Sunday, May 26, 2013

Is it worth paying thousands of dollars for an Apple 1, company's first product?

Is it worth paying thousands of dollars for an Apple 1, company's first product?

Last November, an Apple-1 sold for $640,000 at an auction in Germany. That sale surpassed the previous record of $374,500.
Last November, an Apple-1 sold for $640,000 at an auction in Germany. That sale surpassed the previous record of $374,500.

More than a decade ago, at a vintage computer fair in Silicon Valley, Dag Spicer had an opportunity to buy an original Apple-1 for $2,000. He passed. Any regrets? Not really, he said.

"Of course," Spicer added, "I could have paid off my mortgage now with what it would be worth."

Perhaps so. Last November, an Apple-1 sold for $640,000 at an auction in Germany. That sale surpassed the previous record of $374,500 set only five months earlier at Sotheby's in New York.

The astronomical run-up in the price of the original Apple-1 machines - made in 1976 and priced at $666.66 (about $2,700 in current dollars) - is a story of the economics of scarcity and techno-fetishism, magnified by the mystique surrounding Apple and its founders, as the company has become one of the largest, most profitable corporations in the world.

The next test of the Apple-1 market comes Saturday, at the same auction house in Cologne, Germany, where the record sale took place last November.

Even the auctioneer, Uwe Breker, expressed some surprise at the price reached last fall. For this week's auction, the reserve price - the minimum sale price - is $116,000, and Breker conservatively estimated the likely range from $260,000 to $400,000. "But we will see," he said.

The auction market for the vintage machines, experts say, is thin and uncertain. For example, a nonworking Apple-1 failed to attract its reserve price of just over $75,000 at an auction last year in London. The record-setting auctions last year were of working originals, as is the Apple-1 going under the gavel Saturday.

The sky-high prices suggest irrational exuberance. But technology historians say there is a rational appeal to possessing an Apple-1. "It is Apple's creation story, the physical artifact that traces this incredible success to its origins," said Spicer, a senior curator at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

The Apple-1, Spicer added, was instrumental in the early transition in personal computing from its hobbyist roots to becoming a huge commercial business. Others were there too, notably the MITS Altair, which was introduced before the Apple-1, and was the first personal computer that Microsoft's founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, wrote software for.

But Apple proved to be the enduring computer maker. And its founders embodied the hobbyist-commercial shift. Stephen G. Wozniak was the hardware-hacking engineer andSteve Jobs, who died in 2011 after a battle with cancer, was the business visionary.

Apple-1's are scarce. An estimated 175 to 200 were produced in the Jobs family garage in Los Altos, Calif.

Mike Willegal, who maintains an online registry of Apple-1's, has verified the existence of 46 of them. A software manager at Cisco, Willegal observed that there was a technical nostalgia to the Apple-1, recalling a simpler time in computing.

"No one understands a whole computer system anymore," Willegal said. "But Woz" - Wozniak's nickname - "knew that board inside and out, and some people do today."

A computer motherboard with clusters of chips was all that the bare-bones Apple-1 offered. Users had to supply their own keyboards, monitors and power supplies. It had 4 kilobytes of memory; a basicMacBook Air has more than a million times that. It could be used to run primitive computer games and write simple programs.

The Apple-1 was a reputation-building entry, but it was the Apple II, introduced a year later in 1977, that would sell in the millions and establish the company's business. When Wozniak was designing the Apple II, he was also handling customer service for the Apple-1, a distracting time drain.

After the Apple II went on sale, the company began an aggressive trade-in program, offering Apple II's and sometimes cash incentives in exchange for Apple-1's, said Bob Luther, who is writing a book on the vintage machines, "The First Apple," which he plans to self-publish, with help from aKickstarter crowdfunding campaign.

In his book research, Luther called Michael Scott, Apple's president from 1977 to 1981, and interviewed him about the trade-in program. As Luther recalled, Scott told him, "If we had done a better job, you and I wouldn't be having this phone call."

