Saturday, November 29, 2014

How this online realty company has struck gold

How this online realty company has struck gold

With a team of over 500 in Noida, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad, is a one-shop solution for property purchases.
RealtyAt a time when most real estate companies in the real world are struggling to raise money, one company in the virtual world is bucking the trend.

In just three years,, an online real estate portal started by friends Dhruv Agarwala, Kartik Varma and Prashan Agarwal, has managed to raise $44 million, or about Rs 270 crore (Rs 2.7 billion), in funding from various sources.

The website's biggest triumph came early this week when American media mogul Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp announced that it had picked up 25 per cent stake for about $30 million, or Rs 183 crore (Rs 1.83 billion), in the company.

With that, Agarwala and Varma, who were classmates at Harvard Business School, and Agarwal, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, managed to pull ahead of a pack of websites pursuing the same business of online property listing.

What sets them apart, says Agarwal, is the wider focus.

Unlike other websites that serve merely as an online directory of property for sale, allows a potential buyer to access additional information.

"Lack of accurate information is a major challenge for home buyers," says Agarwal.

"Since inception, we have made a significant investment in ensuring quality of data and introduced multiple data-led innovations such as livability scores to compare properties in a neighbourhood, a property portfolio tracker to keep a watch on performance of property investments and up-to-date construction and neighbourhood pictures."

With a team of over 500 in Noida, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad, the portal is a one-shop solution for property purchases.

This has underlined the company's success in finding investors.

In the first round of funding in 2011, it got $2 million from SoftBank, Horizen Ventures and a few angel investors. In 2012, it received another $5 million from SAIF Partners and Accel Partners.

In addition, the existing investors -- SAIF Partners, Accel Partners and Horizen Ventures -- have also agreed to pump in another $7million over the next few years.

So far 10,000 properties worth over $1 billion have been sold through, with nearly 40 per cent of its traffic coming from mobile applications.

Before starting, Agarwala was CEO of GE's infrastructure business in India.

He also led institutional sales for GE in the country.

He holds a bachelor's degree in materials science from Northwestern University, a master's from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard. Agarwal too has formerly worked at GE.

Agarwala's first business enterprise was a financial advisory firm called iTrust that he started in 2006 along with Varma.

The idea of a property website struck them after they realised that there weren't many websites catering to people who were looking at property as an investment.

In 2011, they sold iTrust to the Karvy Group and decided to focus on real estate instead. While Varma was a co-founder, he is no longer actively involved with the property business.
The image is used for representational purpose only
Source : ;  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Saffron - The costliest spice on earth is always in hot demand

Saffron - The costliest spice on earth is always in hot demand 

Iran produces 95 per cent of the world's saffron. India, along with Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco and Ajerbaijan, produce the rest. Kashmir is India's only saffron producing centre.

Iran produces 95 per cent of the world's saffron. India, along with Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco and Ajerbaijan, produce the rest. Kashmir is India's only saffron producing centre. 

It's almost as costly as gold and as lucrative a commodity to smuggle. The rich and the blueblooded around the world have loved it for millennia. The richest country in the world, the United States, loves it so much that even (clandestine) imports from Iran are okay. India's elite loves it, too, and it provides the most pleasing link between politically troubled Kashmir and the rest of the country. 

It's, therefore, a super-premium product that trumps geopolitics. So, what is it? More clues. Cleopatra bathed with it, Alexander the Great used it to heal battle wounds, it adds that special touch to Indian biryani and Italian risotto, to super premium cakes and lavishly cooked kheer, and it enhances the quality of your skin as well as that of your sex life - if you can afford the Rs 2 lakh/kg price tag. 

It's saffron, the world's most expensive spice. Its economics is made for super premium pricing and, when it intersects with global politics, it also produces a fascinating underground trade. 

Iran produces 95 per cent of the world's saffron. India, along with Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco and Ajerbaijan, produce the rest. Kashmir is India's only saffronBSE -4.85 % producing centre and thanks to floods this year, is facing a possible 75 per cent shortfall in production of the spice. It takes 1 lakh flowers to produce 1 kg of saffron, and output is typically just half a kg per hectare. 

