The “all-screen” Addiction


I am not a TV watcher or movie goer.

I rarely go for movies (on the average once in six months) in a theatre, or watch soap operas. I occasionally see CNN or CNBC or BBC on the home TV, more because I like the anchor or the presenter rather than the content of the news. Most news that I consume is via iPhone apps anyway, so I am more or less current on global affairs anyway.

However, after the advent of NetFlix which I have subscribed to (on behalf of the family of course), there have been some change in my behavioural pattern. I liked a few of the original NetFlix serials and a few movies. Initially, I used to see once per week. Later, it became twice and thrice a week, as I could not resist the urge to know more about the next episode of a particular serial. While movies can be had in one sitting of mostly less than 2 hours, serials can drive you towards serious addiction, as multiple episodes would generally be available for viewing at one go – which means you can sit through some 3 to 4 episodes, each spanning some 45 minutes. And, you are never happy and “complete” as there are many more episodes of the same serial still pending for your viewing and ultimate pleasure.

I must have seen at least 10 serials over the past 6 months or so – some of these are not finished, still continuing and I have not completed the viewing though multiple unviewed episodes are available for my viewing. I have more or less stopped seeing NetFlix movies, as my general rating is not more than 3.0 out of 5.0 for most of the movies. But serials have been good and absorbing, though I felt that several of these were unnecessarily dragging on without closure – similar to the Tamil language TV serials in multiple TV channels in Tamil Nadu (and elsewhere in India).

I think, by now, I have developed an addiction for NetFlix serials. What this means is simple – if I have nothing else to do, I tend toward NetFlix viewing, there seems to be not much else to do. This is wrong, and this is how bad addictions start (all addictions are bad). I have to shake myself off NetFlix, but sometimes I feel that I am paying for it, so I have to at least see some – get some viewing on NetFlix as my “share” of the overall family viewing experience and cost amortization. This is an useless argument, as we all know. Like cigarette or drug use, it is hard to drop TV addiction once you start liking and enjoying it. We do nothing while seeing TV or NetFlix – we are dumbos avidly lapping up the dishes served on the screen. Is this a good thing? No, not at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if clinics/hospitals/ashrams start NetFlix de-addiction programs and charge people a bomb for it, as most folks are getting sucked into NetFlix – especially in countries like India where the pricing is very low. In many countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, etc., mobile data consumption has shot up in a huge manner due to video viewing on mobiles by people of all demographics, especially millennials.

I am also addicted to YouTube – I see Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers every morning (my time) on my iPhone, and also see other stand-up comedians like Russell Peters, Rowan Atkinson, Hasan Minhaj, et al………again, I could not resist this simple temptation – after all it is some 30 minutes during my early morning hours. But then, I have created a pattern now which I believe might turn out to be harmful in the long run. Looks like I cannot live without YouTube, NetFlix, WhatsApp, and so many other apps.

On top of all this going on (not just in my case, but for most people I know), my son subscribed to Amazon’s PrimeVideo at the ridiculous price of SGD 2.99 per month – that is INR 150 per month! Much lower than NetFlix price of SGD 13.98 per month. Apart from the equivalent of NetFlix, Amazon Prime has other benefits such as a 2-hour delivery of items ordered, etc., and a free-month of PrimeVideo. I dilly-dallied for some time, but eventually approved the subscription. This means that my addiction problems are now doubled instantaneously. I thought of chucking out NetFlix, but after using PrimeVideo I decided it would be better to keep NetFlix going – as I found it to be a far better option. I still managed to see two movies on PrimeVideo before calling it a day, though my family thinks it is a better option!

Now you see my problem? Dealing with this addiction is going to be a bigger challenge than the usual corporate issues or inter-personal matters. Addiction is slated to be the biggest challenge for most millennials, but I am no millennial. My experience proves that addiction can happen at any age or any time and anywhere. In fact, I pulled out my iPhone on a high-speed train in China recently, connected it to the train WiFi and started seeing NetFlix serials! Come on, not a good way to spend time – you should be doing emails or creating a business plan while on such a nice transportation system. I am thinking constantly of how to go back to pre-NetFlix days when I was not disturbed by the feasibility of such on-demand movies and serials. I think I should. What do you think? Are you having this addiction? How are you dealing with it? Do you think such an addiction is bad? How will our children view us when we are constantly engaged on viewing a movie or serial on a laptop or on mobile phone, or even on the home TV? Feels like those days when TV was dominant…………..and grabbed all the family time.

Let me come up with a de-addiction plan. In the meanwhile, here’s wishing you a wonderful week ahead, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

17th February 2019


Serious Downtime


I took couple of days off this past week and travelled around this great island country of mine, with the specific focus of loosening up on my stress levels and giving my car the necessary run time as it had been doing less than 900 KMs a month on the average. I achieved both these objectives.

Cars in Singapore are so expensive that for the average car to even break even, one has to drive it between 1,200 and 1,500 KMs a month depending on the initial investment (I am excluding high-end and luxury cars, of course – the owners of such cars do not have such goals!). However, over the past 38 months of ownership of my socialist-branded car, I have driven only 34,000 KMs; one reason being, I did not drive into Malaysia with this car, though I had done that with my previous cars.

So much for car discussion. Now let me get back to the key objective of how I took my stress levels down – this is what I mean by “serious downtime”.

