Sunday, September 08, 2013

Lowest point of my life.

Probably feelin the worst that i have ever felt. Its been a cocktail of emotions. Just received a Gold Medal for topping my batch but all I can think of is something else. I am not even happy about the medal. Something is seriously wrong. I know wat is wrong but somehow i dont wanna fix it. Will have to go back to serious work from tomorrow. Hopefully that will keep me busy and sane. Signing off!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

All about Rating Agencies

The role of some of the major rating agencies has been under immense scrutiny since the global meltdown of 2008. In this blog I wish to make clear what these rating agencies are all about. That is, Who are they? What is their job? How they do it? How do they earn money etc.

Who are they?

There are a number of them but the major ones are Standard and Poor's (S&P), Moody's and Fitch. These are all from the USA. The first 2 control approximately 80% of the ratings market. One of the reasons that their word is taken for granted is that they are recognised by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the USA. In fact, SEC requires some investment agencies/funds to get their investments rated by these agencies.

What is their job?

Their main job is to rate a borrower, be it an organisation or a government. This rating signifies the risk a lender takes while lending the funds to the borrower. For e.g., if a company is rated AAA (which is the highest rating), its borrowing costs would be comparatively lower.

How they do it?

They rate an entity based on various parameters that they consider important. For eg., while rating a country they might take into consideration the economic, geo-political environment of the country.

How do they earn money?

It is infact the borrowers who pay money to get themselves rated.

Whats the controversy?

Before the 2008 meltdown, the mortagage backed securities were given very high ratings which infact caused the meltdown. Thus there is this question of accountability. Most goverrnments esp in Europe feel that these agencies have immense power to dictate the borrowing costs of a country. The market is dominated by these US firms. Europe feels it needs to have its own rating agency.

Thus most analysts believe that there is a need to enforce accountability on the part of these agencies.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


This is probably the worst I ever felt in my whole life. Everyone wants a piece of me. Feel like disappearing from everyone I know of for sometime. Oh Faridabad, here I come in a week.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Not feeling great

And so I am listening to the song that always cheers me up. Cant the link

My Civil Services Interview 2

So, I had to undergo my second personality test under civil services mains exam on 2nd april 2011. Herz is my first one. I wasn't very eager to attend it for the following reasons but it is not as though I had a choice there!

a) It was a Saturday and my interview was in the afternoon session. Infact I was the last one to be interviewed by my board. Just imagine the agony!
b) It was THE day of the finals of the world cup.

I showed up at the UPSC and was sent in immediately. I was assigned to Lt General Nirbhay Sharma's board. People kept saying he gives average marks but I knew that's all TALK. U do well, u get ur marks. So I amble in at 4 PM into the room and herez how it went!

Chairman (from now C): So Gopi, what else is happening today apart from ur interview.

Me: Dude! World cup finals.

C: Do u know the score?

Me: I gave him the exact score at the end of the 15th over and he was surprised!

C: Completely surprised, he asked me how in the world I knew the score

Me: Told him I overheard. But I was continuously asking the UPSC office people there for the score

C: Are u more interested in the interview or the match (jovially)

Me: Said interview of course! (but match actually)

C: Passed on to M1

M1: U are going in a train which is traveling at 80 kmph. Whats ur speed?

Me: Relative to the person sitting next itz 0 but relative to the person outside the train, itz 80.

M1: Whats BOP?

Me: Explained

M1: Whats the current current account deficit?

Me: answered

M1: Whats our GDP growth rate?

Me: answered

M1: But the growth rate is over 10%. Why are u saying 8.6?

Me: Explained him diff between real GDP growth rate and GDP at market prices.

M2: Whats recession?

Me: answered

M2: Explain the economic cycle

Me; I said Booms amd Busts.

M2: There are 4 stages!

Me: I Donno dude!

M2: Whats sensex? Gimme 5 stocks on it.

Me: answered

M2: How many stocks u have in TCS?

Me: WTF! I gave him anyways.

M2: NASSCOM says only 10% of graduates are employable in the IT BPO sector. Explain!

Me: answered thoroughly. Used my personal exp as manager at Oracle.

M2: What are Mergers and Acquisitions?

Me: answered

M3: What are ethics? How are they ingrained?

Me: Ingrained by parents, education.

M3: How abt religion?

Me: Yes. Religious scriptures are codes of conduct that specify Dos and Donts

M3: Are u religious?

Me: Sort of

M3: Whats ethical leadership?

Me: examples. Not very satisfying!

M3: Gimme examples of 2 corporate leaders from India who are ethical.

Me: I said I could give names but they could be involved in scandals tomorrow. Gave Azim Premji, Anand Mahindra. Later, I was like Anand Mahindra? How did u come up with that? How did u forget Narayan Murthy? Dumb me!

M3: Some incomprehensible questions.

Me: Tried to keep her happy by blahing. No clue what she was asking!

M4: What are FTAs?

Me: answered

M4: What are SEZs and STPIs? Explain the diff!

Me: answered. Told him how STPI is closed now after the recent budget (March 31).