That kind of production norm, plus the fact of Iran being the biggest saffron producer, means two things. First, there's always excess demand for saffron and prices always remain high. Second, given sanctions on Iran and high demand from the US, non-regular trade in saffron thrives. Saffron smugglers are called pigeons in the trade and the fact that metal detectors are of no use against this pricey spice is an incentive for non-regular saffron supply chains. 
Those who know saffron trade say Iranian saffron is bought by traders in countries like Dubai and then shipped to other parts of the world, including Canada. Canada to the US, with country of origin masked, is an easy supply route for saffron. Washington-Teheran tensions, a regular fixture in international relations, haven't stopped American consumers from getting their hand on Iran's premium quality saffron. 

Saffron - The costliest spice on earth is always in hot demand

India, say saffron trade insiders, is no stranger to the spice from Iran coming through non-regular trade routes. India imposes a high duty on saffron imports. Iranian saffron prices can be almost 50 per cent less than Indian prices - the incentive for avoiding official channels is therefore high. Unsurprisingly, there's saffron ego - as in my saffron is better than your saffron claims. The world considers Iranian saffron to be premium quality. Saffron needs unpolluted environs to grow best and Iran offers plenty of these. 

Kashmir's agricultural officials and saffron growers say the valley's saffron is premium quality as well. But the saffron industry is divided about product quality of Kashmiri saffron. Some experts say Kashmir's increasing urbanisation is not good for maintaining saffron quality. But Srinagar's officials hotly deny this. 
"Saffron grown in Kashmir commands premium in the market," says director of Jammu & Kashmir agriculture department Mushtaq Ahmad Shah. There may be debate on quality but on quantity everyone agrees - floods have wrecked Kashmiri production of saffron, prices have jumped by Rs 10,000 per kg in the last two days and traders expect prices to go up more and cross Rs 2 lakh/kg. 
Even in normal years, Indian demand outstrips domestic production of 15,000 kg. This year, therefore, businesses that use saffron are worried. Snack and ice-cream makers such as Haldiram, Vadilal and Bikaji are big buyers of saffron. "We have not started procurement of saffron yet but there are reports about poor harvest this year," said Vadilal group MD Rajesh Gandhi. Bulk buyers like Gandhi will have a problem. 
"This year, there is no volume to offer to large traders and institutional buyers. There are 40,000 outfits selling saffronBSE -4.85 % and majority of them are defunct as farmers have not been able to produce much," said GM Pampori, who heads the All J&K Saffron Growers & Dealers Association. Saffron is sold in packages of a tola or 10 grams in retail markets while large traders procure in bulk through agents in Jammu & Kashmir. 
So, what of India's elite users of saffron, those who like the spice as an ingredient in fine food and fine living? Or what about big temples and gurudwaras, which are big customers of saffron? 

Traders say top-end users of saffron are rarely deprived of their favourite spice. Last year, the super-wealthy Guruvayur temple inked an agreement with J&K Agro Industries Development Corp to procure 10 kg of saffron every month. Saffron is a key ingredient of the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh faiths. Saffron and sandal pastes are often used to anoint idols and statues. It is also used in many rituals. 

Recently, people thronged to the Chhoti Dadabari Jain temple in New Delhi's South Extension to observe a 'miracle' of saffron water flowing from a marble carving of a Jain saint's feet, known as 'charan pratishtha'. For other elite lovers of saffron, there will be other ways to get their hands on the world's most expensive spice. Price is no object for these customers, and there's always Iranian saffron. 

Source : www.economictimes.indiatimes.comBy Mitul Thakkar - ET Bureau 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens

Neil Gaiman

We have an obligation to imagine' … Neil Gaiman gives The Reading Agency annual lecture on the future of reading and libraries. Photograph: Robin Mayes

It's important for people to tell you what side they are on and why, and whether they might be biased. A declaration of members' interests, of a sort. So, I am going to be talking to you about reading. I'm going to tell you that libraries are important. I'm going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I'm going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.

And I am biased, obviously and enormously: I'm an author, often an author of fiction. I write for children and for adults. For about 30 years I have been earning my living though my words, mostly by making things up and writing them down. It is obviously in my interest for people to read, for them to read fiction, for libraries and librarians to exist and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur.

So I'm biased as a writer. But I am much, much more biased as a reader. And I am even more biased as a British citizen.

And I'm here giving this talk tonight, under the auspices of the Reading Agency: a charity whose mission is to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. Which supports literacy programs, and libraries and individuals and nakedly and wantonly encourages the act of reading. Because, they tell us, everything changes when we read.

And it's that change, and that act of reading that I'm here to talk about tonight. I want to talk about what reading does. What it's good for.

I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn't read. And certainly couldn't read for pleasure.

It's not one to one: you can't say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.

And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction.

Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end … that's a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you're on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

I don't think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children's books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. I've seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was RL Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy.


No such thing as a bad writer... Enid Blyton's Famous Five. Photograph: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy

It's tosh. It's snobbery and it's foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.

Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian "improving" literature. You'll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.

We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy. (Also, do not do what this author did when his 11-year-old daughter was into RL Stine, which is to go and get a copy of Stephen King's Carrie, saying if you liked those you'll love this! Holly read nothing but safe stories of settlers on prairies for the rest of her teenage years, and still glares at me when Stephen King's name is mentioned.)

And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed.

Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

You're also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And it's this:

The world doesn't have to be like this. Things can be different.

I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction andfantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It's simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

And while we're on the subject, I'd like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if it's a bad thing. As if "escapist" fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.

If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn't you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.

As JRR Tolkien reminded us, the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers.

Tolkien's illustration of Bilbo's home, Bag End. Photograph: HarperCollins

Another way to destroy a child's love of reading, of course, is to make sure there are no books of any kind around. And to give them nowhere to read those books. I was lucky. I had an excellent local library growing up. I had the kind of parents who could be persuaded to drop me off in the library on their way to work in summer holidays, and the kind of librarians who did not mind a small, unaccompanied boy heading back into the children's library every morning and working his way through the card catalogue, looking for books with ghosts or magic or rockets in them, looking for vampires or detectives or witches or wonders. And when I had finished reading the children's' library I began on the adult books.

They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader – nothing less or more – which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.

But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories – they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service.

In the last few years, we've moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That's about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going 
to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need.


Photograph: Alamy

Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internetconnections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.

I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access toebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content.

A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. It's a community space. It's a place of safety, a haven from the world. It's a place with librarians in it. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now.

Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.

Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open.

According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, England is the "only country where the oldest age group has higher proficiency in both literacy and numeracy than the youngest group, after other factors, such as gender, socio-economic backgrounds and type of occupations are taken into account".

Or to put it another way, our children and our grandchildren are less literate and less numerate than we are. They are less able to navigate the world, to understand it to solve problems. They can be more easily lied to and misled, will be less able to change the world in which they find themselves, be less employable. All of these things. And as a country, England will fall behind other developed nations because it will lack a skilled workforce.

Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told.

I think we have responsibilities to the future. Responsibilities and obligations to children, to the adults those children will become, to the world they will find themselves inhabiting. All of us – as readers, as writers, as citizens – have obligations. I thought I'd try and spell out some of these obligations here.

I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing.

We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.

We have an obligation to use the language. To push ourselves: to find out what words mean and how to deploy them, to communicate clearly, to say what we mean. We must not to attempt to freeze language, or to pretend it is a dead thing that must be revered, but we should use it as a living thing, that flows, that borrows words, that allows meanings and pronunciations to change with time.

We writers – and especially writers for children, but all writers – have an obligation to our readers: it's the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were – to understand that truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all. We have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader, after all, is a tale they cannot stop themselves from reading. And while we must tell our readers true things and give them weapons and give them armour and pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned from our short stay on this green world, we have an obligation not to preach, not to lecture, not to force predigested morals and messages down our readers' throats like adult birds feeding their babies pre-masticated maggots; and we have an obligation never, ever, under any circumstances, to write anything for children that we would not want to read ourselves.

We have an obligation to understand and to acknowledge that as writers for children we are doing important work, because if we mess it up and write dull books that turn children away from reading and from books, we 've lessened our own future and diminished theirs.

We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.

Look around you: I mean it. Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. I'm going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. It's this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair. Someone had to imagine a way that I could talk to you in London right now without us all getting rained on.This room and the things in it, and all the other things in this building, this city, exist because, over and over and over, people imagined things.

We have an obligation to make things beautiful. Not to leave the world uglier than we found it, not to empty the oceans, not to leave our problems for the next generation. We have an obligation to clean up after ourselves, and not leave our children with a world we've shortsightedly messed up, shortchanged, and crippled.

We have an obligation to tell our politicians what we want, to vote against politicians of whatever party who do not understand the value of reading in creating worthwhile citizens, who do not want to act to preserve and protect knowledge and encourage literacy. This is not a matter of party politics. This is a matter of common humanity.

Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. "If you want your children to be intelligent," he said, "read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.

• This is an edited version of Neil Gaiman's lecture for the Reading Agency, delivered on Monday October 14 at the Barbican in London. The Reading Agency's annual lecture series was initiated in 2012 as a platform for leading writers and thinkers to share original, challenging ideas about reading and libraries.