I have always loved the Nature Parks and Reservoirs of Singapore. After visiting the urbanized parts of Singapore (most of it is urbanized big time), a visitor would never believe his eyes when he visits the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve or the MacRitchie Reservoir, or the Labrador Park. The government has consciously attempted to keep Singapore as green as possible, and has avoided disrupting the nature reserves in particular. It has also gone about expanding the footprint of existing reservoirs and nature reserves, and establishing new nature parks such as the Windsor Park, located not far from my home. I used to go to one of these parks or reservoirs during weekends (I did that even today, being a Saturday), but this time around, for the first time ever, I took off from my office work for spending time with nature! It is a big thing for me as I am really not a slacker during weekdays, and rarely ever take off from work for doing “nothing”. I will quickly get bored of staying at home and drinking coffee.

I loved the two forenoons that I spent earlier this week. On day #1, I went to the Mandai Reservoir (now called Upper Seletar Reservoir) located close to the world-famous Singapore Zoo. There are couple of golf courses around this part of Singapore, and I crossed the Executive Golf Course before reaching the reservoir (I had played a 9-hole game in this course some 15 years ago, and I recalled that while passing by…………nice reminiscences!). I am giving the URL link here for you to take an “official” look!

https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/upper-seletar-reservoir-park

I have not been to this reservoir (except from the Singapore Zoo side) before, and it was good to walk around (though it was hot sun shining overhead) and take some pictures.

There is so much to see at any such place in Singapore, the only deterrent being the hot sun. Obviously, I wore a cap and dark sun glasses (which I rarely use) to protect myself, but nevertheless it was a wonderful experience, away from the “maddening crowds” so to say!

From the Upper Seletar Reservoir, I drove down to the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park which is located on the Old Upper Thomson Road. It is a very old reservoir, but very appealing – I thought it was “cooling” to just take a walk into the park. I did not take pictures at this park, but captured an interesting sign board on the way out.

Singapore is very strict about maintaining cleanliness at all public places, and has now become extremely tough on public smoking.

On day #2, I again chose a place which I have never visited – it was the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, known as the habitat of migratory birds from as far as Alaska and Russia. While I was walking around this Reserve, I witnessed the passion of bird watchers from all over, who had chosen a nice Wednesday morning to visit the Reserve with their heavy duty photographic equipment to capture photos of their favourite migratory birds. This is what I call true passion – I cannot just dismiss these folks as guys with money, so they can do whatever they wish to do. That assumption may not be true at all. These guys are serious ornithologists probably, and driven by passion about one thing – birds which do not live in Singapore but use it as a transit point. This Reserve is Singapore’s first ASEAN Heritage Park. A must visit place for all, and was I surprised when I found out that my colleagues have not yet visited this Reserve – not at all. Most of the visitors were foreigners as far as I could tell! Apparently, Singaporeans like to work all the available time, and then do shopping; very few of them ever develop a serious life passion such as ornithology, though I did see a few of them at this Reserve.

I am going to make another trip to this place along with my family – it is simply too wonderful to be missed at a mere 22 KMs from my home, and best of all, the entrance and parking (!) are free, though I should warn you that food and coffee/tea are not available anywhere nearby. Come prepared!

Singapore has many such parks and reservoirs operated by the National Parks organization. Kudos to them for developing and maintaining such a lovely eco system in this very small island nation. Even big countries are learning from Singapore’s experience and expertise.

I plan to continue this exploration, and you will see more coverage from me, hopefully soon. I suggest you do this activity during a busy workday, rather than during the usual weekends, as that would reflect your utter seriousness in giving yourself the much-needed downtime away from all the noise, allowing you to concentrate on nature in a manner you would have never indulged so far. Try it, and I can assure you that it not only brings down all pressures in the body, but also knocks off the stress. You will feel like you are getting a rejuvenation of mind and body. Only one thing – put your mobile phone on silent mode, and don’t check your emails. I did that and cursed myself as somebody asked me to do something and then I got into the bad urge of instantly replying to that email. Not good. Don’t do it.

Have a wonderful weekend folks. And do enjoy what Mother Nature has given us. All for free. Reinvigorating and Rejuvenating, for sure.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th February 2019

Three Wines Before I switch back to No Wine!


I survived almost 5 months without drinking any wine towards the later half of 2018. I let all good wine selections pass by, and kept to my self-imposed vow not to waver even under duress or serious temptations (which occurred quite often! and will continue to occur!!).

Then as December approached, I decided to temporarily drop my vow, and enjoy some good wines for 3 months before I reimpose the ban. This is due to the fact that it was year-end with all family members congregating in Singapore, and in recognition of another good year. And, of course, welcome 2019 not just in Gregorian Calendar, but also to kick off the Chinese Calendar welcoming the Year of the Pig.

Now, I am reimposing the ban. No more wines. How long? I do not know. It is a serious test of will power (as far as I am concerned, given my longstanding affinity towards good wines, about which I have extensively blogged). It is going to be a big challenge, but then we are all made of tough stuff, right?

In conclusion of this 3-month sojourn with some good wines, I selected three of the most renowned (and somewhat expensive) wines that were offered to me as part of a dinner celebration. I have to point out that none of these wines were chosen by me. So, mention of these wines in this blog post does not mean that I did my research on the selection and then bought these wines for relishing during a quiet evening. Not at all. These were selected by more discerning wine aficionados (who are unable to understand why I would go off wines at all). People who have followed my choice of “value-based wines” would know that I hardly suggest any wine above SGD 50 (which translates to USD 37 or INR 2,600).