"They just wanted the Apple-1 to go away," said Luther, who bought an Apple-1 for $7,600 in 2004. ("Mine's not for sale.")

Auction prices for Apple-1's have not yet settled on firm standards. But according to Richard Austin, head of books and manuscripts at Sotheby's, who handled the auction of the Apple-1 for $374,500 last year, working machines in pristine condition with documentation command the highest prices. "And a story behind it helps," Austin added.

The Apple-1 being auctioned Saturday has a story. Its original owner was Fred Hatfield, a former baseball player in the major leagues, an infielder who played from 1950 to 1958 for five teams including the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Redlegs. His nickname was "Scrap Iron." He died in 1998 at age 73.

The documentation with the machine includes a letter to Hatfield, signed by Steve Jobs, offering him a new Apple II and a check for $400 for his Apple-1, said Breker, the German auctioneer. Hatfield declined the offer, for whatever reason.

Breker is irritatingly discreet about the identity of the seller, saying only that he is a young American who works for a software company. "He brought it over here in a blanket," Breker said.

Source : By New York Times

Office relationships: A risky business

Office relationships: A risky business

Office romances are a strong possibility at work. Even the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates and Michelle and Barack Obama have walked down that path!

Office romances are a strong possibility at work. Even the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates and Michelle and Barack Obama have walked down that path!

Office romances are a strong possibility at work. Even the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates and Michelle and Barack Obama have walked down that path!
So, where is the problem? Aren't they consenting adults? Must organizations intervene if work is not impacted? Besides, do organizations have the right to regulate an employee's personal life? Can they? Must they? Why? 

There are mixed reactions to this. Some believe that romance unnecessarily undermines professionalism at work and must be prohibited. Others argue that it actually increases motivation and productivity at work. When things get tough and deadlines are looming large, knowing that there is a "special" someone around can give both the energy and ego boost that helps efficiency! 

It wasn't too long ago that we had norms that expected one of the two in a relationship to leave the organization. And, we have also seen a time when companies began to encourage it with "Dating Allowances" . Somewhere in between is the practical solution. 

While it is true that not all office romances bring grief, there are risks involved. It has the potential to create a range of challenges for the organization from lost productivity right up to expensive litigation . Reputations and promising careers have been derailed and extra-marital affairs have left not just the individuals involved but even their office colleagues dealing with the bitter after-taste of an office "divorce" . Organizations, therefore, are well within their rights to have policies against behaviours that can expose them to unnecessary risks. 

While relationships between consenting colleagues is not illegal, romances change office dynamics in many ways. A majority of such relationships are more mutually welcome flirtations than romance . However, it is important to be aware of the pitfalls that can occur when coworkers are romantically involved.

If it is between a manager and a junior, claims of favouritism are possible. If those in love display their affections at work, they risk potential allegations of hostile work environments. And, then again, if the romance sours, as they often do, it can throw up even more challenges. 

Often, it is not that one is in a relationship that is the problem as much as non-compliance with the requirements of company policies. Displays of familiarity at work are not professional behaviour. Company policies generally dissuade relationships between senior leaders, managers and those in positions of influence with employees lower down in the hierarchy . If that happens, most organizations require it be disclosed so the reporting structure can be altered to prevent any potential conflict of interest. 

When things go wrong, a romantically engaged manager can be held to ransom by a subordinate. He/she can always claim sexual harassment even if, in reality, it was a consensual one. A claim that he/she was too intimidated to challenge the manager is hard to disprove and is weighed in favour of the subordinate. A constant threat like that can keep any manager and company on a slippery slope open to charges of sexual harassment. 

