Sunday, November 9, 2008

Change has come to the USA?

The map of USA has changed…USA has the best relations with all the countries of the world…terrorist organizations have become ‘bum chums’ of the USA, North Korea and Iran are allies of America, USA has changed to no no…that’s not the ‘change’ or the type of change we witnessed in the history of USA…but, wait, the entire world is talking about a HISTORIC CHANGE in USA, even the brand new President of the US said, “Change has come to America”! Ah, yes, there’s a change in the USA, George Bush Junior is no longer the President, nor is the Republican Party in power anymore. So, what is it? Well, we have the man of the moment, Barack Hussein Obama, America’s latest Prez. Nothing unusual, USA always had a new Prez after at least two consecutive terms (if not one). Here, the situation is ‘different’…Mr Obama is the FIRST, yes first Afro-American President to be elected, rather the 1st Black or ‘coloured’ man to ever come to power at this zenith!

Barack Obama owes allegiance to the Democrats, he may be the front man or the ‘face’ of the Democrats; however one factor can NEVER be ruled out- it’s the Democrats who have come to power in the USA. A little history about this new Prez- born to a black Kenyan father and a white American mother. None of his parents are alive and his maternal grandmother passed away recently. It is DEFINITELY a feel good factor as Obama will be the 1st black Chief Executive of USA, after 43 ‘white’ Presidents in the 234 year history of the nation. All these years, not only across the globe but also in the US, we have witnessed numerous incidents of racial discrimination wherein the most common incident observed is suppression and oppression of the Blacks and the colored across the world, mainly at the hands of the Whites, who claim to be a ‘superior’ race. It is certainly shameful and not at all ‘ethical’ as all humans are equal. So, in relation to racism, oppression and slavery, it is a thumping victory, and let us consider Obama as the fortunate one to be a part of this moment of glory and the ‘eligible candidate’. The bottom-line is- USA has its FIRST black President in power, to ‘rule’ one of the MOST powerful countries of the world. Now, the biggest question is, will this so called change make America invincible? Will racism end forever? Will terrorists never strike the USA? Will America erase terrorism from the face of the earth? Will this change reverse the economic meltdown and fortunes of the financial wizards calling the shots from Wall Street? These are just some of the questions which will remain in the forefront.

God is the foundation on which the USA was built, even the US currency states- ‘In God we trust’…here, we have the Democrats, known for their liberalism…for them matters like same sex marriage and abortion are pretty normal, which are ‘abnormal’ in the eyes of God! Right now, the US is TOO overwhelmed by the ‘Black President’ factor, which means racism isn’t over yet…the vote bank, color, political agendas still rule the roost, be it the USA or any other country. Some may even consider Obama’s meteoric rise vis-à-vis the thoroughly experienced John McCain, that he was a pawn at the hands of the Democrats…All said and done, its good, to see a Black President, next term, the turn’s for Bobby Jindal, the Indo-American Republican, howzzat? After all Norman Mailer had said, “America is the country in which the dynamic myth of the Renaissance- that every man is potentially extraordinary- knows its most passionate persistence”.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sell, Sell, Sell...the flavor this 'festive' India

Avalanche, Tsunami, Earthquake, Cyclone, Hurricane, Whirlpool...just to name a few...are 'attacking' the 'Markets' worldwide and the Indian Markets can never be left far behind, they can go 1 step further. Bettering the hearts and minds go shattering on our Indianized version of the Wall Street, aka the revered Dalal Street. It was 'khoon ki holi' (Indianized bloodbath) amidst the festivities of Diwali, wherein ideally people are out on a buying spree, not only shares and commodities, but also sweetmeats, apparels, appliances, jewellery, et al. The 'festival of lights' has certainly become lacklustre for most of the Indians as they cant go on a shopping spree that they are used to!