So, here comes the list:

  • Chateau Leoville Barton Saint-Julien (Grand Cru Classe) 2010, France of course!
  • Gauchezco Reserva Malbec 2016, Mendoza Argentina
  • Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2012, Italy

Of course, I had personally tried Chilean and Australian wines during the above period of wine-no-ban, but I am not writing about those wines here.

The first one from France is simply outstanding (to be honest, I am not a fan of French wines, and I might get ambushed and beaten up for stating that here publicly, but that is the honest truth). The Wine Spectator has given a rating of 96/100, the Wine Enthusiast has given 100/100 (!!!), and Vivino has given a 4.6/5.0. This is indeed a great wine (of all times and of all wines), and I would easily rate this as one of the top 5 wines that I have ever drunk. I am not going to describe the wine but this is simply an excellent fruity red wine which you will never regret. However the price might put off any casual wine drinker, so try this when someone is sponsoring a dinner for a celebration (of course, this means that the sponsor knows this wine and feels the occasion demands something of this quality!). I know you are biting your nails to find out what could be the price, but I leave that exercise to you.

The second wine is from the famous Mendoza wine-growing region of Argentina. I have increasingly grown fond of Malbec. I believe it is better than the other reds for its depth of dark fruits on the palate which I relish. Of course, everything boils down to trial and experimentation, so after many Malbecs, my choice for anything from Argentina would be focused on the mountains of Mendoza and Malbec. Also, there is some attraction to the purplish inky-blue colour of the wine! This particular wine is easy to drink, lovely on the nose and fantastic on the palate, so I would strongly recommend this one if you are looking for a Malbec.

The third wine – ah! from the Italian Tuscany region of Brunello – again, I am not a natural chooser of Italian wines (except when I am forced to do so in an Italian restaurant where there is no other choice!). But then, one always learns, right? This is an amazing Brunello wine – full-bodied, rich and complex, and strong fruitiness on the palate. This wine has gotten a rating of 96/100 from Wine Spectator, 94/100 from Wine Enthusiast, and 4.2/5.0 from Vivino which is a crowd-sourced platform. Excellent choice again, and I am not revealing the price again. For you to discover, should you at all be interested!

Well, well………that summarized what I have enjoyed greatly, and it is always a pleasure when a “ban” is lifted and you permit yourself to try wines again – but this field is not like chocolates or sweets, wherein you could feel the adrenalin rush in your head when a similar ban is lifted – you are literally rushing to the fridge. In the case of wine, it is always a measured careful approach. Bad wines could strangle people – yes, believe me, it will be real bad. So, one needs to know his/her wines and then select a specific one which could break the “ban” or the “wine-fasting”, and that will, indeed, be most pleasurable.

However, please do not offer me any wine of any kind, “value-based” or connoisseur-driven expensive ones. I have stopped drinking wines from last week……….let me see how I can persist with this self-imposed ban.

Have a great week ahead, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

10th February 2019

The Ordinary vs. the Impactful


It is a beautiful morning in Singapore – bright, sunny but not yet hot. The Chinese New Year week is coming to an end – it is the “Year of the Pig”, and hopefully we can look forward to peace and prosperity, much more than wars, conflicts, and poverty. Well that is my wish at least, and I am sure most of the world’s citizens would want a year better than what has gone by.

I was thinking about the folks that we meet in our daily lives, and during networking or social occasions. I am not personally a shy person, I stretch out my hand and shake hands with any stranger that I meet in such situations. But whether you already know the person or he or she is a stranger, it strikes me odd that very few people even attempt to create an impact on you.

What I mean is not the attempt on either side to start a conversation or engage in a meaningful chat (even for a few minutes); it is the effort to positively impact the other person with your ideas or thoughts on how some global issue can be addressed. When I leave a conversation or a meeting, I would want to be “impacted” so that I do not forget the person’s profile/face, the topic, or the impact that person caused on me. Otherwise, I think it is a waste of time for both persons who are getting introduced.

I believe I get only one chance to influence another person. I have experienced the fact (as far as it concerns me) that if I fail in that endeavour, I do not get another chance even if I get to meet the same person again. I am sure you have come across such situations. This shows that people make up their minds about you in few seconds, rather too quick for comfort, but that is the way it is………you get only one opportunity to create a positive impression on the other person and you better not lose that opportunity.

Many a time I have met slackers who either do not have anything to say, or focus on someone else while chatting with you. Both actions are not going to go down well with me (I am sure it is the same with almost everyone else), as here I am trying to make a conversation and create an impact of my own on the “slacker”, irrespective of his pedigree or status, genuinely assuming that there is something that can be gained from each and every meeting, but the slacker couldn’t care less. Looking at what other folks are doing during an intimate conversation is stupid, to say the least. That is actually an insult, a lack of respect towards the other person (here it is me!) who is working hard to keep matters in focus and generate an influence. Gradually, I have learnt to identify slackers and either avoid conversations or just move on to someone else that I know with a greeting that would slice off my time with the slacker in an unobtrusive manner.

Then you encounter the silent spectators who are usually difficult to penetrate – these are the folks who observe everything, grasp most of what is going on, keep their thoughts to themselves, and open up only to others who know them very well. It could be a challenge to get introduced to them, so I use a mediator (a common friend) – I just ask this mediator who is this silent spectator, what does he do, can he make an introduction for me, et al. I am always surprised that these silent spectators turn out to be the most incisive, impactful people that I have met. Not the garrulous, back-slapping folks working their way through the crowd, trying to please everyone around.

