoia about prior credit crises, and the paradox of thrift. Don't forget, of course, populist political pandering in an election year. Is it any wonder that most of even the most well-intentioned commentary on the current crisis sounds clueless, unhelpful

Lehman Bros Files for Bankruptcy Protection

THE 158 YEARS OLD INVESTMENT BANK FROM THE WALL ST. was finally 'allowed' to go bankrupt by the Federal Govt. By one observation time was against Lehman on two accounts - plenty as well as too short: on one hand, time was too short for them to find a suitable buyer and thus save filing for bankruptcy protection; on the other hand, their stakeholders were considered to have sufficient time to make appropriate arrangements and were thus considered fit to fend for themselves (and go bankrupt... Unlike in the case of Bear Stearns which was prevented from going bankrupt by being 'purchased' by JP Morgan and thus its stakeholders were rather spared). It is not perhaps how large Lehman is and the impact it would generate; the real point to ponder is - is it the first is line? and, who would be next? Also, is the market at large really ready for a new phase of consolidation? What is with the rumors of BofA and Merrill Lynch merger? And while there is enough flux in motion,

Five Lessons from Sub-prime Crisis

PHILIP J. PURCELL, FORMER CEO AND CHAIRMAN OF MORGAN STANLEY, proposed the big five lessons for bankers coming out of the current Sub-prime crisis of the US. For the record, during Mr. Purcell's tenure as CEO at Morgan Stanley for eight years the firm attained following milestones at the close of 2004: #1 in global equity trading #1 in global equity underwriting in 2004 for first time since 1982 #1 global IPO market share in 2004 #2 in global debt underwriting in 2004, with steady gains since late '90s #2 in completed global M&A in 2004 Mr. Purcell resigned from Morgan Stanley in 2005, and has since founded a private equity firm called Continental Investors LLC. Following are the 'lessons' that he recently discussed through an article in FT: i) profits matter more than revenues ( sales ) ii) compensation should be based on profits, margins and return on equity over time, not current year revenues iii) leverage works not just on the upside but on the downside

Sub-prime Crisis for Dummies

THE CLOUD OF SUB-PRIME CRISIS JUST GOT HEAVIER, DARKER AND LARGER. The New York Times reported that the Federal Government may assume direct control of the two of the biggest mortgage-finance companies in the US to bail them out: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two have nearly 45% of mortgage market share between them, and could potentially tank about USD 5 trillion if they go down. On the other hand, the bail-out of this magnitude might blow away credibility of USD, and imperilling the Fed budget. [Left: Nose-dive - from USD 70 per share last year to USD 9 per share. source: Reuters.com] There is a sense of politics being involved since the NYT report of "nationalization" came out earlier this week. This further took a large chip off the share prices of both and the decline continued for the whole week in spite of confident building reports from the promoters. Fannie Mae's stock, for one, has lost most of its value, swooning from peaks around $70 in August 2007 to

Who Pockets the Extra Money I Pay For Gas?

THERE IS NO PLACE CALLED "KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY" in the world as of now. But perhaps it wouldn't be long before we see a spot on Google Earth with such a name having 3 million in population, partly thanks to the sky-rocketing Oil prices. Interesting Headlines: "The Crude At Rude Prices" and "Oil Crises called Oil Prices" The crude prices reached a historical record USD 145 per barrel - nearly doubling compared to the previous year. A barrel holds 42 US gallons or about 159 litres of crude oil, making it USD 0.91 for 1 litre - almost double from USD 0.44 per dollar last year. This is the purchasing price of crude oil from the OPEC countries, and is not yet usable. The actual process is much more complicated, but at a very high level, it follows steps like transport it, refine it, process it, transport it again, store it, distribute it and make available at the local gas station. This adds additional costs to the original purchase price of Oil.

"The Beautiful Mind" Turns 80

"The special commodity or medium that we call money has a long and interesting history. And since we are so dependent on our use of it and so much controlled and motivated by the wish to have more of it or not to lose what we have we may become irrational in thinking about it and fail to be able to reason about it as if about a technology, such as radio, to be used more or less efficiently..." -- John F. Nash , lecture at CII in Mumbai, Feb 2007 IF THE WORLD IS CONSIDERED A "CLOSED SYSTEM", deeming it a Zero-sum game, Nash Equilibrium could certainly offer a different meaning to the notion of money, and thus, to the word richness or net-worth and the world economy. [Today, June 13, John F. Nash, Jr. turns 80. A humble tribute to the 1994 Nobel Laureate legend.] Arguably, the Nash equilibrium is the single game theoretic solution concept that is most frequently applied in economics. In terms of strategy and planning, the equilibrium could be simplified as

The Green Wall of China

TODAY, JUNE 5, IS THE WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY . It is an open secret that China is the biggest abuser of environment in the world. Most of the manufacturing in China uses coal-burning furnaces, and that one single industry equals more than the most the whole of Europe in terms of CO2 emission. At the same time, China is the single largest country to have invested the most - USD 8 bn - into planting trees. Criticised yet again though it is doing some serious spend, the reason is rather different from a change-of-heart or accountability or even a soft-corner for environment. Beijing, its capital is being subjected to sand storms so frequently that the Chinese have already coined a term for it - Yellow Dragon. Sand from this area have already started crossing the Pacific and reaching Americas. [Above: an artist's impression of the Green wall of trees stopping the Gobi desert in its tracks.] This is the Gobi desert from Mongolia making inroad into China at an alarming pace - claiming

My Net-worth is in Millions Already!

WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE AMONG MILLIONAIRES? If you are in IT in India, perhaps you already are! First, some bullet-points about the global and Indian IT industry that got me thinking: Indian Software Industry is approx 66% of Worldwide Software Services Top 6 Indian IT Companies makes of approx. 50% of total Indian IT Industry In terms of sales among these top six (in descending order of reported figures for 2007 - TCS, Wipro, Infosys, Cognizant, Satyam, and HCL), the first three clocks almost 60% Now, a Forrester Research forecast reports says that the total Global IT spend (IT industry potential) is projected to be at USD 1.55 trillion in 2007-08. Wow! A quick back of an envelop analysis reveals some pretty interesting monetarily figures. (above: rather front of the envelop; the back was already taken by the groceries' list...) Enjoy: Global IT industry at USD 1.55 tn (2007) ↓ 66% of it is served by companies in India ↓ 50% of which is with the top 6 players of India i.e. 33% of g

"Fred the Shred" under the weather?

THEY CALL HIM "FRED THE SHRED...". If you count "few good men" who took the lead in the "rationalisation" of workforce in the conservative European banking and Financial services, Fred has to be in the front row. Sir Frederick Anderson Goodwin, remained in the news in Europe, mainly Britain, for his often visionary yet unorthodox methods of running Britain's second largest Banking group. After he assumed control, the RBS groups, perhaps for the first time, saw a rather American-styled cost-cutting, or Shredding as the Britons prefer to call it. Managing nearly 1000 people worldwide at the age of 32, the acumen more than the aggression made Fred the CEO of the Clydesdale Bank at the age of 36. He has been quoted as famously saying, "I have no time for cynics, spectators or dead wood". And as we speak, being with the RBS group, he is the longest serving CEO in the FTSE-100 index. (That precisely makes me wonder if the pool underneath is in