Saturday, August 27, 2016

5 Wrong Reasons To Be A Volunteer

1.I Feel bored - The last reason you should contemplate volunteering is because you feel bored. There are 100 other ways to kill boredom. Working as a volunteer requires time,efforts and perseverance. It also calls for oodles of commitment. So of you are the type that gets bored easily,maybe you should try something that offers variety. However, if you are able to find volunteering opportunities that provide breadth and variety, this could be an option for you. Get to know the nature of opportunity before you volunteer.

2.My friends are doing it - As social animals, peer pressure is something that we find difficult to escape. But stop for a moment and think. What could be the reasons that motivate your friends to volunteer ? Are those same reasons applicable to you ? You don't have to do anything because your friends are doing it. As the quote says, " One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that's trying to make you like everyone else."

3. Volunteering is the in thing now - Who doesn't like racking up facebook likes on our digital walls ?If you are a human being, you like to be liked and praised whether its online or off-line. The danger with approaching volunteering work as a fad is that fads change pretty fast. Volunteering requires sustained efforts and is not something that needs to be done ad-hoc or only for a short period of time. Would your interest sustain even when it is not the in-thing ?

4.I want to make a rapid change - Most volunteering opportunities involve addressing systemic issues that plague our society. Be it the environment,education or poverty alleviation these are complex issues which requires long term interventions. Change is excruciatingly slow, and in most cases require  consistent support from volunteers. This takes time and cannot happen rapidly.

5.Volunteering looks good on my resume - When I happen to observe  volunteering work mentioned on a resume, I ask questions in depth about the nature and scope of work done. I try to find out the intent. Is the individual continuing the engagement ? if not why ? Many a time, people volunteer for the right reasons. However, there are instances where people have no clue about what they volunteered for and how they were able to make a difference. If your volunteering experience involved visiting an old age home once a year wearing your company T shirt and clicking pictures to be uploaded within 24 hours, it would augur well for you to skip mentioning that on your resume.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Selecting Stocks for Long Run - Value Investing

The markets have been languishing at sub 19k levels for some time now after a home run. Though timing the market is not something that is recommended, this could be a decent time to enter the market cautiously with a long term view in mind. The points I have mentioned below are primarily from my understanding of stock selection based on value investing methodologies espoused by Benjamin Graham & Warren Buffet. 
1.Use a free custom stock screener such as Capital 4 or Askkuber to filter stocks that meet certain criteria such as 
·         Price/Earnings ratio < 18
·         Price/Book ratio < 3
·         Return on Net Worth > 15%
·         3 Yr Earnings Growth > 15%
·         Debt/Equity ratio < 1

2. Once you get a list of companies which meet the above mentioned criteria , go to moneycontrol or any other such site and enter the company name to get details of the stock & company. Go to Co financial section and then to Ratios. Check the EPS ( Earnings per share) for the company for the past 5 yrs.Is it consistent and showing an upward growth ?

For example :


Most of the companies get eliminated in the second stage itself :- ) For those that survive , move onto to step 3.

3. If you can analyse whether the company has a strategic advantage compared to its peers and/or has high entry barriers which might desist competition or delay new players from coming into the market and eating up the market share , fine. Shortlist those companies. 

4. Use an earnings growth formula/excel worksheet to predict earnings growth for the company 5 yrs down the line. One major factor is to ensure that you you use only a weighted Avg ROE for 5 to 10 yrs and also use only a historic PE in order to calculate future value of the share price. If and only if the compounded growth rate of value for the stock is > the cost of capital which is measured by Beta of the stock, should we consider further analysis.

5. If the investment in the stock is projected to give you sufficient returns, then the next step is to look at the price.Is the price of the stock high in relation to its fair value ? How do we determine the fair value of a stock ?
DCF or the Discounted Cash Flow is one of the best valuation methodologies used in order to determine the fair value of a stock. It discounts the future value of cash flows of a firm to its present value. Cash flow is a true measure of value of any firm in the long run.

6. Once we have calculated the fair value of a stock , we can compare it to the current market price at which the stock is selling. If there is adequate margin of safety which is more or less subjective based on your risk appetite , you can go ahead and invest in the stock. As per Benjamin Graham , the ideal margin of safety ( Difference between current market price of the stock and its fair value) should be in the range of 40-50%. Warren Buffet, the most famous disciple of Graham, however did not mind investing in stocks at a fair value provided he was confident about solid future earnings growth for the company. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bin There Done That

I’m no foreign policy expert.  But I read an argument by Scott Adams on his blog about the Paki folks being no better informed than the neighbors who lived right near Bin Laden’s compound at Abbottabad.  He says, If the neighbors  who lived right next to his house never knew about him then how could the military which had a base a mile away know about Bin Laden’s presence?

Now are we to assume that the Pakistani military and intelligentsia are no better than the small time farmers who lived next door to Bin Laden’s compound at Abbottabad?  With Ex President Musharraf now claiming that he used to jog along that route sometimes passing by right in front of the compound, I wonder if he ever went in for his morning coffee and cookies inside the compound.