I would divide the people that I meet into several buckets: the ordinary people (more than 60% fall into this category) who are mostly good guys or girls who carry on with their lives in the usual way, not feeling the urge to generate an influence or impact on other people that they meet: they just greet, talk some shop, and then move on. They do not make an attempt to find out more about the others that they meet. They probably do not want a job! Or, they are not interested to build new network of new friends. I cannot figure out their general disinterest even on matters which affect all of us. They don’t even want to talk about President Trump! They probably do not wish to take a stand on any matter.

The slackers are the folks that you do not wish to engage because of a variety of factors – basically they are not trustable, generally they are boasters, they do not have respect, their attention spans are very low. We gain nothing out of any interactions with slackers. Again, these folks show very little interest in you or on global matters that should be of concern to all of us. They are not well-read, they just tend to slack off and probably drink through the evening instead of seriously networking with anyone they come across. Slackers constitute probably 20% of the people that you would meet.

Then comes the silent spectators – you should pay attention to these people. They carry a lot of stuff in their heads and generally they have a much better grasp of worldly affairs and even your own network of friends. It takes time to break through to such folks however. May be couple of meetings with your strong pitch on your own credibility and then you are on your way to a long-lasting friendship. Mind you, they are difficult people with their own views on every matter under the sun, and sometimes they do not take kindly towards conflicting opinions. Silent spectators probably constitute less than 5 to 10% of the people sample that you would come across.

Then, finally there are people who wish to talk a lot and contribute to every topic that is being discussed. One can gain a lot by listening to such people – they come through not as garrulous interventionists but as engaging thought leaders who peddle their views in a non-aggressive manner to anyone they meet. They believe that every meeting, even a chance meeting, should be converted into a productive engagement – it does not matter who benefits; otherwise there is no purpose in any meeting. It might sound a bit harsh, but I know a number of folks who fall into this category – I would designate them as thought contributors, for the lack of a better terminology. They take a principled stand on every topic that they raise or respond to, and are not afraid of potential backlash demonstrating a sincerity which is unusual. I respect these contributors as it is a huge learning opportunity to talk to them. Of course, these people expect you to respond, so we need to have some material in our heads to engage and continue the conversation in a meaningful manner, otherwise they will lose interest and move on. They constitute probably less than 10% of the people sample that you would run into, but combined with silent spectators, they are the most impactful people that could seriously impact your world views. So, where would you choose to put your emphasis on? Most people you run into are ordinary people with no vision or even a mission statement that they wish to propagate in any people-to-people engagement. They do not have a plan. Obviously, I would not want to spend more than the time needed for greetings or courtesies, with these people. I would like to focus on the Silent Spectators and Thought Contributors, both of who could add value to me for my own improvement. Likewise, I would like to be a thought contributor in every engagement – I am not a silent spectator as almost everyone who knows me can attest to!

Well, I thought I would pen my ideas on this interesting topic this morning, and I am just completing this post – it has taken about 45 minutes or so. Some new thoughts finally!

Have a wonderful weekend folks, and contribute some new ideas!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

09 February 2019

Hold your thought?


Many a time, I have witnessed good ideas being held back by a simple principle called conformance, which is widely and “successfully” practiced in the corporate world. What is being a conformist mean, and is it relevant anymore in today’s world?

Conformance means two things – you choose to “fall in line” with others in your team or your boss in terms of agreeing with them that the idea on the table which apparently they all support, is indeed the best one deserving your personal support as well. Not only that, you highlight your own philosophy behind your support for that particular idea that everyone else around you seem to be supporting, thereby positioning yourself well in the group and endearing yourself to your boss. Not just a blind support, but a well-thought out, philosophical support that has been so well articulated by you.

So, by being a conformist (other than when you are the main originator of the revolutionary idea yourself), you score a brownie point with your boss and your team (in general). I can tell you that some of your team members would be wondering why you are supporting an idea that they know you do not believe in. May be they will ask you later on! You better be clear and achieve a full clarity in your mind while explaining your rationale to them!!

But then such are the pressures to conform in corporate life.

Things are changing for the better, however, especially in new age companies (which are vastly different from the established traditional corporations) where dissent is accepted and even praised as a “necessity”. A different thought process accompanied by solid logic is viewed very positively in these companies where the leadership is young and energetic, completely open and transparent to an influx of new ideas, even from a newcomer or the juniormost member of the team. In essence, what it means is that the leadership wants new ideas that are different from their own, and also wants the team to reflect the current society so that business customization becomes easier to accomplish.

Why is it so difficult for older companies in traditional fields to open up their staid leadership and business models to similar influences? One reason is that they generally believe in traditional hierarchy and respect experience to the extent that they believe earth-shaking ideas can only come from such an experienced leadership. This is despite the fact their market shares and revenues keep slipping quarter after quarter. The second reason is that these older companies still believe in their invincibility with regard to their hold on the marketplace – in several fields, these very same corporations have defined and created the markets, to start with. How can then these markets just slip away from their hold? Who can challenge the status quo?

Now, we even see social media giants belonging to the new age struggle as well to control and keep hold of the markets that they defined and created. Is it not a similar situation? Yes, it is – the only difference being that in new age companies, the velocity of adjustments and idea assimilation is far higher than in older companies. Notwithstanding the same, struggles happen and continue to happen, and the government, clients, users and media can witness what is going on in a transparent manner.

In a nutshell, it is critical not to hold your thoughts on a specific topic, because your allegiance should be towards the company and its advancement via better sharing of fresh ideas and thoughts which could enhance a process or a system or a product or market strategy or competitive approach, not just to your team or your boss. May be you are moving ahead in a new discovery! Who knows?