Source :

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Five stories that will teach you to fight your own battles

Five stories that will teach you to fight your own battles
We come across various learnings in our life. Here are five important lessons by Ravi Subramanian, CEO of Shriram City Union Finance that will make you a better person.
We come across various learnings in our life. Here are five important lessons by Ravi Subramanian, CEO of Shriram City Union Finance that will make you a better person.
We come across various learnings in our life. Here are some important lessons that will make you a better person.

Ravi Subramanian, author and CEO, Shriram City Union Finance, speaks on five stories that in fluenced his life:


Many years back, a co-worker, known for his political manipulations, sent an offensive and derogatory message about me to someone in my team. It was meant for someone in his team, but by a strange quirk of mobile phone keys, it got sent to my direct report. It impacted my team and me and I spoke to my supervisor, who promised to stand by me and help me fight the battle.

Armed with his support, I escalated the issue to the HR and a few others up the organisational hierarchy. Had my supervisor not supported me, I would have hesitated in escalating the issue, for the coworkers' supervisor was an extremely powerful expat, and no one wanted to take him head on.

Backed by my boss, I did take it up only to see my boss chicken out at the last minute. I was left stranded. I had gone so far ahead that I could not have backed out. Expectedly, we lost the battle. We came out looking like complete losers. It taught me a very simple lesson in life.

Take up issues, which you can fight on your own. Never depend on anyone else to fight the battle for you. In organisations we often rely on bosses and peers to support us and stand by us in various initiatives.

At best, they can be props. They cannot be the fulcrum around which one pivots. If you can't fight the battle on your own strength and conviction, don't fight it.


Ajay Bimbhet was one of my mentors in the early stages of my banking career at ANZ Grindlays. After both of us left Grindlays, there were at least two times when he tried to hire me in his team. Both the times, I stayed back with my existing employers. And then we lost touch. I was under the impression that he would be upset with me and was scared to call him.

When my first book If God was a Banker got launched in 2007, he called to congratulate me. I was pleasantly surprised. I thanked him and in the same breath told him that I was surprised that he had called, for I thought he would be nursing a grudge. I remember till date what he had then said. "If I had to carry a grudge on such small issues I would have to stop speaking to half the industry."

A simple statement, but it taught me a very important lesson. Don't carry grudges against people. A simple conversation puts an end to longstanding discomfort. Had he not called on the day of my book launch, I would never have spoken to him and stayed under the impression that he would not want to speak with me for not having accepted his multiple offers to join him.


In my role as head of a business at Citigroup, I had to once hire a senior resource in my team. It was a large role and we wanted someone with drive, passion and business acumen.

I shortlisted one individual for the role, and was told by my supervisor not to hire him for he had a mind of his own, was very demanding and would be difficult for me to manage. Ignoring their advice I went ahead and hired him. I ended up working with that person for close to a decade across multiple organisations. He turned out to be the best person I have worked with.

Even though he reported to me, he challenged me, questioned me, debated with me, and in the end, made me think differently from what I would have, had he not been around. I probably became a better person because I hired a person of high intellect and independent thought process. When you pick a team don't go for a pack of sheep, herd cats instead.


An extremely proud moment for me was when If God was a Banker was released. I was 36 then. A few years later, in November 2012, my daughter who was twelve years old published her first book, Heirs of Catriona - a 200 page, 50000 words book.

While it made me a proud father, it also made me feel that the world had changed. Age was no longer a barrier to achieving bigger things in life. What I did at 36, my daughter did at 12.

Youngsters these days are far more capable, efficient, ambitious and clear in their thoughts as compared to the earlier generations. Respect the youngsters at work. Give them bigger challenges. Trust them. They will deliver much more than what you can ever imagine. All they need is a chance.


I am a very cautious driver - the type who stops at a traffic signal, were it to turn red, even at midnight. Like every other observer of traffic rules, incessant honking on the roads peeves me too.

About six months back, I had dropped my daughter off at school and was driving to work. The early morning traffic was thin. The light turned red. I stopped. A couple of cars stopped behind me. The moment the signal turned green, a well dressed man, in a Scorpio behind me started honking. That got me wild. I rolled down my window and made a not so parliamentary gesture.

The Scorpio pulled up alongside me and the suited guy in the Scorpio rolled his window down. I anticipated a fight. Instead he gave me a big smile and said, "Don't get upset early in the morning my friend." And he zoomed ahead. That set me thinking. Why did I lose my cool? Just because he honked a bit too often? That's his problem. Not mine.