Soured relationship, even between peers, has its own challenges. There are high chances of poor communication and collaboration between the two. Delayed responses to mails, hesitance to share work related information, non-cooperation at critical times, are all behaviours that can impact the overall productivity of the team. Sexual harassment of any kind is expensive for organizations. Lost talent and productivity, litigation costs, loss of brand image and goodwill not to mention valuable management time spent in counseling and changing work assignments , etc. Besides, the sensationalism around sexual harassment cases can build unnecessary anxiety in mixed gender groups at work. 

Thus, any, which way you look at it office relations especially between managers and subordinates, is risky business . Drawing up and communicating a zero tolerance policy for harassment with clear do's and don'ts at work is vital for organizations to show they have exercised reasonable care to prevent sexual harassment . If not, it can make the manager and the organization risk tough legal, ethical, and work related problems. 

(The writer is a Bangalore-based HR consultant)

Source : By: Nirmala Menon

Love at work: Relationships in the workplace common in India

A 2012 study conducted by Randstad, an Amsterdam based company, found that in India 70 per cent of employees reported workplace romantic liaisons.
A 2012 study conducted by Randstad, an Amsterdam based company, found that in India 70 per cent of employees reported workplace romantic liaisons.
When it comes to dating in the office, India is a cool place to work. A 2012 study conducted by Randstad, an Amsterdambased staffing company, found that in India 70 per cent of employees reported workplace romantic liaisons, compared with countries where romantic relationships in the workplace are less common, including Japan (33 per cent) and Luxembourg (36 per cent). 

One of the main reasons for this is the absence of any clear-cut policies barring romantic rendezvous . Is it okay to ask a junior colleague out to dinner ? Will you be noticed if you go for frequent smoke breaks with a particular colleague? Can spending too much time chatting with a co-worker lead to an intervention from the HR department? These are questions that employees across corporate India may not have the answers to. According to Prashant Bhaskar, founder & CEO, plugHR, a Mumbai-based human resource consultancy, there are no precedents that demand the incorporation of strict guidelines on the subject. "India Inc doesn't have a legacy of workplace relationships going sour and resulting in expensive lawsuits. Its liberal view on the subject is based on its understanding of risk involved and exposure to it in the past," he says. 

Far from forbidding relationships, in India, the office is a preferred scouting ground for suitable partners. Chaitanya Ramalinge gowda, relationship expert and founder,Twolymadlydeeply (TMD), a dating website, says, "People spend eight to 10 hours in office every day and probably another two commuting which leaves them with hardly any time to socialize after hours. So they prefer having relationships in office." He emphasizes the strengths of romantic relationships forged at work, saying they can enhance performance. "Spending time with a colleague, taking coffee breaks together... such informal interactions can be used for brainstorming of ideas and thoughts or even having mentorship discussions," says Ramalinge gowda. 

That relationships and work can co-exist in the workspace is a belief the Indian IT industry supports , especially since it is an incentive for employees to continue working in the same place. The Indian IT industry, which employs close to 25 lakh people, has high attrition rates, typically 30 per cent to 50 per cent annually. "Most of this workforce is young and likely to get romantically involved with their colleagues. So in the absence of a perceived threat, the policy to allow married couples to work in the same organisation is a function of talent availability ," says Bhaskar.

At Yahoo! India, there's no bar on male and female colleagues from having a relationship. "We absolutely don't frown upon things like coffee or smoke breaks or male and female colleagues hanging out together," says Aniruddha Banerjee, head, human resources, Yahoo! India. Couples atNIIT enjoy an anniversary allowance, which is a percentage of their salary. "We have very high regard for people working for us. If NIITians find spouses within the organisation, we welcome it," says Prateek Chatterjee, vice-president corporate communication and marketing, NIIT. 

Of course, there are boundaries which have been put down on paper — a code of conduct that trust the employee to report any conflict of interest arising from a personal relationship at work. Also, if it is revealed that the relationship is impacting the work performance negatively, or the relationship is between a senior and junior employee within the same reporting structure, the situation is reviewed. While NIIT is comfortable with married couples being colleagues , Banerjee says, "If our performance assessment reveals any lags, we advise an alternate portfolio for the person under our Internal Job Placement scheme. In case office hierarchy is compromised because of a personal relationship, one of the involved persons is moved to another role," he says. 

