April 24, 2012

Travel Plans

Finally managed to squeeze a long weekend plan to a 'foreign country'. Well, even though Singapore is not a proper travel destination (shopping and adventure parks don't count as travel destinations), its a first. And hopefully we could plan similar trips in months to come as well.

So the next weekend and two days would be well spent in Singapore. Should be posting a few pictures soon after the return.

April 21, 2012

One Click: Part Two

I couldn't help but notice the irony in the title. Something which was intended to be simple and fast, has got a second post on it. Anyways, this one is not about the book, but on e-commerce and internet as a whole.

The fastest way to become a millionaire these days seems to be via technology based start ups. They may be pure plays like Instagrams of the world, or can be a web enabled real businesses like Flipkart (more on flipkart on some later date). People are investing like crazy into tech start ups, and valuations are reaching close to bubble zones. So what is it which makes an e-company more attractive than a brick and mortar one? Is this just the premium on betting on future or there are other real tangible present reasons?

For one, they are more nimble. Compared with a company on ground which may have locked a long term lease, have inventory, and old information systems, an e-commerce company would be much more nimble. It would be much quicker to adapt to changes, and can completely re-invent itself at lower costs.

Another reason I think is the efficiency - compare the music selling models for Apple and a CD store. While the actual store would place orders for CDs, wait for shipment, pay for transportation costs, pay rental for the store, and then be left with unsold inventory. Apple on the other hand just sells a digital file, gets a hefty cut on each song sold, doesn't carry any inventory risk, and has almost no capital deployed. Little wonder Apple has a margin in 40s, compared with single digit margins at say Walmart.

And lastly, I think its a huge monopoly of scale potential. On internet, its just one or two guys who control each markets - be it google in search and mail, microsoft in OS, Apple in products you didn't knew you needed. So, no wonder when someone opens a flipkart, it gets a much higher valuation than if he had opened a store of even twice the scale.

It may all be a big lie, and ten years from now mankind may return to real brick and mortar businesses. But whats the harm in trying to understand a few things, and try to rationalize the same.

April 12, 2012

One Click: The Amazing Amazon

This may be a long post, or I may split this into multiple posts. Depends on how much the battery in my iPhone lasts, and how much I can think or write at one go. The reason why it would be a long one because its about the book, and then, about a lot more things.

Firstly the book. The one I'm talking about here is titled 'One Click', and is about Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos. Few stories in the internet era have been more successful than that of Jeff Bezos. I'm not counting Facebook and Twitter and a whole lot of other companies simply because its too early to tell. Internet is like the big wild jungle, and its all about 'winners takes all'. The pace of change is mind numbing, and very few companies survive after the initial hype. Amazon did, and changed the rules of the game. It has survived the first decade, seen two crisis, and still manages to grab the front page.

Bezos can be credited to a large extent for shaping the e-commerce as it exists today. He just hung in there, overseeing profitless growth for years, and yet believed in the future. Now we have a lot of portals offering similar services and it all looks so natural now. The book briefly deals with some of the very obvious problems faced by the founding team, and how some of the features so common today were conceptualized.

On another level, it makes you wonder about the possibilities of the internet. Is it really going to change the world for good, or is just a passing fad. Its a crazy world out there now. The aggregator websites offering air tickets are valued much more than the airline companies themselves. Similar may be the case for online movie ticketing, book selling ventures in India. Most of them are being valued at more than the valuations of the underlying business they are supporting. May be, world is changing for ever, or it may be just another bubble. Anyways, we are back in the dot com mania, albeit a little bit wiser than last time.

P.S. - I will have to split this into parts, and let me write the other half later.

April 11, 2012

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid

As I may have mentioned in few of my earlier posts as well, I'm currently in my reading phase. Have been reading a lot a books, the latest being the four books in 'Diary of A Wimpy Kid' series.

I first read about them on some blog, can't remember which one, and had ordered them long time ago. On my last India trip, was travelling quite light and hence managed to carry lots of books back with me. Anyways, I digress. Coming back to the book.

The book is very differently written, and its more of graphic novel with each page having pictures and only a few sentences. It deals with a middle school kid named Greg, and the world from his perspective. There is a good bit of humour in the book, and the cartoons add to the story greatly. Read it to relive your school days, these are very light reads with each book not taking any more than 2 hours at maximum.

April 5, 2012

Andre Agassi - Open (Autobiography)

I'm quite bad at writing about stuff, more so about movies and books.  As in, apart from the general writing skills which can't be helped much, I'm also confused about how much the review should be based on actual contents of the book/movie, and how much should be based on discussion over its quality. The problem is, unlike a professional reviewer, I'm not quite sure who I'm writing the review for. If by any chance someone stumbles upon this page, and reads about the story of a book/movie he/she was planning to read, then I would have just done a great disservice to both the person as well as the book/movie. So, let me stick with the format I'm more comfortable with - just a cursory discussion on the quality of the stuff, and recommendations. Actually, its quite easy to figure out the recommendations part as well - if I'm writing about something, it must be quite good in my opinion (or a small probability that it would be very very bad, which again would make it interesting as well). 

The other day, I had ordered loads of autobiographies when some of my relatives were coming over to Hong Kong for a trip. Mostly, I had ordered some interesting mix of autobiographies - Jeff Bezos, Andre Agassi, Steve Jobs, Kishore Biyani, etc. 'Open' by Andre Agassi was my first sportsperson biography, and I was not quite sure what to expect from it. I used to watch tennis earlier, in my school days, around the same time as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were at the top of their game. If only I had read this book back then, to better understand the game and what goes behind it. 

This book is not about someone's love for tennis or anything like it. Its about Andre's journey of self-discovery, and his rebellion. It may sound odd, but for a large part of his career, Andre hated tennis, and started playing the game only because his father left him no choice. It details his feeling at different points of his career, how he left like quitting after every loss, and how he decided never to lose to a few players ever again. Even if you have never seen an actual game, you may relate to the feelings, and will be cheering for him in matches played years back. 

The writing style was a complete shocker to me, and I was hooked onto the book from the very start. Written in first person, and present continuous form, it makes you go through his life as it happened, and not as an after-thought written 20 years later. This may be the first biography in such detailed format which I have read. Most others deals with events and their significance, this one deals with emotions and feelings at each point of time. Hence the thought that I wish I had read the book (or he had written the book) much earlier, while the matches were still on. 

Definitely worth a read.