C: Took the word budget that I utterred and started screwing me!

C: Gimme the figures of Rupee goes to!

Me; WTF! Gave him a few ( Interests: 18%, Defence: 11%, Subsidies: 9, Social sector: 160000 cr etc)

C; Gimme total expenditure.

Me; 12,50,000 cr.

C; No. Try again

Me: WTF! I restated Its 12,50,000 cr.

C; Get ur facts right!

Me: Sir, I donno abt Center + States exp but central exp is 12,50,000 cr

C; No

Me: in my mind ...(Dude, open Google, I will prove u wrong right here, right now). But kept quiet!

C; Do u back salwa judum?

Me: I said no. Gave reasons. Forgot that he was an army dude.

C; He wasnt happy at all. He asked me if I knew the ground reality in Chattisgarh.

Me; I said, not completely.

C; Then how can u pass such a judgement.

Me: Reiterated again...

C; Tell me how would u fight the naxals.

Me; Started talking abt development etc.. he said no. Tell me abt law and order only.

Me; I would "pump" in more paramilitary forces.

C; How many?

Me: In my mind ( If only I knew)....i said until a critical mass is achieved

C: So gimme the figure. I drew blank.

C; Do u know how many naxals are in Chattis?

Me; WTF! Donno.

C; Lets say there are how many is critical mass?

Me: I would send in a few, if that works then that is critical mass, if not until they are beaten....

C: Not happy

C; India and Pakistan and UN and 1948

Me: explained nicely.

C; Current state of Indo china trade relations

Me; Gave exact figures specifying the trade deficit in China's favour

C; So why the trade deficit

Me: We export mainly raw materials, they export finished goods.

C: So is it good?

Me; No

C; Do u think people in commerce dept are stupid enough to frame such a policy?

Me: We should persuade china to open those sectors where we are good at. Esp IT, Pharma etc.

C; satisfied with my answer

C: Whats the current plan?

Me; 11th

C; What according to u is the mos important plan?

Me; 8th plan! (for economic reforms)

C; What did the 2nd plan focus on?

Me; Industrialisation

C; What did the 3rd one focus on?

Me; Green revolution.

C; whatz Green revolution?

Me: answered

C; So isnt the 3rd plan most important?

Me; Its important too but i still think 8th plan is more important.

Some more questions relating to my height. I said I was short of 165 cm by .5 cms I didnt opt for IPS. While leaving I jumped out of the chair. He looked at me and asked me my height again ;)

Overall, not very happy. It was a stress interview. Donno, why so much focus on Economy. My optionals are PubAd, Anthro. No questions on hobbies, personal data, optionals etc. Its as if they didnt even read my summary sheet. It was a 23 min interview. I walked out with very mixed feelings esp after having an awesome interview last year. Lets see how it goes!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

What's with the Eurozone?

Estonia has become the 17th country to join the euro-zone today despite the crisis. Some might find it surprising given the inherent rigidities involved in being part of such a union. There is some talk of one in two Germans wanting to return to the Deutsche Mark. So what exactly are these rigidities? As part of the euro-zone, there are certain constraints placed on the member countries. They are

1. Countries cannot unilaterally devalue the exchange rate. Duh!
2. Restrictions related to monetary and fiscal policies.

These do cause hardships to economies under crisis like Greece. For example, if the Greeks were out of the zone, they could have used a combination of exchange rate devaluation and lower interest rates to stimulate demand and employment and also set right the external imbalances.So, why do some countries still want to join the zone. There are some benefits involved such as

1. Member countries would not be exposed to severe exchange rate volatility in this age of easy cross border capital flows
2. Reduced transaction costs for all the cross border economic activities.

The above would particularly induce additional investments in the member countries.

So, will the euro-zone stay or break up? It's difficult to answer given that it involves both advantages and disadvantages but in my opinion the eurozone is not sustainable. Any such economic union has to be preceded by a political union.

One other thing that it surprising is why there is no price equalization across countries in the zone. Shouldn't trade arbitrage equalize the prices? That is something for the economists to ponder over.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

My Civil Services Interview

My interview took place on 31 march early at 10:00 am. I was assigned to Mr Balaguruswamy's board. Yeah the same guy who wrote those computer books on BASIC and C . The board also had 4 other members. The interview took around 40 mins and it was very very cordial.

I enter and take the seat. The chairman appreciates that I am already a manager@Oracle. Despite that , why civils was his first question. He also said that I need not worry abt the salary once I get in. It may not match my current salary but that it would be okay. I was like why is he saying this. Wasn't he supposed to attack me saying that u would be earning lesser salary once u get in? He also asked me what is good governance and how I could bring IT into governance. While I was talking abt land record digitisation, he stated that his property@Hyderabad was grabbed by some judge and that I should do this IT thingee ;).

Some questions
1. Why civils ? Don't give us the standard answer

2. Can you make the transition between private and public sectors. Looks like they had some concern with my private sector leaning. There was one guy who thought that my professional outlook could be incompatible with the profile of a babu!!!! Whatever that means!

