Sunday, December 2, 2018

Getting under the skin with help of Robert Greene

I have been reading and re-reading Robert Greene’s book ‘Power’ for couple of years. It has become a good reference book for me to understand the strategies adopted by those who wielded power – all kinds of dominating figures in the history ranging from dictators, military generals, political leaders to achieve what they wanted and keep a control on their subjects which we also can learn and put to use in our own circumstances.

Author’s grip on historical facts, the ways to interpret them, ability to see through the masks people wear to conceal emotions and explaining to the readers lucidly how it can be internalized is really fascinating. I was drawn into this author. In the quest to understand this author better, I watched his interviews on Youtube, learnt about his past and how he puts things together. He only impressed me further. I bought another book of his - ‘Mastery’, which is about those people, not the rulers, but who mastered a particular subject or a skill and how they could clear past through other attractions in their lives and keep distractions away as well.

Recently came out his new piece of work – ‘The Laws of Human Nature’, it is an outstanding work on the subject of human psychology. I found it much more effective than my past experiences of reading the similar works by other authors. As it got under my skin, I was completely immersed into this book and read it feverishly, wasting no available time or opportunity I got to read this. As soon as I was done, I started reading this again for the second time. Most likely, I am likely to go back to it again as the concepts are so useful and the subject itself is so vast.

Though I attempted reading books by other authors and move on to a different subject, the urge to read this author again made me buy his book ‘War’. Though it is based on war strategies, they can be largely used in multiple situations in our daily lives too.

This author will wake up a different person lying deep inside you. As you understand yourself better, your ability to get under the skin of others will also deepen. You will begin to read their faces, body language, tones to get clues of what they are up to and you will begin to ignore the words – plain language they use to conceal their true intentions and there will be nothing hidden from you as you get better with your understanding of human psychology and the strategies people adopt to get what they want. You want to become a better person at human psychology or you want to outsmart those who are already good at this, Robert Green can be of great help in either cases.

If you are ambitious to build a kingdom (or a company or a small team or a name for yourself) and want to learn the tricks from people who built vast empires in the past and controlled them well, these are the books you should be putting your hands on. You are not ambitious but want to save yourself from those who want to manipulate you by getting to know their true intentions at the very early stage, again Robert Green is a must read for you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Oil’s bear grip on India is ending

Like any oil importing nation, India’s economy too is at the mercy of crude oil price. As the dependence on oil increased, the impact of price swings too increased. But there are significant structural changes which are happening, though at a slower pace, are determined to free India’s economy from oil’s hostage.

1. Increase in Ethanol mixing: From the current 2% mixing of Ethanol with Petrol, there are lots of policy measures taken to increase it to beyond 10%. It works well for the sugar cane farmers too. Their crops can get better prices as sugar factories divert the cane juice to production of Ethanol. It may take two years or so for new distilleries to begin production but there are definite actions being taken to make it happen. With Sugarcane crop glut and high import prices of crude, Central Govt. has hit two targets with a single arrow. The money saved (from importing crude) flows into investments into Ethanol facilities (creating jobs) while also boosting farmer income.

2. Higher domestic oil production: Vedanta’s Anil Aggarwal says he can produce crude oil in India at $7 a barrel. Wow, that is 1/10th of the price we pay when we import it. His company Cairn Oil has won bids for the oil fields along Rajasthan border. Though we need to see how much of oil is available there, it looks promising for now and can surely take domestic production up from current numbers. Any increase here is savings in the import bill.

3. Railway Electrification: Indian Railways is the biggest guzzler of diesel in entire India. As their lines get electrified (they got huge sanctions in the last budget), demand shifts from imported crude to domestically produced coal.

4. Electric Cars: Though the electric car market is not deep, there is huge interest being shown by automaker as well as policy makers to increase their numbers. As these cars hit roads but don’t pay visits to petrol pumps but charging stations, oil consumption comes down by that proportion. With each passing year, the ratio keeps changing and probably 10 years down the line, things would have changed drastically.

