Thursday, February 28, 2008

Facebook-ing

Am onto the Facebook bandwagon now - for the past few days. The site is well-structured, user friendly and filled with lots of interesting stuff. Excellent way to keep in touch with friends!


Had a very amusing experience right at the beginning:
On signing up with Facebook, I sent an invite to all of my friends who were on Facebook already (based on my email address book) to add me as their friend. For one of the invites I sent, I got an acceptance from a 16 year old kid in a High school in Brooklyn, to my amusement and surprise. The friend who I had invited was in her 30s; so I was wondering if I had a wrong email ID or had spelled the email ID incorrectly. Both turned out to be negative.

On informing my friend about this incident, she confirmed that the kid who had accepted my invitation was her 10 year old son, using her email ID and pretending to be a 16 year old on Facebook, to get around the restriction that only people 13 and older can sign up on Facebook!

Hope the kid did not get into too much trouble because I ratted him out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Magical week ahead. Take a deep breath.

I have taken the next week off from work. I want to spend the 9 days from Mar 1st to Mar 9th on my personal goals, specifically the main goal about starting out on my own in the Trading Software Best Practices Space.

I have embarked on a remarkable journey filled with courage, integrity and self-confidence ever since I attended the Landmark Forum course in June last year. I took pro-active steps to address my dissatisfaction at work, went on a road-trip across USA, re-invented myself, bravely made a plan for a spectacular 2008, and made things such that I am much more happy and satisfied about myself.


I have been doing well in terms of the progress on each of the items on my plan for a Spectacular 2008; Time to take it up a few more notches!

I want to move things forward on my entrepreneurial ambitions during next week. As I was saying to Manju earlier today:
starting on my own is the primary goal, and making sure that I don't go down in flames while doing so is the primary++ goal
Guy Kawasaki's The Art of the Start, Seth Godin's The Bootstrapper's Bible, and Rajesh Setty's Entrepreneur Pack will be my guides / references in my efforts next week. Given that I won't be starting out with a number of people with deep pockets ready to support me, Bootstrapping Concepts will be of tantamount importance.

While the above books and more will be of immense value in my adventure, I will be able to get something out of them only by DOING things. My emphasis should be to come up with actionable items based on the advice in these books and go about accomplishing each of the tasks. Proper due diligence at this stage will ensure I have a decent chance of succeeding in my goals.

A few technical tasks I want to accomplish next week:
  • Buy a lap-top
  • Set up a Personal Wiki on my desktop / laptop.
  • Install a Mindmapping software (MindManager)
As part of my effort towards starting up on my own, I have to meet up with / speak with / write to many of my friends and acquaintances in the New York / Financial Technology world. In addition, I also want to get in touch with the next door NJCU Business Development Incubator to build relationships which could facilitate my venture.

Next Friday is the first session of the Introduction Leaders Program I have signed up at Landmark Education. At this moment, I am committed to participate fully in the six month course, and complete the course. However, if I find the work-load of the course to be becoming detrimental to my entrepreneurial venture, or if I don't find value in the objectives of the program, I am willing to pull out of the program.

The magic week will start off with a dinner with Rebe and end with the four mile run in Central Park as part of the New York Colon Cancer Challenge. In between, I will indulge myself with at least one day on the Ski Slopes. I would no doubt deserve the break after the hard work.

Let the Magic begin!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Microfinance and India: Second of .....

Thanks to Ben Casnocha for pointing me to the Becker-Posner Blog which provides a skeptical view of the impact of microfinance while examining the subject of microfinance in greater detail. I stand corrected about my earlier statement:

Microfinance is a proven way to alleviate poverty in the world.




Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker's statement on one of the blogposts is as follows:

The evidence for the efficacy of microfinance in stimulating production and alleviating poverty is so far anecdotal rather than systematic. The idea of borrowing one's way out of poverty is passing strange. And I am unaware of any historical examples of nations that climbed out of poverty on the backs of small entrepreneurs financed by credit.

I will take an Economics Nobel Winner's word rather than mine in this regard!

Another blogpost by Gary Becker provides a succint view of the factors involved in a country pulling themselves out of poverty:

Yet, all economists who have studied microfinance agree that it will never be more than a minor factor in ending poverty in any country. Economic growth requires secure property rights, encouragement of private enterprise, openness to international trade, stimulation of education, limited and sensible regulations, and reasonably honest government. Microfinance makes only a small direct contribution to any of these variables.

Becker-Posner blog makes it to my must read blog list. With the amount of reading I am doing on the subject of Economics, I wonder if I will qualify to be an "Economist" soon.

Guy Kawasaki provides his take on Kiva in his customary top-ten list format; in this case, it is The six lessons of Kiva.