Even though the Wall Street was the epicenter of the financial earthquake, the tremors were felt throughout the world. Presumably the Richter Scale, wouldn't have been in a position to measure the intensity of this 'quake', which will not only go beyond 10 but also be a recurring one, time & again! Friday, October 24, 2008 was another gloomy day in the chequered history of the Sensex. 1,071 points DOWN, yes, the benchmark Index tanked by over 1000 points, and its beaten black & blue yet again! Let's look at a couple of examples- biggies that reigned supreme in their sectors. Unitech, one of the most revered names in the Realty sector, which, some time back was selling over Rs.10,000 a piece, which was hitting the upper circuit almost everyday, which was at a 52-week high of Rs.547, last traded at Rs.30 on Oct 24, which means you buy a share of Unitech at Rs.30 odd each! How can we forget Suzlon, which was at a 52-week high of Rs.460 and was available on Oct 24 for Rs.47! There were MANY stocks which created 52-week LOWS on Oct 24 and the week ended on a highly dismal note for all those linked to the Markets, directly as well as indirectly. There are many investors who have bought stocks at a premium, on a relative high, so much so that the stock's value has almost halved, or even less! Many groan that the value of their portfolios is trimmed considerably by 40-70% and that they are absolutely in no position to sell. However people who have no other option apart from selling are a hapless lot. Mind you, its eery, very very scary...the question is- are we set to better the 'Great Depression'? The crash of 1929 began on October 24, eventually leading to the Great Depression.

With an 11% one-day Sensex loss on Oct 24, 2008, we are inching closer to the 13% loss on April 28, 1992 and may even breach the 13% mark! Some of the smothered countries across the globe are- USA, UK, Japan, South Korea and India. Not to forget some European countries and of course the Latin American. It was not long ago when every Tom, Dick and Harry would try his/her hand in the stock markets, many would and have even taken burdensome loans to invest in the markets. With the markets going kaput, most of them don't even have a clue as to how to get themselves out from this mess nor do they have anyone to bail them out. Agreed that most of the scrips of the 'A group' are fundamentally strong, however, are they strong enough to hold onto the sentiments of the common man, strong enough to keep them floating...well, seems doubtful. The fundamentals ain't strong enough to to cull the fear and panic, dominating the hundreds and thousands of punters/investors who are selling their stocks as if it Doomsday. Even though its Doomsday, it doesn't matter as the aftermath of the Doomsday would render the stock sale, useless. Only resilience, faith and patience will help people tide over these testing times.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Indian markets aiming for the abysmal pits?

Its bloodbath, mayhem and carnage once again as the benchmark BSE Sensex, headquartered in Mumbai, was battered yet again on October 17, 2008 and its been hammered for quite some time now. Seems it will have to be business as usual for the regular investors(day traders & deliver based), arbitragers, stock brokers, HNIs, fund managers et al as some people survive purely on the financial markets, more precisely the stock markets. Here the question is about survival as thriving seems a distant possibility taking into consideration the almost consistent downfall, the choppy and flat markets.

Records show that it took 484 trading sessions for the Sensex to climb from 10,000 (on February 6, 2006) and touch an all time high of 21,207 (on January 8, 2008). However, it’s taken just 191 sessions to collapse to 10,000 and below! Furthermore it was Black Friday again on October 17…17 does ring alarm bells in our systems…May 17, 2005, days before the swearing in of the new Government, when the Bellwether index plummeted to terrible depths, triggering the circuit breaker. Such ‘freefalls’ can play havoc in the lives of many ‘players’, not only whitewashing their bank balances but also affecting their mental make-up, temporarily or permanently. Some of the punters, who can’t bear the bankruptcy stigma, end up laying down their lives and at times of their loved ones too!

Some snippets of the sequence of events culminating to Black Friday Oct 17- FIIs net sold over Rs.900 crores, fire sale of shares by financiers who had loaned money to promoters and HNIs against pledged shares and speculation on Dalal Street as to how many corporates are likely to default. The Sensex dropped to the day’s low of 9,911!

Most of the punters were/are puzzled by the sudden downturn, just a day after the Dow rose by 401 points. We all know that FEAR & GREED are key ‘instruments’, affecting the rise & fall of the stock markets, and here, Fear is certainly ruling the roost. So, is this a never-ending story or will the free fall stabilize at 5,000 points? As of now, its wait & watch…

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Jet Airways Boss is NOW ready for the loss...

Naresh Goyal, the big boss of Jet Airways assumed that he will have the last laugh and/or save his beleaguered company from losing over Rs.5 crores every month...alas his idea and dream went for a toss, as now he's in for a bigger loss, in spite of being the big boss! For the moment, the axed employees are having the last laugh.