Apart from this, recent price surge in crude oil and its retracement backward shows that similar changes are happening in the international market too. Any price surge may become temporary phenomenon as other channels begin to open and alternatives begin to play a catch up.

The risk to assumptions made could be in the timelines, it may take longer than expected but oil’s golden era seems to be getting over.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Floods are no more rare events

Kashmir, Kedarnath, Kaziranga, Chennai, Kerala, Kodagu…. these are the places which witnessed how much damage can floods cause in the recent past. In each place, reports said it had not happened like that in the past few decades. Yeah, not in the same place but in half a decade it happened in many places all over India. South East monsoons which first hit Kerala’s coastal line, begin there journey from there and the clouds take the routes where the pressure drop is high and pour the rains there. if no where else, as a last stop, they reach the Himalaya’s and empty out themselves fully.

What seemed to be a rare event, is no more a rare one if you observe the regularity of it happening in one or the places of India. Of course, global warming is for real. It is making the seasonal patterns abrupt and taking the sea water levels high too. As a result, we are experiencing extremes of weather – too hot and sunny during summer and water pouring from the heaven during the winter.

If we look at how we respond, we are not doing any great job with weather forecasts. And when things break loose, our citizens just cry for help. Why did they built their houses on the riverbeds and encroached lakes in the first place? What happened to the rain drains? Where did they disappear? Why did we build such low bridges across the river streams? What kind of town planning did our Corporations made? It is a collective failure in anticipating risks and managing them.

If no one takes responsibility and pass through this again as a one-off situation, nature will continue to give us lessons every year. It is time to take long term corrective actions and learn the ways of the nature. History shows those who did not adopt to nature’s ways like those of Mayan civilization (and our own Harappa too) did not survive the master strokes of the nature. Hundreds of years of civilization disappeared in a matter of few days when they were faced with floods, earthquakes and other natural calamities. We Indians are surviving for 5,000 years but it does not mean we will survive in future too. Last week’s chaos and deaths in Kerala showed how ill prepared we are for the nature’s ways.

Mother nature is kind and nurturing. But she will wash away all those getting on her way too.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Business Vs Environment (Protests at Sterlite Tuticorin)

There were protests at Sterlite copper factory in Tuticorin, which took a violent turn and caused few deaths in the past month. State Govt. ordered closure of the factory. It drew my attention and I started looking into the details. Protesters claim health hazards rising in the surrounding communities where the factory operates in. The copper factory blames that on other power plants operating in the town and says its own factory is safe for community.

Most (if not all) mining and ore extraction companies cause environmental damage at varying levels, many a times they are irreversible. Few companies do take ownership and employ sustainable measures to keep the harm to a minimum and they also take initiative to develop the communities living nearby as a token of offsetting the loss caused to them. Keeping that in mind, a copper smelting factory at Tuticorin had zero discharge (no waste bi-products), so factory’s claims of being safe cannot be ignored. But the society’s suffering is real, so instead of targeting only this factory, a wider survey needs to be undertaken and all those causing environmental damage should be made to take necessary corrective actions.

That was one side of the story. Another side, this was one of the India’s biggest copper producing units. With its closure, India must import copper now, so the costs are going up substantially and all the value-chain using copper as input are suffering business losses and many jobs are at a risk. If 2,000 jobs are about to be lost in the copper smelting unit, at least 10x more jobs will disappear in the subsequent chain industries, if the the situation continues.

As a trade-off, I feel both the copper factory and protesters need to take a back-step from their stance and come to terms. Protesters should not only target this company but make all the polluting companies responsible and at the same, the industry needs to adhere to safety norms and spend more than they are doing now on developing the communities living nearby. Govt. need to strike a balance between jobs and the environment, rather than taking a side. That is easier said than done. If the protests were politically motivated targeting only the Sterlite, then it is a sorry state for the environment. Once those political leaders get their pay-off, copper factory will come back to life but the environmental damage caused by other factories will continue to remain an issue and an opportunity to fix it is lost.