The IT industry worldwide is relaxed about romantic relationships at work — according to an annual international Valentine survey conducted by CareerBuilder, a human capital solutions company, this year IT ranks second on the list of industries for office romance after leisure and hospitality — other sectors like FMCG and manufacturing in India are more stringent with their guidelines. These industries do not have large workforces, work with people who are older and more skilled and attrition is not a pressing concern. "We don't allow employees to work with any relatives, including spouses, in order to keep assessment of work and performance objective," says Sanjiv Dixit, chief people officer at Allied Blenders and Distillers (ABD), which manufactures Officer's Choice whisky. 

Admitting it is difficult, and invasive, to monitor whether the staff is dating internally, Dixit says complaints about inappropriate relationships are acted on. "If we believe a relationship is causing a conflict of interest we call the involved persons for an informal or formal chat and discuss how the involvement should not affect work," says Dixit who says that during his prior stints at Pepsico, Alstom and Philips, he has never encountered any employees who have crossed these lines.

Source : By Shobita Dhar, TNN

Why Khirni will never make it to the big fruit league

Why Khirni will never make it to the big fruit league

Why Khirni will never make it to the big fruit league
Fans of DC Comics will know the Legion of Super Heroes, a group of teens with superpowers they use for heroic purposes. But you need to be a hard core fan to know about the teens in that series whose powers were deemed not super enough.

Undaunted, they took their slightly odd abilities - like turning into rock (Stone Boy), making plants grow superfast (Chlorophyll Kid), changing the colour of things (Color Kid), superstrength, but only in darkness (Night Girl) - and formed a Legion of Substitute Heroes that, truly heroically, vowed to help the Legion that had rejected them. 

I always found the Legion of Substitute Heroes rather touching, and I am reminded of them when I see some of the fruits that appear as high summer sets in. You don't see these fruits on the stalls of vendors or in the fruit sections of supermarkets. These are dominated by oranges, pineapples, grapes, melons and mangoes, mangoes, mangoes, all Super Fruit Legion stalwarts. 

The fruits I refer to are sold on the street at the margins of markets or from carts near municipal playgrounds where at least some children still seem to like these traditional, but now neglected fruits of the Indian summer. Some do better than others. 

Jamun (Syzygium cumini) and amla (Phyllanthus emblica) still find many takers, maybe for health, since frankly I can't think of any other reason to eat them. Some like karonda (Carissa carandas) and gunda (Cordia obliqua) make good pickles when green (and ripe karonda makes a great preserve), and phalsa (Grewia asiatica) makes an excellent drink, as do, I am told, the elegant pink spirals of jungli jalebi (Pithecellobium dulce), though I've never found enough to try. 

Some have a crisp juiciness that is refreshing even when it is sour as avla (Otaheite gooseberries, Phyllanthus acidus) or carambola (starfruit, Averrhoa carambola), or with no real taste, as with the bell shaped chambakka or white jambul (Syzygium samarangense). 

Some, it must be admitted, have peculiar smells and many have that mouth-puckering astringency that seems meant to remind you that these aren't fruits of gently fertile climates, but of the searing summers of the subcontinent. They taste of "sunshine and dust" as Anne Grodzins Gold and Bhoju Ram Gujar put it in their collaborative oral history of the former small kingdom of Sarwar in Rajasthan, In the Time of Trees and Sorrows.

The villagers in it refer to "bor ka mangara", the berry wilderness, as a term for a place and time when such fruits grew plentifully and free for picking by all in common land near the village, which has now been claimed and ploughed. 