One thing that came on my mind while I was pondering on this post is the fact that I borrow heavily from Ben Casnocha's experience and knowledge, as available on Ben's blog, Ben's Del.icio.us bookmarks, and from his book on Entrepreneurship My Start-up Life. Yet I haven't really thanked him enough for all the insights that have helped me immensely. That topic deserves a post of its own, and I will get to it during this week.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Micro-finance and India : first of ....

This is a first in the series of posts on this blog through which I will be exploring the subject of Micro-finance in India.

Micro-finance is an awesome idea; a proven way to alleviate poverty in the world.

India is a poor country. Yes, lets not mince words about it. Yes, I know about the booming Indian economy, the impressive GDP growth rate, the IT millionaires & billionaires, the increased level of disposable incomes among the Indian middle-class, the Indian conglomerates' ambitious surge in the world economy, Mukesh Ambani pipping Bill Gates as the richest man in the world, the sky-rocketing prices of real-estate in the Indian Cities, the multi-million dollar bidding game on Cricketers in the Indian Premier League, and so on and so forth.


54 % of the population in India has an annual income of less than Rs. 1000 in 2005, as per this report from McKinsey. This damning statistic alone condemns India as a poor country, in my view. Here is an interesting article exploring the rather different interpretation of the term "Poverty Level" in India.

I know about the daily struggles of some of my relatives living in Rural areas of India, and had it not been for some folks in my family-tree taking up education, I too would have been in their ranks today. Given the magnitude of this problem, I expected Micro-finance to be BIG in India. However, I haven't come across any major news - accessible to an irregular reader of CNN international news or the on-line editions of Indian Newspapers - about the growth and impact of Micro-finance in India so far.

Kiva - which allows for affluent people to provide 0.0% loans to help (groups of) individuals in need of capital in the poorer countries and neighbourhoods - is a brilliant idea. I was shocked and disappointed to see that there is not a single Micro-finance Institution listed as a Field Partner of Kiva on the Kiva web-site. I would have preferred to help the needy and deserving folks in India, but there are no one from India listed on Kiva!

My Indian friends gave the following reasons for this discrepancy:
  • Micro-finance has the potential to promote Money-Laundering; hence it is not being encouraged in India.
  • Corrupt politicians and goons have a stranglehold over Micro-finance industry in India these days.
I find it incredible that an idea that is being touted as the best possible way to combat poverty and imbalance of economic opportunities is not a kosher idea in India.

A New York Times article by Economist & author Tyler Cowen explains the state of Micro-finance in India. Though the article is from 2006, it is still relevant. I am surprised to learn about the high cost of operating small Micro-finance organizations, and the consequent high-rate of interest charged for the micro-finance loans. This makes the Kiva model even more attractive in the Indian context.

At this time, I can only guess about the reasons why very few Indian Micro-finance institutions are listed on MIX Market (only 96 as of Feb 23, 2008, with only a handful of them meeting the highest information disclosure criterion) and not a single one of them is a registered and active Field Partner of Kiva. That is likely to be the topic of my next post in this series.

Tyler Cowen's article talks about one Indian MFI - Spandana. The Microcapital.org web-site lists news items about a few Indian MFIs.


Making the world a better place

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Clean water for Sub-Saharan Africans, with fun

Guy Kawasaki has an interesting post about PlayPumps - an organization addressing the water problems in Sub-Saharan Africa. An impressive effort at addressing one very critical problem!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Are Indians Racist?

A very interesting article on the Cricinfo web-site on a controversial topic following the allegations of Racism against an Indian Cricketer in Australia:

Far more interesting than the article are the comments made by many readers.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Guns of Ticonderoga

Continuing my recent hobby of reading about American history, I started on David McCullough's 1776 last week, and have completed three of the seven chapters so far.

The highlight of the first part of the book - to me - has been the story of the Guns of Ticonderoga. The wikipedia entry for Fort Ticonderoga has only one statement about this story:
The colonies obtained a large supply of cannons and powder, much of which was hauled 300 km by Henry Knox during the winter of 1775-1776, to Boston, to support the Siege of Boston.
Well, that doesn't really suffice for this amazing feat of sheer daring & perseverance - which proved instrumental in turning the tide of the events during the American Revolution. Trying to imagine the scene when Henry Knox and others were carrying the heavy guns and cannons - on oxen and horses - across from Fort Ticonderoga to Albany to Boston in the dead of winter, crossing the Hudson river multiple times and the many hills of the Berkshire mountains, I was blown away by how much of a physical effort it must have been!

In a matter of two months Henry Knox concocted this idea, got Washington's blessings in Cambridge, rode to New York City to arrange for supplies to be sent to Boston, traveled to Fort Ticonderoga, hauled these guns and cannons over to Boston and proved instrumental in shaping the course of the war!

I wonder how many times an average guy have given up in this effort. I wonder if such an endeavor (of equivalent difficulty) will have any takers in today's world.