So be open and transparent while being consultative and respectful. There is absolutely no need to confirm to an idea in which you don’t believe. Of course, if you like the idea and believe it would work out to the benefit if your company, go for it and support it by all means. It does not matter where the idea came from!

Cheers, and Have a wonderful week ahead, and Wishing all my Chinese readers “Gong Xi Fa Chai”,

Vijay Srinivasan

3rd February 2019

It’s a Middleman’s World


Middlemen and women are everywhere!

You would think that a “developed” country would not require the services of such “agents” to transact any kind of business, due to total transparency and technological aids available to do so. But was I surprised!

Even Western countries make use of agents to sell aircraft, ships, and any kind of equipment. They also have brokers who operate at the consumer level, to sell houses to buyers in a knowledgeable manner. Agents bring localized knowledge and expertise to the sales process. Or, they know how things work in the buyer’s country when big ticket items are transacted. Generally, agents operate on behalf of sellers and favour them as their commission is paid by the sellers, not by the buyers. However, commission is paid on the final sale price, which the buyer agrees to pay the seller, so the agent derives his commission money ultimately from what the buyer pays the seller.

Commonsense, right?

Buyers need to understand and know well in advance that agents do not have their requirements and best interests in their hearts, and are focused on fulfilling the sale as quickly as they can so that they can earn a handsome return on the time and effort invested. Agents meet and / or exceed sellers’ criteria which may or may not meet the buyers’ needs.

Coming back to my original point on anticipated reduction in broking or agency fees in developed countries, unfortunately that is not the case. On the contrary, agency fees actually increase both in absolute terms and as percentage of sales revenues. If advancement in transparency and technology can eliminate middlemen and ensure fair market price discovery and fair competition, then sellers and buyers would be able to conclude sales transactions without the aid of sales agents, right?

The practical reality in the world today is that agents dominate big transactions – even those involving government purchases of military equipment. This is probably because there is some need for certain level of lack of transparency in such dealings.

Transparency decreases when agents are involved. When an agent is assigned the task of a messenger of sensitive price data on a critical transaction, he or she is bound to misquote or misinterpret such data to the detriment of the buyer.

I have interacted with agents in both a developed country and a developing country. I found smart people in the agency profession, most of them quite knowledgeable in their area of competency. If I am transacting a property sale, I found that my own online analysis of the market is inadequate to directly interact with the market and I would be better served by a dedicated agent at a specified fee. I found that he or she could do a much better job in price discovery and advising on the right kind of price at which I should sell my property. The difference between India and Singapore is not on competency or sales aids that a typical agent employs, but more on the emphasis on personalized relationships prevalent in India as compared to more officialized attitudes prevalent in Singapore.

So, what are my conclusions?

I do not support engagement or involvement of sales agents in business transactions, whether involving two businesses or two countries. As we have seen in multiple military procurement scandals, involvement of agents shields corrupt players. Violation of procurement rules is only possible if agents are misused to hide corruption.

However, when it comes to home or car sales, agents’ role is critical in ensuring the seller is not shortchanged due to inadequate market knowledge. Agents also become important to secure interest of qualified buyers, and I was surprised to note that online ads do not produce the same effect because of lack of qualification of potential buyers. Further, attracting potential buyers to online ads does not seem to be working out well anymore.

In a nutshell therefore, middlemen and women do have a place and role in the consumer society – whether it be in a developed or a developing country, though I believe in the not too distant future, robots will take over their role. However, for B2B transactions, it is best if the seller and buyer interact with each other directly, or via an electronic marketplace with safeguards. The dependence on middlemen in such situations will only exacerbate potential conflicts of interest and accentuate corrupt practices.

How is an agent different from a lobbyist?

That is for another blog post I guess!

Have a great weekend folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

2nd February 2019

The Health Nut


I keep coming back to one of my favourite topics since I find that people who I know well splurge on unhealthy food constantly. I keep highlighting to them at every possible opportunity that such food is not going to help them from the tentacles of diseases at the cost of alienation. I believe it is my duty to inform folks around me and I keep doing that repeatedly, and I also send a strong message by refusing to partake in such food habits. I think at some point in their lives they are going to start wondering about what I have been talking about.

Not that I am going to live longer, or others eating unhealthy food are going to die earlier than me. The key point that people have to understand is the pain that they have to go through at later stages in their lives as a result of health complications resulting from the constant pursuit of rather unhealthy food not suited to the human constitution. But, in general, people do not get it. Not only that, they are not happy that I am not eating their choice food items, they are mildly annoyed that they have to provide some food options for my sake if I am invited to their homes – which is not easy, I totally agree.

My personal food choices are tough to follow, but my regimen is not necessary for most folks. I follow a tougher regime as I need to balance my pre-disposition towards wine with my food, which means I have to eat less to compensate for the increased calories flowing into my being three times a week! And, ofcourse I wish to ward off any potential lifestyle diseases!!