One of the best of these fruits is also one of the least known. This is khirni or rayan, golden yellow berries that come for only a very short time in May just when the real heat of summer starts. It is often sold, in striking contrast, alongside dark purple jamun and many people associate it with a similar astringency. It has a touch of it, but this disappears if you let it to ripen almost to the point when rot sets in. This is one reason, perhaps, that the British sometimes called the khirni tree the Indian medlar, since medlars are a European fruit that famously must be almost rotten to be edible, but Indian medlar is now applied to the bakul, Mimusops elengi, which also has an edible, but uninteresting fruit. 

Khirni is called Ceylon ironwood (Manilkara hexandra, but earlier classified as Mimusops hexandra, so the link with bakul can be seen), a slow growing tree with wood that, as its name suggests, is very hard and prized for uses like supports in buildings or rollers in mills. Pradip Krishen in his wonderful guide to Delhi's trees says that the khirni can live for over 500 years and that some of them might be Delhi's oldest living trees. 

It grows across India and as its name suggests, is particularly known in Sri Lanka where it is called the palai or palu. Its sweet yellow berries are such favourites of the island's sloth bears that the time of their ripening is unofficially known as the bear watching season. 

I wouldn't quite fight with the notoriously grumpy bears for them, but I do buy them when I see them in Mumbai's streets (the lanes near Dadar station are a good place to find them). The khirni is a member of the Sapotaceae family, found across the tropics and which includes the sapota or chikoo (Manilkara zapota) from Central America. 

There is a clear taste connection with the khirni, both sharing the same melting fruity sweetness, except that khirni is much smaller and less fleshy. This is the problem with this Legion of Substitute Fruits - they are either too peculiar to be popular, or when they are good they are a lot like another fruit that is more easily available, more fleshy and easier to grow and get. 

Yet just as the Legion of Substitute Heroes had the emotional connect of underdogs, so too do these fruits, as reminders of seasonality and of long summers spent as children free from school when one had the time to buy these fruits from the roadside or, even better, pick them for free if you knew where they grew. Khirni will never make it to the big fruit league, but it is perfect to savour briefly when it appears, as a tribute to the high heat of summer, that most draining, yet defining of Indian seasons.

Source : By Vikram Doctor, ET Bureau

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ten famous market sayings & their relevance for India

Ten famous market sayings & their relevance for India

There's no shortage of folklore in the stock markets but not all of it applies to India. Here's the truth behind some widely used sayings.
There's no shortage of folklore in the stock markets but not all of it applies to India. Here's the truth behind some widely used sayings.
As in other spheres of life, there is no shortage of folk tales in investing. The history of the Indian stock market may be shorter compared to the developed markets globally, but that has not stopped investment gurus from trying to force-fit some of these sayings in the Indian context.

While some of these rules like 'Sell in May and go away' are based on the seasonality of stock markets, others may be more about following a particular investment strategy. Here's why it is wiser to base your investment decisions on data instead of being guided by these misplaced notions.

1) Sell in May and Go Away

What does this mean?

This favourite saying dates back to the period when London stock brokers went on long holidays during the summer months. The full saying is, " Sell in May and go away, stay away till St Leger day", referring to the last race in the British horse racing season which is around mid-September. With most brokers out of the trading ring, the trading volume was low and returns were muted.

Therefore, it was thought wise to sell off your stock holdings before you proceeded for a holiday and start with a clean slate on your return in October.

Does it hold for Indian markets?

If you look at the average daily returns of every month in the past 21 years, May generated muted returns during 1992-2002 as well as 2003-2013. However, the returns in May were negative only in 12 of the past 21 years. This midway figure doesn't suggest that this saying holds true for the Indian markets. Even in those 12 years, only in two years the negative returns in May correlates with a negative return in June.

So, the sell in May theory is quite insignificant in the Indian context. However, the market is rallying right now and we won't be surprised if this year's peak happens in May.

2) Mark Twain Effect

What does this mean?

October has historically been a notorious month for stock investments. Global stock markets have generated lower than average returns during this month and some of the major stock market crashes (like 1929, 1987 and 2008) occurred in October.

