Sometime back in Noida I had a chance to meet Nitin, my friend and batchmate from IIT. Nitin and Abhishek (whom we fondly call AVS) have recently bootstrapped their startup – DbyDx. (Ok, if the mathematician in you notices something in there – there is. The name.)

Three things I liked about them –

1. The name. DbyDx.

2. Their punchline – ‘Differentiating business with technology’. w-o-w! So much in line with the name, and so much in line with what they do.

And third, what Nitin said about the difference between the time when you are about to do a startup, and when you have just done it.

Pehley, when we were just starting: ‘Tab neend nahi aati thi ye soch kar ki kitna kuch karna hain.’ Now that we are on: ‘Ab itna kuch karna hain ki time nahi hain sochney ka, ki kitna kuch karna hain‘!

He has put it really simple – When you’re almost at the edge of an startup, you will have sleepless nights thinking about it. Once you start up, you will be too tired after a full days work to do anything but sleep sound.

I will be Noida this weekend, and I have every intention of catching up with him again.


If only…

Two words.. Endless possibilities..


Just after I wrote the post below (Finishing Line), I read Paul Graham on Kiko.
Its a thoughtful post, check it out..

Google in = Kiko out. So real.. so near.. US or India, I think it must feel the same..

One of my closest buddies and partner from IITK, Ajit got married yesterday. Apart from being excited about it for the obvious reasons, I was also looking forward to it coz I had a chance to meet with few people whom I haven't met for quite a long time. Some snippets –

  • Met Atul after a gap of 5 years. Spent the night talking about his business. With 550 students Momentum is the No.2 institute in Jabalpur in just 3 years of existence. We talked about the growth and the issues he is facing – personally as well as professionaly. (Btw, if you know someone who is good at teaching Chemistry for IIT-JEE and is looking for work then let me know. From what I gather, Momentum has a vacancy and pays quite handsomely)
  • Met Abhijeet Bhandari. He has joined Techspan, the company I was in a few years back. We talked about his career plans about the work at Techspan, and the changes between the time I left and now.
  • Met Niraj Nandan – he shared some of his 'wants' in life. My advice, give some time to yourself and figure out what makes you happy. You'll do well in that. Also know that there are more than one things that will make you happy.
  • Met Mayur. An easy-go-happy person. I hardly had five minutes to get him talking about his plans. He likes the concept of Tendulkar's and the way they have named the tables (after famous cricket venues – The Oval, The Eden Gardens and so on). I shared my idea of a "War Theme" with him. I want to see how exciting it will be to eat sitting inside a bunker, night time battle scene, dim lights, with tanks rolling and grenades exploding around you, and enemies crawling behind thick bushes. I am very much for a theme restaurant, I have some ideas in mind ("War" being one of them). And I am willing to discuss it with anyone who is putting up a theme restaurant. When Mayur has his food business up and running, I am surely going to give it a shot. Esp if he has a War Theme in it 🙂

And now some memories from the marriage.

  • It was the first day-time marriage I attended. And even though the barat was out in the sun at 1pm I liked it more than I had eariler thought I would. It was the first time I saw Lalitpur and met all of Ajits family (brothers & sis & jiju). The marriage was warm, the closeness – very visible.
  • I 'met' Romi. Why 'met' (quotes) and not just met? Actually its a bit strange. One year back we had chanced at a mall in Gurgaon, where we had both bought books at Galgotia's, didn't talk anything except the customary 'Hi' and that was it. Really that was it. Back then I had left the mall with a feeling that I will want to talk to her some times in future. Many months later I spotted her on Orkut, dropped in a line and things took off nicely. Now about fifteen months later from our technically first meeting, we met at Ajit's Marriage. The first words she said, 'Hi. We met again,.. finally!' Yes, we did. And I liked the way she put it – with all smiles. Picture perfect, kodak moment.
  • Atul tells me – 'Ajit means one who cannot be won. Vijeta means someone who won.' Ajit – jisko jeeta nahi ja sakta hain. Vijeta – jiseny usey bhi jeet liya. I liked the idea. Later I learned it was obvious for many people there. How come it didn't strike me? Dumb me.
  • Saw a cute little girl. Wanted to talk to her. So I just make a wild guess, 'Bete, tumhaarey chachu ki shaadi hain?' She says in a defiant tone typical of a small child, 'Nai. Chachi ki shaadi hain'. DING!
  • 'Okay, I'm wrong. She is from the ladki waala side', I thought. And carried on with the gang. But something was amiss. Chaachu is a blood relation. Chaachi is by nature a matrimonial relation. Then how can anyone's chaachi get married? A chaachi is only when you are already married. Half an hour later, when 'saat fere' was over, it struck me, if Ajit is her Chachu, then Vijeta is her Chachi.
  • Ajit and Vijeta on stage after jaymaal. Photographer to Vijeta – 'Thoda smile kijiye please'. She smiles a bit, still maintaining that poised demeanour of a 'dulhan'. Someone says something, and she slips into a wide smile, then a hearty laugh, then hides her face in her hands, and then back to normal smiling again. I liked the drama.
  • We on the stage with Ajit & Vijeta. Atul hands over his handycam to the guy who is doing the video recordings for the marriage, and asks him to take a 20-sec shot for us, before he takes the 'official' version. A minute later we all descend after wishing the couple, and see the recording on Atul's cam. Its a simple recording, starts with all eight of us on the dais. Zoom in. Atul, Mayur and myself fall out of frame. Zoom more, Abhijeet and Neeraj are out. Keep zooming, and move the focus next to Vijeta. Ajit & Vijeta also knocked out of frame! But the photographer doesn't seem to be worrying about that. He focusses on the prettiest face in the party – Romi! Haha, 'Nice photographer, perfect focus', we chuckle. 'O that means, I haven't lost my charms', she entertains. Too good!
  • After the 'saat feres' Ajit puts sindoor on Vijeta. The moment he applies the first bit, tears well in her eyes. Ajit takes some more sindoor and applies the second bit. Tears roll down her face. Why? I wondered. I still don't know, but I was moved by the moment.