Now let us look at my food menu from which you can choose to downgrade (meaning you can enhance the choices towards more calories or proteins as the case may be from my benchmark levels). I designed my own menu with slight variations based on availability of ingredients and my business / personal travels. Here it comes:

Breakfast at 6:45 AM: 2 Egg Whites from boiled eggs, sprinkled with Raw Organic Ceylon Cinnamon Powder plus some fruits such as Green Apples, Kiwi, Blue Berries and Guava; the Egg Whites are replaced with PEMA Rye Organic Bread on alternate days, keeping fruits constant

Nuts at 9:00 AM: 8 pieces each of Almonds, Walnuts, Pistachios, and Cashews

Coffee at 9:30 AM – more black less skim milk

Lunch at 12:30 PM: Half portion of brown rice with three vegetables one of which has to be greens such as spinach or kailan, OR grilled chicken with sauteed veggies OR green salad

3:30 PM Coffee

6:00 PM Some peanuts or any other nuts OR one sugar-free biscuit

Dinner at 7:30 PM: generally Kale based salad with Khus Khus or Millet and few more veggies such as brocolli, zucchini, capsicum, brussel sprout, cherry tomatoes, mushroom, etc., which is topped with apple cider vinegar, garlic and squeezed lemon juice

Nothing to go in after 8 PM and I have to deal with constant temptations to open the fridge!

I have deliberately missed out my favourite glass of red wine!! I am now nursing a beautiful purplish inky blue Malbec from the Mendoza Region of Argentina (GAUCHEZCO Reserve 2016), which is an amazing wine that I strongly recommend to my readers!!

I am trying to cut the coffees out of my menu but it is proving to be rather difficult given my South Indian heritage!

So, while my menu is difficult to adopt for most people, I wish to console them by stating that I do occasionally replace my breakfast with a thick omelette or dosa, and my lunch with a mini meal or something that has more carbs than my usual take.

So guys and gals, I can only suggest that you all need to follow some nutty regimen instead of always eating unhealthy quantities of white rice, naan, red meat, heavy sabzis, salty snacks, and carbonated drinks. Eat more nuts to keep yourself healthy and your brains active! There are hundreds if reasons why you should eat plant nuts, greens, veggies and green fruits.

Research for yourself and decide your own menu. Never fall for the lure of fast food. Never go for that quick cold soft drink full of sugar. Never go for red meat. Use your own brain analytics on this matter more than on anything else. It is your health, dudes. You cannot control what happens in later life, but you can choose to do the right thing today! I am offering my health consultation to you as an unqualified and untrained Nutritionist!!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

27th January 2019

Far removed from Reality


The World Economic Forum (WEF) concluded yesterday at the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos.

This time around it was a low-key affair since several powerful countries and leaders did not attend. For instance, President Trump and Prime Minister May did not come due to serious problems that they are currently faced with in the U.S. and the U.K. respectively.

However, many billionaires and world leaders did attend, as participation at the Davos WEF has become an annual pilgrimage for movers and shakers from around the world. The WEF conducts forums in other major countries, but none beats the depth and comprehensiveness of the Davos forum.

There were many key issues affecting humanity that were discussed at this year’s event, such as the alarming negative impact of Climate Change. This is nothing unusual. The point is that most attendees come from elite or political or business backgrounds and are, in general, rich. It would be interesting to measure and report the average net worth of all the invited participants at Davos forum. That should prove that this crowd is far removed from the daily mundane reality of an average (not even a poor) citizen’s life, anywhere in the world.

How can a rather small collection of rich and powerful folks make a critical analysis of problems facing this planet and humanity? How can they “feel” the problems, pains, challenges and issues that a common man or woman needs to tackle in his or her life? Are these people really addressing the “real” issues and coming up with practical solutions to world’s rather intractable problems? Or, are they just networking socially and having fun, either at corporate or government expense? Let us not forget that these elite folks already know each other (mostly and generally) from previous interactions. One obvious objective is to learn from each other – what are the current views of the “elite” and “learned” folks from around the world, have lunches / dinners / cocktails and learn more of each others’ perspectives, etc., There are, of course, multiple panel discussions from which our elite participants will learn even more.

But, what is the concrete action plan to better the life of the average citizen coming out of this most expensive jamboree at an exclusive Swiss resort? Is there something coming out of this event that will affect the life of the common man, is there something that he can even understand?

Such events, are in general, a waste of money, which could be deployed in social projects and alleviate poverty. But that is not the concern of the rich folks who schmooze over caviar and wine. This is the obvious disconnect which exists between such powerful gatherings and life’s realities.

I studied the agenda and the events of WEF held last week. There were many useful and relevant topics covered in the agenda, no doubt. There was significant coverage of environment, climate change and the impact of technology – Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, etc., – these are all very relevant, I should say.

The key question, however, is how will WEF deliberations change the world for the better from a socio-economic point of view. What is the success rate of WEF influencing socio-economic policies of governments around the world which choose to attend the WEF event and actively engage other attendees. My theory is that economics at a theoretical level is of no practical use, unless the main users of economic principles (viz., governments) apply the same in consultation with WEF (not the IMF or the World Bank both of which apply tortuous conditions on countries seeking their financial support). How can some of the useful deliberations at the WEF be successfully applied in large countries such as India, China or Indonesia? What are the resources available to the governments which want to reform their economies? What technologies can be leveraged? What are the practical methods that we can adopt for sustaining the deteriorating environment? And so on, and so forth.

May be these things are already being executed. However, in my research on WEF’s practical applications, I could not find clear cut evidence. I could not put my finger on the specific outcomes which are being followed up by WEF around the world.

If my audience can clarify, I will be happy to post an update to this post. If WEF disagrees with what I have stated, all that is required is a response to this blog post, and I will post the same as a correction to what I have written.