Often we let the behaviour of others impact us. This spoils our mood, our balance and our composure. And if this happens in the morning, the day goes for a toss. What the man said got me thinking.

A smile could make all the difference. From that day onwards, I have retained my composure, not got impacted by maniacs on the road and have become an even more careful driver. My drive to work in the morning, irrespective of traffic is always a peaceful one, and consequently my days are far happier.

Source :

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Is India sitting on a gold mine?

Is India sitting on a gold mine?

Sandeep Lakhwara, Managing Director, Deccan Gold Mines
Sandeep Lakhwara, Managing Director, Deccan Gold Mines

India has very large resources of gold, say several geological studies. One estimate (2005 study) puts the country’s primary gold resources at about 491 tonnes. But the country hardly finds a mention in the global list of large miners. It produces just three-four tonnes of gold annually. Sandeep Lakhwara, Managing Director, Deccan Gold Mines, a listed gold exploration and mining company, talks about the issues faced by the industry and the country’s prospective gold reserves.
For how many years have you been in this business? How many operating mines do you have currently?
We have been in this business for the last 12 years, but essentially, we are still explorers and do not have operating mines yet.
But we are prospecting in many regions within the country — almost in 60-70 places. We are fairly optimistic of at least a dozen of these yielding deposits that are mineable. The grades may vary from 1-2 gm a tonne to 3-4 or 5 gm a tonne.
How many gold mines are operational in India now? What is the potential for India to become a large gold producer?
Currently there is only one gold mine that is operational — the Hutti gold mine in Karnataka. It produces about three tonnes of gold per annum. The potential in India is huge.
Over the next two decades, we could produce about 300 tonnes per annum, similar to what China produces currently. China started mining two-three decades ago and is one of the world’s largest producers.
Does India really have such large reserves?
We believe so. However, unless you explore, it is difficult to ascertain the actual quantity of reserves. But to find and produce 300 tonnes over the next two-three decades is not an unreasonable assessment.
What is the process involved in exploring?
First and foremost, based on historical data and study by the Geological Society of India, we zero in on a particular area we think may have potential and apply for a Reconnaissance Permit (RP), which gives us the right to explore that area.
In India, the RP is granted generally for a period of three years. If after doing basic exploration, we find that the area has a strong potential, we then apply for a prospecting licence.
This gives us the right to undertake full drilling in that area. The various rock samples we obtain from drilling are then analysed to narrow down to the area where the potential for a gold deposit is high. We then apply for a mining licence.
How much time does it take to find a deposit?
Globally, it takes about 10 years to make a discovery from the time you start exploring.
But in India, it takes longer, because of the time taken to obtain licences.
In India, the RPs take one-two years, prospecting licences about two-five years, and another five years or more to obtain a mining licence.
There are some licences that are pending for more than a decade. The delay has mainly been due to lack of clarity in the regulatory system and the lengthy process for approval.
For a prospecting licence, for instance, you start at the Tahsildar level in the village where you are prospecting.
Then the file goes all the way to the Centre to the Ministry of Mines, and again comes all the way down for actual execution.
What is the cost of exploration?
The exploration cost involves the cost of geological surveying, sampling, assaying, drilling, and the cost varies depending on the size of the resource (the larger the resource, higher the cost), the type of ore and the kind of drilling.
Let me tell you about a particular mine at Ganajur, in Karnataka, where Deccan Gold has applied for a mining licence. Since this is an open pit mine, the cost of mining would be about $400-600 an ounce.
The global cost of mining, which is about $950-1,000 an ounce, is for underground mines.
Why do we not see many private players in this space (gold mining)?
Regulatory hurdles are the main reasons. The time it takes to obtain approvals and licences, makes the whole project economically unviable.
Opening up of the sector can help explore the untapped gold reserves within the country. This can, in turn, reduce our dependence on gold imports.

(This article was published on October 19, 2014)

Deccan Gold Mines Ltd.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Wanna be a real estate consultant?

Wanna be a real estate consultant?

