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Friday, 15 March 2019

Weekly Reading - Some Interesting Stuff

A wonderful article on Stéphane Breitwieser, who robbed nearly 200 museums, amassed a collection of treasures worth more than $1.4 billion.
When it comes to stealing from museums, Stéphane Breitwieser is virtually peerless. He is one of the most prolific and successful art thieves who has ever lived. Done right, his technique—daytime, no violence, performed like a magic trick, sometimes with guards in the room—never involves a dash to a getaway car. 

A detailed look at how the shared economy is shaping the traditional business model and how the hotel business is adapting and changing to the new situation.

Delivery robots can, over time, also become "goods-shifting" robots.
If the arrival of automated delivery robots could lower the effort to sell or return goods to the minimal amount it now takes to buy them, users might exchange products through a new kind of logistical network that would make the process of acquiring and trading physical objects as frictionless as that of downloading and deleting digital files. Users might trade products among themselves through new kinds of logistical networks — a kind of peer-to-peer sharing for physical objects.

Algorithms can now make your psychological profile from your social media interactions! That has major commercial ramifications like advertising targeted to your specific moods. This, and other kinds of profiling, are not limited to only social media.
There are systems today which automate a job interview: job seekers speak with a computer by telephone, which then creates a detailed psychogram based on their responses.  Software that analyzes faces for clues to mood, personality or other psychological features is being explored as well. 

A fascinating glimpse into the thought process of Vaclav Smil.
Confusing models with reality is a cardinal sin of clear thinking. If you believe too strongly in your models of the world, you can start to ignore evidence that your model is wrong.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Improving Investing Acumen

My presentation in today's VP Kolkata meet

Attributes of a Great Investor by abhishekbasumallick on Scribd

For those having difficulty accessing the above link, please try this:

Friday, 1 March 2019

Weekly Reading - Some Interesting Stuff

This is an article on how independent hotels may be better off than their branded brethren in the hotel industry. They can offer a better customer experience by being niche and exclusive.

Bill Gates is one of the most intelligent and prescient people alive. His annual letters are a treat to read. They remain optimistic about the future of the world. This year they have picked nine areas which have surprised them. Overall, a very nice read.

Bata India has been the ubiquitous show brand that nearly all of us grew up with. Now they are reinventing themselves.

India and Bangladesh are a study in contrast, though not directly comparable. Bangladesh follows a labour-intensive manufacturing model for development. India, on the other hand, is progressing as a services-oriented economy. But there is a twist in the tale.

The developing world is at risk of premature deindustrialization. If Bangladesh fails due to competition from rich-world robots, it will bode ill for countries such as Ethiopia that are looking to hop on the escalator to prosperity. That would leave India’s service-centric development model as the only feasible path.

We need to wake up to the alarming situation that we are pushing ourselves into. Air pollution, water scarcity need to be attacked with major policy initiatives and also at personal levels for all of us.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Weekend Reading - Some Interesting Stuff

This article is a compilation of 10 mega trends for India in 2030.
By 2030, it is on course to witness a 4x growth in consumer spend. It will remain one of the youngest nations on the planet and will be home to more than one billion internet users. The new Indian consumer will be richer and more willing to spend, and unlike her predecessors, she will have very specific preferences.

Herb Wertheim may be the greatest individual investor the world has never heard of. He has accumulated over $2.3billion by buy-and-hold investing.
“My thing is,” Wertheim says as he reflects on his long career, “I wanted to be able to have free time. To me, having time is the most precious thing.”

A fascinating tale of putting chips inside our bodies. These chips then become our credit cards, electronic keys and possibly health monitors. This is not a sci-fi article, it is what is happening today in real life.

I have always followed the careers and lives of people. Chandra Kochhar's life is an instructive one, the ride up from nameless corporate employee to a celebrated woman-leader and the flag-bearer of ICICI Bank, to the fall from grace. Here is a recent timeline of the events.