Naresh Goyal & Co. showed the pink-slip to at least 850 cabin crew members and had planned to retrench another 1050 more across several functions. The employees who were shown the door, were definitely in for a rude shock. However, they decided to take the bull by its horns and approached none other than the firebrand MNS Chief, Raj Thackeray, to bail them out. As expected, Raj gave a befitting reply to Mr Goyal's game plan, threatening to stop Jet Airways operations in Maharashtra if the Airline didn't reinstate the laid-off employees.

Surprise, surprise (or was it evident)...Mr Goyal takes a quick sharp U-turn - probably under the spell of a chameleon or highly petrified by the political salvo which he saw coming! May be, he also feared for his dear life- he might have remembered how a Delhi big boss was beaten to death by his sacked employees. So, here we are, an amazing fast-forward transformation...the Jet Promoter called back ALL the sacked employees, stating that he was unable to sleep at night, reeling under the guilt of the agonized staffers. Addressing his employees as one family and playing the blame game pretty well, Mr Goyal cited known to the management of the Company and that he was helpless on certain instances! This is not all, Naresh Goyal went on to say, "I swear on my dead mother that I've not spoken to any politician. I swear I've not met anybody, there was no pressure". Such statements speak of an overdose of the Bollywood influence on Mr Goyal. Shot One over, Shot Two, now, its the turn of Mr Praful Patel, the Civil Aviation Minister, who has contradictions in store for the haggard Jet Chief. Mr Patel said, "I told him (Naresh) to sort out the issue within 24 hours. I told him that Jet may have financial difficulties but that does not mean you take such drastic action". More was in store for the Jet Airways Promoter- Petroleum Minister, Mr Murli Deora also launched a scathing attack on the cornered Jet Boss.

Dr Vijay Mallya, Chairman of Kingfisher Airlines is undoubtedly the sly fox, playing the 'wait & watch' game by not firing any of his employees yet! Finally, in line with Mr Deora's comments, that Mr Goyal is immature, it wouldn't be wrong to reiterate that most of these Airline honchos, including Dr Mallya, are very immature, by employing people by the dozens, lacking the vision of our country's economy. They kept hoping for the best and didn't prepare for the worst. What about the employees jobs/lives at stake? Well, the big bosses care a damn when their asses are on fire- someone has to be sacrificed...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

India/Indians EARNS more negativity vis-à-vis Customer Service

With the death (rather murder) of the Australian tourist in Calangute, Goa...Indians have added yet another feather in their cap- for awful, uncalled for and 3rd grade customer service. We are all familiar with incidents of wretched customer service in relation to 'domestic' call centres, some restaurants (even hotels), Government hospitals/offices, etc (as the list is humongous). The highlight here is bad/unprofessional customer service leading to murder, YES murder of the customer allegedly at the hands of the person rendering the service!

An Australian tourist in India is murdered in Calangute, Goa allegedly by waiters and a security guard of a restaurant in Goa...sounds ABSOLUTELY shocking, at least to me!! The story so far- Mr John Kelly, the Australian national picked up an argument with the waiter over beer not served in the 'right' way. Let's take it for granted that the tourist was rude or misbehaved with the waiter. But, when were Indian waiters famous for serving food & beverages the 'right' way?! If you happen to be a food-pro and pretty well versed with gourmet/food & beverages, you'll realize what I mean! Many restaurateurs or hoteliers don't even understand the difference between chilled and cold, and many other things...So, in the ensuing scuffle between the tourist on 1 side and the waiters+security guard on the other, the restaurant guys thrashed him. Though, they have a story to tell and according to them Mr Kelly wielded a knife...from which they had to be 'protected'. Cutting the story (& the allegations and counter allegations) short- the tourist died allegedly at the hand of the restaurant men.

Doesn't it give a bad name to India and Indians, especially a foreign national murdered at the hand of Indians!!! Its disgraceful. May be the benefit of doubt should go to the waiters...but is this the way you treat your guest...the person who gives you business?! Moreover, he was owing allegiance to another country and this incident is going to have serious repercussions. Indian traditions and customs profess that a guest is like god and we should treat our guest REALLY well! And what happened to the maxim- 'Atithi devo bhava'(the guest is embodiment of a divine entity) ??