Mark Twain Effect

The October downturn has been termed the Mark Twain effect after the novelist's famous quote, "October. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February".

Does it hold for Indian markets?

The average monthly returns of the past 20 years suggest that the Mark Twain effectholds good for the Indian markets as well. The average monthly returns during October have been negative during both 10-year periods. The average October months returns came out to -0.124% compared to the grand average of 0.058%. However, its impact has reduced in recent times. For example, the average 0.033% fall in October has been less than the average 0.94% dip during January since 2003.

3) January Effect

What does this mean?

This phenomenon comes from a study of the US stock market which shows a general uptrend in stock prices during the month of January. Incidentally, the US financial year is from January to December. There is selling pressure in December because investors want to book profits or losses for setting off against other capital gains at the end of the financial year. But the sellers turn into buyers when the new financial year kicks off.

Does it hold for Indian markets?

The Indian financial year is from April to March, so there is no rush to sell in December. However another version of the 'year-end effect' is witnessed here. After negative returns in October due to the Mark Twain effect, the market makes a significant recovery during November and December. This turnaround is clearly visible in the average daily returns of the months since 1992.

In the past 21 years, November generated the highest monthly returns six times. The 'year-end effect' has become more pronounced in recent years. It could be that after a strong rally in November-December, investors have booked profits, leading to negative returns in January.

4) Pre-Budget Rally

What does this mean?

Stock markets tend to surge during the run up to Union budget and slide after it is announced. This happens because the budget in India is more than a financial statement of the government. It makes a lot of policy announcements, which explains why stock markets get excited about the exercise. Most industry associations lobby hard with the government for additional benefits and tax sops and come out with their wish lists of Budget expectations.
Pre-Budget Rally

Markets are also rife with rumours about how many of these industry demands will be met (or at least find mention in the budget speech). Based on this speculation, markets tend to move higher during the weeks preceding the Budget announcement. Once the budget is out of the way, the reality dawns and stock prices go back to their pre-budget levels.

Does it hold for Indian markets?

This phenomenon is specific to India and is very evident in the way the markets react to the budget. We looked at the returns from the markets before and after the exact budget dates during the past 20 years. The pre-budget rally and post-budget crash are clearly visible. You may wonder why the pre-budget rally did not hold good for the 1-week period. This is because some market players book profits well in advance before the budget is announced.

5) Friday Effect

What does this mean?

Also known as the weekend effect, this suggests that returns on Mondays will be more volatile than on other days. This is because Monday trading has to discount more information that comes out during Saturday and Sunday.

This information may be company-specific events (declaration of results on weekends to reduce its impact on stock price) or macro events (political developments or a spike in crude price due to geo political tensions). Since they don't want to ruin their weekends, most traders square off their positions on Friday itself and, therefore, the returns on Fridays are generally muted.
Friday Effect

Does it hold for Indian markets?

Yes, because Indian investors value their weekends just as much as their American counterparts. Most traders square off their positions on Thursdays and Fridays, and very few high-risk traders carry their positions to Mondays. Data of the past 20 years ratifies this hypothesis. For example, the average daily returns generated on Fridays was only 0.3% compared to the average 0.67% returns generated during the other four days.

6) Elephants can't gallop

What does this mean?

If you want multi-baggers in your portfolio, you need to start searching among mid- and small-cap stocks. A company will grow very fast in the initial years because of its low base. However, the growth rate slows down once it achieves a certain size in terms of revenues. The proponents of this theory often point out that all blue-chip stocks were small caps at some point of time.

Besides, mid- and small-cap stocks are considered risky and usually trade at a discount to the large-cap stocks. This theory is applicable for mutual funds as well and the performance of a scheme suffers when it becomes too big.

Does it hold for Indian markets?