The lowdown
A real estate consultant deals with high-value property assets. S/he needs to have a clear understanding of what each client, generally an high net worth individual, is looking for. They are supposed to align the customer’s requirements with the broader market
scenario and be able to deliver value in a complex and unstructured marketplace. Services of real estate consultants may range from showing properties, analysing area sales statistics, and examining contracts before making offers or closing deals etc. Good negotiation skills are absolutely mandatory to succeed in this field and according to industry insiders, these skills are best picked up by observing seasoned veterans

9am: Reach office
9-10am: Review list of clients being serviced, new assignments to be handled etc
11am: Speak to clients and check their requirements to advise them on new opportunities
11.30am: Take clients for property visits, facilitate negotiation meetings between parties, interact with advisors like lawyers, architects, developers etc 
5 to 6.30pm: Meet developers to review their new product plans, advise them on current market demands, understand their requirements etc

The payoff
A trainee can earn upwards of 
Rs. 3.5 lakh a year while a senior manager can expect Rs. 12 lakh a year. Salary structure of the senior management and directors varies depending on the firm

* Assertiveness
* A strong marketing/sales mindset; customer orientation
* Organisation skills
* A fair understanding of the dynamics of the real estate sector

Getting there
There is no fixed criteria for anyone wanting to enter the business of realty consulting. However, it helps to have a background in business management and marketing communication. However, if you want to get into the technical side of the business, a background in architecture or civil engineering would be ideal

Institutes and URLs
* Specialisation in real estate management (non- technical courses) is not available in India. However,  institutions like
IIRE are doing some pioneering work
Pros and cons 
* Exposure to HNIs is quite high
* Ample opportunities to sharpen customer service skills
* Work on weekends, as most clients are free on weekends

Buying a house is everyone’s top priority. Hence, the demand would always rise. Monetary returns are also very good Kamal Batra, managing director, Buniyad Properties, Noida

Promoter stakes in private banks: Case for a higher cap

Promoter stakes in private banks: Case for a higher cap

SpiceJet promoters to raise stake by 10%

SpiceJet promoters to raise stake by 10%

Company to allot warrants, which will be converted as equity shares in 2015 & 2016; The additional stake would cost around Rs 312 cr

Maran and Kal will subscribe for fresh in two tranches; the company plans to allot 81,680,629 shares in the first and 107,410,479 shares in the second.

The company did not respond to a detailed questionnaire in this regard till the time of going to press.

Sources said the promoters would subscribe to a fresh issue of 189.1 million warrants, to be priced according to the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s formula for preferential issues. These warrants will convert to equity shares in two tranches—-in April 2015 and April 2016.

The sources added so far, the promoters had infused about Rs 1,300 crore into the airline. Maran had acquired for Rs 750 crore in 2010 and an additional Rs 550 crore was invested later, by way of equity.

Meanwhile, the airline has said its management had decided not to add this financial year.

Following a cut in capacity in the quarter ended June this year, the level would remain unchanged through the next two years, said the company’s annual report.

Last year, SpiceJet had inducted seven Boeing 737NGs and redelivered one aircraft, taking its fleet size to 58. One domestic (Dharamshala) and one international airport (Muscat) was added to the airline’s network.

In its new network and schedule (from March 30, 2014), 26 routes and seven stations were discontinued, along with capacity reduction on 14 routes. The stations discontinued included Bhopal, Allahabad, Pondicherry, Tiruchirappalli, Guangzhou, Riyadh and Bangkok.

“The company will strive to increase its asset utilisation to produce more seat-km, depending on windows of opportunities,” the annual report said.

The airline said it planned to enhance ancillary revenue and cut costs by optimising resources, increasing asset utilisation, etc. It also planned to improve on-time performance, aircraft cleanliness and instant communications.

It added the profitability of all airlines was stressed due to high fuel and dollar rates. SpiceJet’s operating profits continue to be hit by various factors, particularly high aircraft fuel costs, significant depreciation in the value of the rupee and pricing pressures from competition.

For 2013-14, SpiceJet reported a net loss of Rs 1,003.2 crore, compared with losses of Rs 191.1 crore for 2012-13 and Rs 605.8 crore for 2011-12. Yields and load factor were under pressure due to the tough economic environment, the airline said.

  • The additional stake will cost the promoters about Rs 312 crore
  • Maran and Kal Airways will subscribe for fresh equity shares in two tranches
  • The company plans to allot 81,680,629 shares in the first and 107,410,479 shares in the second
  • The promoters are likely to subscribe to a fresh issue of 189.1 million warrants
  • Maran had acquired SpiceJet for Rs 750 crore in 2010
  • SpiceJet reported a net loss of Rs 1,003.2 crore in 2013-14, compared with losses of Rs 191.1 crore for 2012-13 and Rs 605.8 crore for 2011-12
Source : T E Narasimhan,
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