If you have been reading the newspapers or listening to news, you would by now have got a rough jist of the fact that Pakistan has several power centers. The civilian/political and military establishments are poles apart and there is still some amount of distrust among them.  As Hilary Clinton mentioned in one of her interviews sometime back, there are some elements in Pakistan who may well be aware of Bin Laden’s whereabouts. There is every possibility that these elements could be a part of the all powerful Pakistani   military.

 I remember a nice financial anecdote by investment Guru Warren Buffet “  You only know who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out.” The tide has just gone out with the killing of Osama Bin Laden in the heart of Pakistan and we all know who is swimming naked now!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Are You a Non Vegetarian ?

The Pig That Wants To Be Eaten and 99 Other Thought Experiments , by Julian Baggini is one hell of an awesome book that I am reading as and when  my frame of mind permits. I’ve always believed that when you want to do something , your mind must be ready to accept that task which you are about to do. Time is a non issue. It’s the frame of mind that matters.

I loved the word, “ Thought experiments ”.  There is an excellent chapter with a bizarre title “The Pig That wants to be Eaten” , which is a take on vegetarianism Vs non vegetarianism.  It says, most people including non vegetarians have an issue with the way slaughter houses are run. What if animals are kept in the best possible conditions given a humane death ? There again, rises the issue of killing a living breathing being. The author goes on to tease our supposedly rational brain by asking us this strange question - What if that animal has no desire/feelings and is not even aware of its existence ? Would killing it prick our conscience then ?

Well, in that case, one could argue that human beings could be ‘reared’ in the same way for their organs to be harvested as and when the need arises from wealthy folks who can afford to do so. But would we do that ? I doubt.

Meat has become such an irresistible craving that no amount of power point presentations on plight of   poultry can prevent us from having that crunchy Zinger burger.  That being said, I would perhaps love to be reborn as a vegetarian in my next life. Perhaps : )

Self Development

Most of us, who land up a job soon after passing out from college, get completely immersed in the day to day affairs that our job demands. In fact, we get so busy with getting that task done, that we seldom look beyond. We are of the belief that if we stick to what the boss says and do our job well, growth would come automatically. When I mention the term growth, I am referring to it both at a personal and professional level.

From what I have come to understand, growth, both at a personal and professional level does not come about without self development. At work, we get to learn many things purely because of the systems and processes of which we are a part of. This is just the default way of learning which would happen if you are just earnest at work. You need to do much more than that to really grow.

Get yourself nominated for certifications, trainings in your organization. This would help you keep yourself abreast of the required knowledge in your domain. Check with your HR and supervisor as well on the training schedule in advance and convince them on why you should be nominated for the same.

Enroll for a course : Go enroll yourself for some short term course related your domain. Most universities and education institutions have correspondence courses on a wide variety of subjects with contact classes on weekends. Remember, learning is continuous. Management Development programs from prestigious institutes would also, surely be a very good option. The MDPs from IIMs may cost a bomb but the quality of faculty and teaching imparted would be the best.

Read Read Read: Always keep reading and learning about any area of interest to you.

Volunteer: Volunteer yourself for any activity on or off work site. Volunteering is something which could give you a sense of happiness which comes out by the act of giving. It also gives you experience. You see more. It helps you develop yourself into a mature person.

When you invest in learning and self development, it reflects on your character and personality. Those are the differentiating factors that people look for in you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just Back from the Barber Shop

I am just back from a Barber Shop. Not 'Saloooooon' . Read Barber Shop. One of those places where Barbers (Not stylists) look at you with a glee in their eyes if you present yourself with an unruly mop of hair.  The look is akin to those that are found in the eyes of Sheep farmers who are about to shear the wool off their sheep.I was asked if I had come for ‘Hair Cutting ‘. A very precise description of what actually happens there at the barber shop. No further questions were asked or suggestions given. To hell with what the customer wants. We are here to cut hair.  And mind you, there is no dearth of customers waiting to have their haircut at this shop.

I have always had this strong belief in three businesses. Food of the retail variety, laundry and Barber Shops. I have never ever come across anybody not making money in either of these businesses unless they screwed it up from their end.  Among these three businesses, I find Barber shops the most promising. You can’t stop hair from growing can you? So a monthly haircut is a must for those who still have some hair left.

India currently has only two or three types or Barber Shops.  The first are the old local ones which have been around for two generations at the least. They still use the same old chairs and benches with duplicate after shave lotions and creams. The second variety would have air conditioning and better hygiene. The third one refers to the branded saloons such as Jawed Habib/Naturals etc which promise a better overall ambience as well in addition to personalized styling.

However, on the pricing front, there exists a huge gap between the second variety and third variety as described above. The second variety of shops roughly charge about Rs 60 to 100 bucks for a haircut whereas , the high end ones start at Rs 250 and may go up to Rs 500 or a thousand bucks. If some smart aleck could work out starting a chain of saloons which offer personalized styling at a reasonable price, I’m dead sure that it is going to be a HUGE success. Training the people makes all the difference. And that is going to be the key differentiator along with implementation.

It is my fervent wish to see a chain of Saloons who care more for our hair while its still there and charge a reasonable price for styling it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva

Shot this at about 5pm when the sunlight  had an orange/yellow hue. Real water flowing from top added an amazing effect to the serene look on this beautifully made sculpture of the Lord. Shot with a Canon Powershot S3 IS in manual mode. Don't remember the settings though.