In India too, small-cap stocks have outperformed the large-cap stocks in the long term and the trend should continue in future as well. However, this holds true mostly during a bullish period as is visible from the 10-year chart. On the other hand, large caps tend to outperform mid caps during bearish phases and flat markets as visible during the past 5-year period.
Elephants can't gallop

7) Buy when there is blood on the street

What does this mean?

It is often said that you should buy when they sigh, and sell when they yell. In other words, you should do just the opposite of what everyone else is doing. Baron Rothschild, an 18th century British banker, famously said that " buy when there is blood on the street, even if the blood is your own". This assumes that valuations plummet when the stock markets hit a rough patch.
Buy when there is blood on the street

Investors who enter at this time have a greater possibility to earn higher returns. On the other hand, when the markets are humming with delight and everything is looking rosy, it may be the time to exit.

Does it hold for Indian markets?

This is a cardinal rule of value investing and works perfectly in India as well. As visible from the Sensex PE chart, the best time to invest was when there was utter panic in the market - after the crashes in 1994, 2000 and 2008 when the Sensex trailing PE fell to 12.

8) You need stomach and not brains to make money

What does this mean?

If you want to make money from stocks in the long term, you should be ready to withstand the ups and downs in the short term. Only investors who have a strong stomach will be able to do this while others will panic and sell their holding whenever there is a downtrend in the market. Your ability to withstand the volatility and hold on to the stock for the long term is more important than your stock-picking skills.

Does it hold for Indian markets?

The virtues of long-term investing hold true for India as well. As visible from the Sensex rolling return table, the probability of gain and loss is very high for shorter holding periods. The risk comes down when the holding period becomes longer.
You need stomach and not brains to make money

9) The cockroach theory

What does this mean?

The cockroach theory says that one bit of bad news is usually followed by more. If you see a cockroach in your house, it is evident that the bug is not alone. There must be more of them hiding somewhere. Similarly, when a company comes out with bad news after a long gap, expect more shocks to follow. In some cases, you may have noticed the bad news for the first time, but there may be other negatives that escaped your attention. The cockroach theory can be extended to an industry as well.

Does it hold for Indian markets?

This is a universal rule and applies to the Indian market as well. Since the transparency level in corporate India is terribly low, the probability of cockroaches hiding in the woodwork is very high. Investors must keep their eyes and ears open for bad news and be ready to act as soon they get it.

10) Return of capital is more important than return on capital

What does this mean?

In the mad rush for returns, an investor should not lose sight of the basic rules of risk management. This is just a reminder that more than returns, one should focus on the safety of the investment. There is a non-linear relationship between gains and losses. For example, you need 100% gains to recover a 50% loss.

Does it hold for Indian markets?

This is another cardinal rule of investing and is, therefore, valid for India as well.

(with Sameer Bhardwaj)

Source : By Narendra Nathan, ET Bureau

Mumbai-born software tycoon Vivek Ranadive buys US NBA team Sacramento Kings

Mumbai-born software tycoon Vivek Ranadive buys US NBA team Sacramento Kings
Vivek Ranadivé, who on Friday secured a deal to buy basketball team Sacramento Kings, hopes to make basketball India’s second-biggest sport
Vivek Ranadivé, who on Friday secured a deal to buy basketball team Sacramento Kings, hopes to make basketball India’s second-biggest sport

As the hours-long euphoria overVivekRanadive securing a deal to buy a majority stake in popular California NBA team Sacramento Kings wound down, the Mumbai-born Silicon Valley hotshot told ET Magazine: "This is a great moment for a man who came to the US in 1975 with less than $50 in his pocket." 

On late Friday, a team led by Ranadive, the founder and chief executive of Tibco Software, which is widely credited with digitising Wall Street, agreed to pick up a 65% stake in the Sacramento Kings for $535 million. The deal will ensure theNational Basketball Association (NBA) team stays in the Californian capital. The NBA is expected to officially approve the sale next week.
"California has given me a lot. My growth here has been phenomenal. By doing this [agreement] I wanted to thank this place that made me what I am now," said Ranadive. He became the first Indian-origin owner of an NBA team when he bought a minority stake in Golden State Warriors a few years ago. He had to sell his stake in the Warriors to buy the stake in Kings.