Food delivery apps have changed the way we eat. Here are two articles which give you two different perspectives on that space.
Uber is looking to sell its two-year-old UberEats business in India to cut down losses and Oyo Rooms is reportedly planning to buy FreshMenu to get into food delivery space!!

Friday, 15 February 2019

Weekly Reading: Some Interesting Stuff

A super interesting experiment of living modern life without Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. An eye opening account of how big tech has taken over our lives.

An article on how to live a life of intellectual freedom and not be chained by borrowed ideas.
Confusing models with reality is a cardinal sin of clear thinking. If you believe too strongly in your models of the world, you can start to ignore evidence that your model is wrong.

I have a theory about why the notion of an arms race between human and machine intelligences is fundamentally ill-posed: the way to survive and thrive in an environment of AIs and robots is not to be smarter than them, but to be more mediocre than them. Mediocrity, understood this way, is an independent meta-trait, not a qualifier you put on some other trait, like intelligence.
In other words, evolution is survival, not of the most mediocre (that would lead to paradox), but survival of the mediocre mediocre.

A long read on the platform economy and how network effects work and sometimes fail.

A compilation of learnings from the markets in the last 30 years from Jon Boorman of Broadsword Capital

Friday, 25 January 2019

Weekly Reading - Some Interesting Stuff

A sneak into the past into an infamous fraudster who is now all but forgotten - the Chain Roop Bhansali story. How he opened a bank and a mutual fund and defrauded a large number of people.

When Seth Klarman speaks, you take note.

David Einhorn, a celebrated US hedge fund manager, has said that he is reopening his fund for public money as he sees no "risk" of outperforming the market. His fund has been underperforming the broader indices for over 7 years and AUM is down from $12 bn to $2.5 bn currently.

The recent volatility in global markets provides an important reminder: the price investors are willing to pay for a piece of a company can fluctuate significantly over a short period, despite few operational changes in the business. These highly emotional periods when prices tend to get far out of line with value can be a gift for a long-term investor.

Pigeons are making a comeback in military strategy.
Military pigeon forces are all but extinct, but yet the Chinese Army and French Army maintain small pigeon forces in the event that electronic warfare should disrupt or disable military communications.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Weekly Reading - Some Interesting Stuff

Why sunscreen is harmful for our overall well-being and we should all spend a fair amount of time outdoors.
Vitamin D now looks like the tip of the solar iceberg. Sunlight triggers the release of a number of other important compounds in the body, not only nitric oxide but also serotonin and endorphins. It reduces the risk of prostate, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers. It improves circadian rhythms. It reduces inflammation and dampens autoimmune responses. It improves virtually every mental condition you can think of. And it’s free.

An article co-authored by Arvind Subramaian on why we all need to be careful of a slowing Chinese economy.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Chinese corporate, government, and household debt has increased by about $23 trillion in the last decade alone, and its debt-to-gross domestic product ratio has risen by around 100 percentage points, to more than 250 per cent. That is orders of magnitude above the level at which financial crises normally occur.
Malaysia, for example, has already had to cancel $22 billion worth of Chinese-backed projects. Sri Lanka has had to turn to the IMF for help, owing to the impact of excessive Chinese imports on its external accounts. And Pakistan may soon be forced to do the same. As more countries become wary of the BRI, they will borrow and import less from China.
Sooner or later, Chinese exceptionalism will give way to the laws of economics. The world should prepare itself. The consequences could be severe — and unlike anything experienced in recent history.

Credit markets are a better place to look for signs of impending trouble, in no small part because they have been at the core of most financial crises and recessions for hundreds of years. 

A conspiracy theory on the latest viral facebook challenge of putting up pictures ten years apart.
“Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g., how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you'd want a broad and rigorous dataset with lots of people's pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years,” said O’Neill.

Once or twice in every decade, we see a spectacular story of corporate greed and fraud. The latest one, which reads like the story of a Hollywood thriller, is the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos. A wonderfully written book, "Bad Blood" by John Carreyrou gives a very good narrative of the entire saga.

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