In a nutshell, I would like WEF to understand two things –

1. The utility value of the annual WEF meeting is not grasped by the proletariat, and I have seen no evidence that WEF is making an attempt to communicate as such;

and,

2. The obvious disconnect between the abject reality of peoples’ lives and the economic deliberations at WEF conducted at the apex levels of governments and corporates surely exists, whether acknowledged by WEF or not.

Socialism is emerging even in that most Capitalistic country in the world – I mean the U.S. and its potential ramifications over the next few years have not been understood by the key economic players – whether in governments or corporates. This is also something that WEF needs to address. How about inviting Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the WEF 2020 as key note speakers?

Cheers, have a good weekend folks,

Vijay Srinivasan

26th January 2018

The Make-Believe Yet Real


I have been wanting to write on this topic for quite a while.

I struggled with the title a bit, as I thought it should reflect what I really feel about the specific matter about which I am going to write in this post. How do I communicate about something in a succinct yet penetrating manner? I realized that I have to go a long way in mastering the English language! It has been tough though I might sound simplistic!!

This post is about the City-State of Singapore.

It is sometimes too hard to believe that this bustling city of 5.6M people produces a GDP of USD 330B, translating to USD 57K GDP per capita, placing it as the third richest country in the world. It is managed like a global corporation with efficient allocation of capital and resources, with long-term planning firmly in place, assuring its citizens and residents of long-term economic and political stability. It is hard to grow at more than 3% GDP growth rate for such a highly developed country with physical limitations on geographical size and population (which is not growing).

My point in writing this post is to compare how Singapore manages peace and prosperity in a cogent and planned manner, as compared to cities like Paris or New York or London. I cannot compare it with large countries as Singapore is just a city. When I look at the extensive TV coverage on the yellow-vest protest in Paris, or the multiple people protests in New York that went on last week, it is apparent that the respective governments are not doing a fine job of addressing the issues or grievances of the people who are protesting. Probably they couldn’t care less. There is law and order problem in almost every major city around the world – as we know, there are downtowns and also the seedier parts of town with criminal gangs operating in many cities. There is violence perpetrated every day – you just need to look at the gun-related crimes in the U.S. or even in just one major city in the U.S. to understand how far violence has embedded itself into the psyche of the American society.

I am not trying to say that people cannot protest to convey their views. This is possible in Singapore in a government regulated place which is designated for that purpose. Disrupting the city’s business and economy should not be the way. In cities in India, people protests are often infested with political parties’ radical elements who have their own agenda and also criminals who get a free ride to perpetrate violence in the guise of being part of such “people protests”. There is no way to control such situations. The images of public transport buses burning, public property damaged, private cars destroyed, civil services disrupted, and so on and so forth, have poured in even from such a civilized and cultured country such as France. The massive outpouring of people against the government is a big indication of disconnect between those who govern and those who are governed.

Violent protests causing damage and death have no place in civil society. The best way to bring down an elected government is to precipitate a massive defeat in the next elections – not to dethrone it via the undemocratic method of public violence. Such a thing has happened in many countries – such as Ukraine in 2014 when a popularly elected government was overthrown with the support of Western governments and people protests. [Note: I am not a supporter of Russia – I am mentioning this fact just as an example].

Of course, there are governments which suppress people protests with a heavy hand, causing further damage. They incarcerate people who did nothing but participate in protests for a long time without due process. There are many examples of such happenings around the world.

Governments which do not listen to their electorate will eventually face defeat in the subsequent elections. So, people have to be patient to exercise their franchise in the next elections. While peaceful protests are fine, how will any government ensure peace when they are dealing with some 10,000 or more people at one go in one place in a city? Law enforcement is likely to make errors in judgement.

Coming back to Singapore, the peace and prosperity remain the key tenets of the government and of the people. There is absolute sync between the government and its citizens on certain fundamental principles and frameworks. Citizens may not always agree with the government, and there are plenty of examples of such situations. I would mention the issues of overcrowding of subway system and immigration – there are many more. The government, however, heard the issues, analyzed the causes and addressed the same. It is absolutely critical that countries have “listening” governments.

The government – citizen compact has to be heavily communicated and understood. I agree that bigger countries such as the U.S., China, India and the U.K. have larger issues and more people problems to be tackled. Singapore may not have those kinds of problems and issues. The key difference is the measured approach, cautious thinking, consultations with key affected parties, and communication. As we can witness the current ongoing stalemate in the U.S. government shutdown, hard positions between key branches of government are untenable and unsustainable, because the affected people will eventually hit back. Maturity is needed, and if the elected President and House Speaker cannot even sit down and sort out the issues bedeviling the country, then the hope for a positive resolution drops considerably in the minds of the citizens. In the meanwhile, running of the government suffers, and 800,000 government servants are going without paycheck. Not at all acceptable in a civil society and in a democracy.

I can also cite the example of the U.K. where a “no-deal” Brexit is staring at peoples’ faces with its attendant uncertainty and impending economic chaos. If it were Singapore’s problem, it would have been tackled differently, in a more mature way. There is not much rationale in countering that Singapore would not have such an issue as Brexit. If an “Asian Union” were formed in the same manner as the European Union, then Singapore would be a part of it, and such a situation as Brexit is entirely feasible. A referendum is not a solution, in my opinion. Citizens are good in electing popular governments, but collective policy making cannot be sub-contracted to the whims and fancies of sections of society who could sway the vote which could affect the entire country and its people. This is a debatable argument, and I am not strong in propounding this – I have to work on strengthening the logic and rationale of such an argument. An elected government has been given the task of running the country in the best possible manner, and it has to execute its job keeping the best interests of its citizens, yet be ready to compromise where needed. There is nothing like “my way, or highway”. If that were the case, Malaysia and Singapore would not have enjoyed peaceful co-existence over the past five decades.