The Delhi gang left at 9pm. One day in life..  one final goodbye, and some memories for a lifetime.

Few minutes later my train arrives. As I lie down on my berth, and stretch myself out, Romi's introduction appears in my mind. 'I am I, and there is no other I'.

So true. Closed my eyes, and tuned into Echoes.

'Strangers passing in the street
By chance two separate glances meet
And I am you and what I see is me…'

Merit is the latest taboo. And a forgotten word in Indian politics. Caste is more important. The promise of 49.5% reservation by Mr Arjun Singh was a dangerous political stunt timed just ahead of elections in five states. And to top it, what could be more pitiable state for the country other than that the Govt instead of looking into rationally, has conceeded to it hurriedly just to diffuse the agitation.

The latest statement from PM, stating that the 'Issue is settled' reminds me of the medivial age kingdoms. No debate, no data, no thinking. You wake up one morning, the King says, "Whoosh! The decision is final."

Reservation. Something that started with a good intention behind it, but used as a political tool to garner votes. VP Singh changed it all in 1989. Till 1989 reservation was the solution to a social problem, after that it has itself become a social problem.

I find the present system of reservation to be severely flawed. One, it is caste based rather than need based. And two, it is a reservation of results rather than facilitation of efforts.

Its common logic, but I wonder wether Mr Singh knows it; you don't launch a substandard missile and then hope it to succeed. You try to first _make_ the best missile you can, and then launch it. Children are born more or less equal even though the families they are born into might be very unequal. And the time to help is right then. Ensure nutrition and education in their formative years. Help them develop their skills right from the initial stages of their education. And when they are ready, let their individual efforts bring the results. Substituting substandard candidates at the final stages of career just on the basis of caste is a cruel injustice to the more deserving candidates who have toiled all their life. Providing free books to study is one thing, providing free marks at the final exams is quite another. (I don't think the "lower cut-off percentage" is anything other than disguised form of free marks). Worst, caste based reservation is detrimental to India's talent pool and more importantly social harmony.

10 years. Then 20 years. 30, 40 and now 50 years have gone by. We're closing in 60. How many more to go before we stop penalising the deserving candidates for Govt's failure to provide education to the deprived classes at primary and secondary level? How many more years to go before we stop dividing the country on basis of caste? How many more years before we realise that reservation is NOT the goal. The goal is the entire process itself; a system where facilities are available right from start. A system where people are helped not on the basis of caste or religion, but on the basis of needs. A child born in a family that cannot afford food and education has every right to be helped. And he must be helped irrespective of his caste or religion. Let the government be his family and provide him food and education. But the end result still HAS to come from him.

Fifty years of cosmetics. Fifty years of social injustice in a free country. I think Arjun Singh needs to refresh his political history. Nehru was opposed to reservation and Rajiv vehemently opposed it during Mandal, saying it was a threat to national unity and integrity. Heck! Arjun himself opposed reservation during Mandal era. How much more selfish can one get?

Already people have started to think in terms of 'us' and 'them'. Today its caste based, tomorrow it will be religion based. Congress is pushing strongly for that.

Mr Singh, I have a question for you. Where will this political madness end? Are you so blinded by the lure of votes that you can't see the grave dangers lying down this path? Can't you see that you are taking India into an era of Apartheid? Only in our case, the parameters are different. Its not Black or White; its religion and caste.

When will it dawn upon your infinite intelligence that you are eating right through the social fabric of my country?

What to do now? Markets crashing like anything! Seems to be the question everyone is searching an answer for.