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The wild wild West…

Cheers may be a long forgotten word, or rather a word spelling luxury for an Indian banker, financial wizard and techie- who would otherwise have been gung-ho about his/her prospects in the USA and even UK! The collapse of financial behemoths in the USA is definitely bad news for the Americans but worse news for the Indians holed up there, with an ‘American’ dream. They were not wrong in dreaming big or harboring great ambitions in their minds…it’s just that (the right) circumstances didn’t give them company. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is definitely the mantra today and for many days to come, moreover, its ‘test amongst the fittest’…not only will the ‘fittest’ win but the fittest of the fittest will only survive…thriving seems miles apart.

So much negativity, gloom and distress…one can’t help but be BEARISH as the Bulls have NO choice but to run for cover as the Wall Street…which millions of the world looked upto, is no longer a positive indicator! Of course, Bears had their time too, in the past, but were never in the limelight as much as the Bulls, who tipped the weighing scale on their side, most of the times. Thousands of Indians associated with the Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) sector, in and around the Wall Street are rendered jobless or eventually will be running for cover as sitting on the bench is not at all a distant dream but a disaster waiting to happen anytime! Financial capital London is not far behind as it is emulating New York to quite an extent. There was a time when an Indian returning back from the US or UK was welcomed with open arms for a job back home and the head-hunters would readily fix a job for him/her. That’s not the case now with an alarming level of reverse brain drain affecting India, as not at all happy-go-lucky ‘Indians’ are coming back to India, though not willingly, but for a job to survive and bail out their families. They will have to forget the fat pay-packets they received overseas and will have to be at the mercies of their new bosses back ‘home’. Now, the BIG BOSS will be the one who will really call the shots, followed by the placement firms, who will unambiguously be in cherry picking mode. Indians who have already ‘settled’ in foreign lands, heavily invested in real estate are in for bigger shocks as property rates are also plummeting and they have hardly or few options left.

All this is just the beginning (of misery) for Indians who are forced to come back ‘home’ and will be subject to bigger issues like corruption, 3rd grade politics, population explosion, pathetic roads, pollution, et al. Is Standard and Poor’s (S&P), listening? They are, rather were, supposed to be Wall Street’s leading rating agency, who are also on a job-cutting spree! Is S&P still good enough to ‘rate’ India? Nonetheless, how can ‘the wall’ fall? We have heard of ‘cookies crumbling’, but did anyone think that the Wall Street can crumble? Well, it can, if the ‘wall of Jericho’ can fall down- the Wall Street isn’t a big deal!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Asif Ali Zardari sings, Happy Days Are Here Again…

Mr AA Zardari, Pakistan’s President goes gaga, almost drooling at the sight of Sarah Palin, USA’s Republican Party’s Vice Presidential candidate. Looks as if he is keen to emulate ex-Pakistani PM Shaukat Aziz, who unsuccessfully tried to charm Condi Rice, the US Secretary of State, who showed him ‘his place’!

Mr Zardari was so much in awe of Sarah Palin that he couldn’t conceal his admiration for her. Zardari went on to say, “You are even more gorgeous than I expected…and now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you”. Sarah Palin was a beauty queen in her yesteryears, though now a mother of five! She reacted blushingly, at his comment. This is not all, when a photographer asked Mr Zardari to pose for a photo-op while shaking hands with Sarah, Zardari said, “if he (the photographer) is insisting, I might hug her”. If he could go this far in ‘public’, he may cross bigger ‘lakshman rekhas’ in private. Interestingly, Mr Zardari is a Moslem and the ‘Islamic world’ is currently observing Ramadan. It is a known fact that a Moslem should not only refrain from desires pertaining to food (during Ramadan) but other areas too, not succumbing to the flesh is definitely one of them.

So this is the ‘flamboyant’ President of Pakistan, who is going places and reaching the pinnacle of titles, thanks to his assassinated wife, Benazir Bhutto. He should be thankful (to whom) that Palin didn’t show him ‘his place’, the way Condi did to Mr Aziz! By the way, how can we forget- old habits die hard…the playboy in Zardari has risen, but was ‘he’ ever sleeping?