Well, I can keep going on. In a nutshell, the large countries of the world need enlightened governments with a broad perspective on public issues and long-term thinking. I know it is easier said than done, as large countries have fractious and finicky electorates and fragmented political parties. But then, we want the best amongst ourselves to govern us, right? It means that successful people in their own fields of endeavour have to be persuaded to participate in the political process and be part of the government execution even if they do not win elections.

Singapore continues to be one of the best managed countries in the world, even without the economic statistics to support it. If that is not the case, how do we explain the fact that foreigners who come here do not really wish to leave a city which has almost zero crime, decent economic opportunities based on merit, good public transport, almost all government services available on a digital mode to its citizens, a good healthcare system (although expensive), etc., though I have to state that the real estate is extremely expensive. It is a long track record which is hard to beat amongst the developed countries of the world.

Yes, it appears to be “make-believe” when you live here, yet it is absolutely real.

Have a great week ahead folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

20th January 2019

Wrong Expectations


This post might get me into trouble, I guess!

As my readers know well, I am a “liberal” in mindset, outlook and approach, but sometimes I have taken sides with conservatives when I feel the rational logic resides with them on a specific topic, though it has not been often. Everyone has a right to their own view, and everyone has a right to not support others’ views irrespective of the popularity or otherwise of such views.

I believe that liberal views promote an equitable society with a good balance, in general. However, I have always taken cognizance of the fact that conservatives have a certain hold on the richer, more well-to-do sections of the society which oftentimes get not only a seat at the table, but also get to make the rules of conformance in society. It is very true in a generally traditional, conservative and religious society.

Notwithstanding all the segmentation and fragmentation of societies the world over, there is one principle that I will never compromise on and that is, give equal opportunity to both sides (and to a third side, if that position exists!) so that arguments and counter-arguments can be heard and understood well. It is upto any individual to make his/her own conclusion, and it is also his or her prerogative to voice or not voice the same, in other words, you cannot force anyone publicly on a vote of conscience. This means tolerance and acceptance of contrarian views, though you may not agree with those views which could be anathema to your views. Tolerance and acceptance are not the same as acquiescence and agreement!

So, I read with interest the news coverage on U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s wife going back to work for a strict evangelical Catholic school in Virginia. I warned you, my readers, that this could get rather sensitive! Some mainstream newsmedia covered her decision to rejoin the school and teach there, due to the avowed principles of the school against the LGBTQ section of the society and its non-admittance rules against any member of that group. The school further states that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and so on and so forth.

Without going further into the individual person’s choice to be associated with such a school, notwithstanding the fact that she is the Second Lady of the U.S. Government as the wife of the Vice President, it is not up to any one else to pass judgement on her action or behaviour – simply because she has the individual right to do so and the freedom to follow her heart. There is no official government endorsement or support for her action.

Mike Pence condemned the attack on his wife’s decision to serve in the school and also the attack on “Christian education”. I am not sure what he meant and which media really attacked, but as a beneficiary of Christian education right from Kindergarten to High School, I can only say that without the dedication of Christian education system, many of us in India would not have succeeded in life, despite most of us belonging to the Hindu religion.

Coming back to this Virginia school, I totally and unequivocally disagree with their principles, but they exist in a free society and they have teachers and students enrolled. So, there is a section of society in the U.S. which agrees with those severe and incompatible restrictions, and endorses such a system of education. I can tell you however, that there is no such Christian school ever that existed in India!

Coming back to Mrs Pence’s decision, I respect her choice – both Mr and Mrs Pence are openly espousing the cause and rationale of Christian Evangelism, and there is nothing wrong with their position. They have an inalienable, constitutionally protected right to do so. We have to give equal importance to such positions which are not hidden from sight and are openly stated and defended. In this moralistic or religious clash, no one can claim to be right or wrong. Both sides could even be right!

My personal position, as I stated earlier in this post, is that I am not taking sides with any one philosophy, I am a liberalist with my own views on almost everything under the Sun, and I will not endorse any position if that is not compatible with rational logic. I am not a political person, neither am I a deeply religious person. I am not a Christian but appreciate the service that the Christian school system rendered for me. I try to learn about and appreciate other religions as a philosophical curiosity venture than anything else. I have more and enough blog posts on my blog site to justify what I am stating above!

In a nutshell, let us not have wrong expectations of people, however exalted or powerful they may be. It is not necessary to agree with their stated positions on any matter. We should have our own thoughts about anything which impacts global affairs. I thought that this purported attack by “media” organizations on Christian Evangelism and School system was something of relevance to dissect and understand. If such an attack has happened, that is also despicable because not all systems and people will toe a Supreme Court judgement – they make their own judgements which, if not illegal, should be tolerated in a free society. In effect, tolerance should work both ways, if you know what I mean. It cannot be unidirectional in terms of complete support to the affected part of society – what about taking a non-supportive, yet tolerant view of the incontrovertible fact that there are people who exist who espouse a totally contrarian view which they think is their right to believe in, espouse and endorse – publicly or privately. The response should not be violence, we have seen that such an unacceptable behaviour happens even in the U.S., and so often in third-world countries (I am deliberately not using the politically correct terminology of “developing countries” here!).

Have a great weekend, and more to come from me during the next day or so,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th January 2019