My advice, breathe easy. Nothing; really nothing has changed with the world.

People will still wake up every morning, brush and shave, and shower. They will still read newspapers printed on paper, sipping tea with sugar in it. People will still drive bikes and cars and suvs to work. They will still need electricity, and oil and roads and bridges. And companies which build them will still need steel and cement. People will still goto banks for deposits and loans. And those banks will still need software to run. People will still buy TV and Refrigerators and Music systems and other consumer goods. And they will still need medicines when they are not well.

It takes thirty years to build rock solid companies like Seimens, Reliance, M&M, SBI, ITC, Hero Honda etc. Can the fundamentals really change in just a weeks time?

Do what you have been doing before. Play with your kids. Spend time with family. Talk to your friends. Give your best to your workplace. Enjoy life. If you have made your buying decisions right, you can sleep sound.

Unless the dollar crashes or unless you are leveraged beyond your limits, you have nothing to worry. And if any of that happens to be true, then also you don't have to worry. Because then you are royally screwed up, and worrying won't change that.

Personally I find Investing to be very much like Rock Climbing. You need intelligence + risk apetite. If you are not intelligent, you won't find the way to the top of the mountain. If you are intelligent, but don't have the risk apetite, then that is more dangerous. You will climb up the cliff, but at the slightest movement of a stone beneath your feet you will look down, and fall off to death.

Unrelated: Incidentally both investing and rock climbing are my overriding passions. Though I haven't got time to do much of the latter recently. 😦

Update: Someone pointed out that if I have made my biggest call on derivatives, am I not over-leveraging? Answer is, No. Coz that biggest call is still just a single-digit percentage of my stock portfolio. That means I am way under the point you can term over. I can pay off my obligations any day, which is what every leveraged player must keep in mind.

Butchery. Savage Massacre. And today, raw Blood on the Streets.

Charles Dickens starts A Tale of Two Cities with. 'It was the Best of times. It was the Worst of times.' He was certainly not referring to India 2006.

Sensex crashed a mind-numbing nerve-rattling stomach-wrenching 887 pts in preclose trade to create the biggest fall in the 130 years history of Indian stock markets.

Nothing expresses it better than this Live Mkt Data, I captured on my laptop. ALL Nifty in Red!
Biggest Fall

Rediff lists the 10 biggest falls in the history of Sensex. I have some interesting observations,

  1. Todays fall eclipsed the previous record fall of 507 pts by a big margin. Then it was a huge Eleven Thousand Crore Harshad-Mehta scam, the biggest till then. This time its a host of international factors – the commodities bubble, the pressure on Fed rates, rising crude, and currency manipulations.
  2. Of the 10 biggest falls, three (yes, that's right, THREE) have taken place in last one month! The biggest today, and the 4th biggest just 3 days back. We are surely living in the most turbulent era of Indian mkts. Read Charles Dickens quoted in the start of this post. You know what I mean. If we have seen the pink of Hedge Funds flocking to India like never before, we must suffer the blue as well.
  3. And now, the most startling observation. April and May are omnious. Nine of the ten falls occurred in these months. Actually all 10, if you notice that Mar 31st, 1997 was just a day before April. What's with Indian May and April?

I was listening to Fanaa all day long, as I witnessed history unfold before my eyes. And I think I can hear the Market singing to us,

Ye jo iraadey bata doon tumko,.. sharmaa hi jaaogi tum.
Dhadkaney jo suna doon tumko,.. ghabra hi jaaogi tum.

Btw, does that last line means its NOT over, yet.

My Personal Call –

What did I do today? Over the last few days I've particularily been very active in Derivatives. And it led me to building my biggest position till date on Tuesday. So, did I pare it today? No, I have further increased it. Its a big call. I'm generally a very confident, clear-thinking level-headed investor.

Now, if things move in favor, I'll shoot through the roof. No, make that 'I will go through the stratosphere'. If not, you can fish me out alongside Titanic or somewhere near Maraina's Trench.

Btw, Do Do Do positively grab a print edition of Indian Express and TOI tomorrow morning. Even if you have no interest in stock markets at all, you can save them as a collectible or even gift it to me later. 🙂

NSE alone has Thirty One Lakh Crore of public money at stake with it. I wonder how much of it went 'fanaa' today? Waiting for the EOD stats to come out. Till yesterday, Fanaa was about Aamir and Kajol. Today, its about my romance with the markets.

Subhaan Alaa.. subhaan allaah..
Sharmo haya key pardey gira key.. karni hain humko khata..
Jid hain ab to khud ko mitaana,.. hona hain tummein fanaa..

Humming along..

Update: If you haven't yet tuned into Chand Sifarish from Fanaa, its time to do so. The post makes more sense after you have listened to the song 🙂 Plus, its an absolutely wonderful song.

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