"It is a bitter-sweet thing," he told ET Magazine on the phone, reiterating his plans to bring the NBA to India. Currently, the NBA has a presence in India, but not as a professional league.

India Plans

"I owe a lot of things to a lot of people and places, including California. In fact, I owe a lot to India and for my upbringing there," he said early Saturday, adding that he would soon take Sacramento Kings global and set up outreach programmes to connect with India. The 55-year-old alumnus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Universityforecast that basketball could easily be the second most popular game "if it is given enough attention".

Software tycoon, who entered US with $50

The author of several bestsellers, including the latest Two-Second Advantage, and a black belt in taekwondo hopes to galvanise efforts to make basketball popular in the country. He knows that it involves forming a domestic NBA unit, hiring local players, holding exhibition matches of professional teams and entering into partnerships with corporates. Ranadive, who grew up playing cricket and soccer in Mumbai's Juhu area, has never played basketball. But he has trained his daughter Anjali's team to win a few matches in a junior league in the US.

Incidentally, celebrated author Malcolm Gladwell has written an article in the New Yorker, titled "How David Beats Goliath", on Ranadive's strategy of training his daughter's team. "That write-up explains my strategy of staying ahead in the race," Ranadive, a person even the late Apple Inc founder Steve Jobs called the "guru", had told ET in an earlier interview. He had vowed to use Spotfire software — visual analytics developed by Tibco — to improve performance of athletes.

"It will allow you to look at where different players should be shooting from — what their sweet spot is. It will give us some competitive advantage and could be a secret weapon for us," he had told a TV channel.

The key to the strategy is applying 21st century analytics to sport, he said. The Indian-origin billionaire expects the culture of basketball viewing and playing to sink easily into the country. He notes that "in a country that doesn't have much space, thanks to high density of population, this is a game which can be played in smaller courts," unlike cricket and soccer. "Look at how popular the league is in China [launched there only two years ago]. Similarly, it will be a huge hit in India," he adds.

Contrarian by Nature

Tibco, which has offices in India, is looking at aggressively pursuing opportunities in the Asia region as orders slow in the West. His company, however, remains highly profitable, consistently beating analysts expectations. But then, merely beating market expectations isn't enough in Tibco, which has been resetting the rules of employee appraisal. Aaron Schwartz, a New York-based analyst at Jefferies & Co, had said the "[Tibco] management has pretty high internal expectations". Last year, Ranadive sacked his America sales chief despite the Palo Alto, Californiabased infrastructure-software provider surpassing market expectations. "If you do everything you are asked to do and you do it very well, you get a C," he had told ET. "In order to be a superstar [to get an A or A+]," he says, "you have to do things that nobody asked you to do."

"Facebook" for Global Leaders

Thinking out of the box is certainly Ranadive's key to success. He had sat on a dharna outside the RBI offices when the central bank refused to give him dollars in exchange for the Indian currency before he left for MIT in mid 70s. Last year, his company launched a 'Facebook' for participants of the World Economic Forum at Davos. Called Top-Com, it is a social networking site that Ranadive said will offer an "opportunity for global leaders to interact". Ranadive, a father of three children, has great hopes on India. Most importantly, he expects his home country to cater to 21st century demand for quality engineers.

Born to a communist family — he is a grand nephew of the legendary Indian communist leader BT Ranadive who had in 1948 made an open call to his followers to take up arms against the state — life seems to have come full circle for this techno-entrepreneur. In an earlier interaction, he spoke to ET about his grand uncle: "I know he wanted to make people's lives better, which is what I also want to do, but in a different way. It is ironical that I am a capitalist."

Source : By Ullekh N P, ET Bureau
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