3. Discuss indo-us, indo-aus, indo-srilanka relations!

4. What is shifting cultivation?

5. How are snow caps formed? I was like "Say whaaaaaaaaaaat????". Didnt answer this!

6. Why india had to go for liberalisation in the 90s?

7. Should we talk to Pakistan? I said 'Yes' and the guy didn't like it. Welcome to the club sir!

8. What are non tariff barriers?

9. State the finance sector reforms on the anvil.

10. why anthropology? Is it because it is said to be scoring?

11. Anthropometry, DNA fingerprinting

12. Some questions testing my honesty and integrity. Eg., what would you do if they put you in a remote area with no water connection. I said that I would take it as an opportunity to get water connections to that place. Chairman said, "Very Positive".

13. Some situational questions like how I would react under political

14. Many more related that I cannot recall.

15. Opportunity for me to ask them a question. I asked them about any core principles that I need to keep in my mind to be successful. At this juncture one guy, a former IAS completely discouraged me from joining the civils. He was serious. He was not questioning me or testing me. He was just stating his opinion.

Before leaving the chairman shook my hand and gave me a chocolate. I asked him if I could take one more. He laughed and said Yes. While leaving, I accidentally took the pencil that was kept for me. They asked me to return as it was UPSC property.

Overall it was good. lets see how that translates into marks.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

State of the Indian Judiciary

The people of India always had a very high regard for the judiciary, at least for the higher judiciary (read Supreme court). It was perceived as the last resort of justice for anyone including the poor. Some of the legal innovations such as PILs (judicial activism) captured the imagination of the common public. It was a delight to watch the the judges treat the executive with contempt forcing it to take steps that it would have never taken. Be it the introduction of CNG buses in Delhi to reduce pollution, ordering the closure of industries that harmed the fragile environment or setting up night shelters for the homeless, the high courts and the supreme court played a great role. The supreme court is also known to broadly interpret the article 21 (Right to Life) to ensure basic facilities (shelter, drinking water) for the common man. With the ever increasing activism of the courts, they are bound to be held in high regard in the near future as well.

But there is this other side of the judiciary that is worrisome. According to some, it is increasingly getting insensitive to needs of the the poor, non-transparent, sloth and corrupt(at least at the lower levels). Many recent episodes have given credence to this view. If the justice Nirmal Yadav episode and the Ghaziabad PF scam exposed the corruption in the judiciary, the initial reluctance of the judges to declare public their assets and non transparent nature of working of the supreme court collegium has only raised questions about its accountability to the public. In addition, we have this average backlog of 15 yrs of cases that demonstrates how inefficient it has become over time. At this point, it is imperative to list some of the concerns that people hold about the judiciary.

1. For most, especially the poor and those residing in regions far away from Delhi, access to supreme court has become very expensive. Sometimes, they spend a lot of money to reach the SC only to find that their case had been postponed. It is advisable to open more cassation benches in various regions of the country to solve this inconvenience. However, latest reports suggest that the judiciary is averse to this recommendation. God only knows why!

2. We need a transparent manner by which judges are elevated to the higher judiciary. Preferably a national judicial commission consisting of eminent people from all walks of life need to be set up. This body should also be entrusted with the promotion of judges.

3. A separate body or the above one could act as the institution to receive complaints from the public regarding any grievances associated with the judiciary. If only such a body existed, revelations about Mr. Dinakaran would have been out in the public domain even before his proposed elevation.

4. Transparency is the key to effective governance. Unfortunately, the judiciary considers itself above everyone when it comes to subjecting itself to intense scrutiny from the public. The reluctance of the supreme court to bring itself completely under the umbrella of the RTI has been disappointing. In this regard, the recent judgment of the Delhi court that the CJI comes under the ambit of RTI has been a silver lining. I only hope the the SC doesn't appeal the case and end up judging its own cause.

5. It has been observed that cases handled by the top advocates have a greater chance of moving through the system quickly. So much for a state that professes social justice.

6. The SC, of late, has increasingly ruled against the poor and the workers. This has been observed recently by none other than a couple of SC judges - Mr. Ganguly and Mr. Singhvi.

7. Increasing allowance of Special Leave Petitions has been one of the major causes of the huge backlog of cases. SLPs let the litigants prolong the duration of the cases. Note that it is only the rich that can afford lengthy litigation processes. Also the SC tends to produce conflicting precedents. This only encourages the lawyers to try their luck at the SC.

8. There is an increased concerned about the quality of judgments delivered by the lower courts.

9. Corruption in the judiciary is a major concern. It is difficult to remove the judges through the impeachment process. Evidence? Since independence, not even one judge has been impeached. We need to set strong deterrents so that judges behave in an honest manner. Also not everyone who censures the judges should be held for contempt. This process has to be resorted only in extreme cases.

10. Of late, there have been concerns that the judiciary has encroached upon the sphere of the executive and the legislative(via PILs etc).

We need urgent measures to save our judiciary from losing credence in the eyes of the common man. This is probably the only branch of the government that people still trust. We need to restore faith in this great institution for a better India. Jai Hind!