Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fed's Yellen and US Unemployment

The Fed's chairperson Janet Yellen has been keeping the interest rates too low for a long time now, hoping the unemployment situation would improve.

Though the unemployment numbers have decreased, the underemployed are still high, and the wages have barely increased. US Corporations have historical levels of cash with them.

Would allowing these cash rich corporations to borrow more cash at lower rates entice them to start hiring more people and increase wages ? Or entice them to borrow at lower rates in US and invest in countries where the wages are lower ?

It does not look like a problem that can be solved by the Fed alone

Monday, July 14, 2014

Finance India Journal published a review of '5 Core Methods of Innovation'

Finance India, a journal published by Indian Institute of Finance, a leading business school in India published a review of '5 Core Methods of Innovation' in their September 2013 edition. The journal boasts of an editorial board composed of Nobel Laureates: I am enclosing a copy of the review below:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"
Venture Finance and Entrepreneurship have provided the invisible levers controlling the growth of new Innovations in the world economy.
Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, Amazon.com, Yahoo, TATA, Airtel, Ranbaxy,
Biocon, Infosys and many others have shown the growth potential of new
ventures. The history of growth in venture finance in US, UK, Europe, Africa,
Asia and India has been beautifully traced in Agarwal, Agarwal &
Solojentsev (2013).
Chankaya (350-283 BCE) a Professor at Takshashila University on being
thrown out by the Nanda King ventures in to make a boy wandering in the
streets the first Maurayan Emperor Chandragupta. Chandragupta Maurya
(340 BC - 298 BC) reign is remembered for defeating Alexander's Macedonian
Satrapies, Nanda Empire and Seleucus and for unifying India. The period
of Mauryan Empire (322 BC - 185 BC) is regarded as the Golden Age in
Indian History with trading done in Silver Panas. Taksha, an ancient Indian
king ventured into creating a centre of advanced learning called Takshashila
(5th century BC) for teaching of Vedas and advanced knowledge in eighteen
arts including archery, hunting, elephant lore, law, medicine and military
science. The Nalanda University (1197BC-527 BC) was the first university
to be setup in the world housed over 10,000 students and over 2,000 teachers
on the campus. The Nalanda University attracted students and scholars
from all across the globe in a period when global information flow and
transportation was negligible. The idea of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya
to set up a Hindu University which will spread oriental learning and
theology contributed to the development of the prestigious Banaras Hindu
University (1915), a centre of excellence even today. Kashi Naresh and Sri
Rameshwar Singh Bahadur, Maharaja of Darbhanga funded this venture.
In agriculture the share cropping institution (in which input costs and
output revenues are shared by cultivator and land owner) of land tenancy
lead to development of entrepreneurship in Indian farmers. Share cropping
form of land tenancy promoted farming in a number of non-conventional
items including tobacco.


Most of the MBA’s offered do not focus on a number
of financial issues which have attained vitality post 1985 with organization
failures due to poor management and understanding of Finance. There exists
an over-emphasis on other streams of management which were on the peaks
of organizational success in the 1950 to 1980s leading them to create general
MBAs with specialization in only one semester having two to four papers
in specific management discipline. Indian Institute of Finance recognising
this need pioneered business finance education in India in 1987.
Intel, Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Oracle, Amazon.com and Yahoo have
all shown the significance of innovative venture capital growth in
promoting growth and contributing to society. The major hindrance for
growth oriented entrepreneurial ventures was lack of adequate finance.
Venture finance provided the necessary support to tap competence,
experience and networks necessary for an entrepreneurial venture. Agarwal
(1976, 1988); Murray (1995); Mason (1996); Wright (1998); Landstrom (1998);
Shepherd (2000); Cumming (2003); Maula (2005); Solojentsev (2006); Zahara
(2006) and have all contributed significantly in the better understanding of
the concept and practice of venture capital across a modern complex resource
inter-locked globe. Innovative and venture capital are investments made by an institution,
firm or wealthy individual in business ideas which have the potential to
show meteoric rise and become dominant players in the world market.
Financing of such a venture may be in the form of equity or equity linked
investments, management buy-outs, replacement capital and turnarounds.
The return in a venture capital investment is empirically found to be in the
form of capital gains by way of sale rather than dividend income. The three
generally recognised sub-markets of venture finance include institutional
venture capital, corporate venture capital and informal venture capital.
Institutional venture capital was first defined by Wright and Robbie (1998)
as the finance provided by professional investors for long-term in un-quoted
and risky firms. Mason and Harrison (1999) further explained that the
professional investors could include pension funds, insurance companies,
banks and other financial institutions and the firms could develop into
publicly traded companies, captive subsidiaries of large banks or
independent limited partnerships. Bygrave and Timmons (1992)
distinguished between classical and merchant venture capital funds. In
classical venture capital, finance was provided by wealthy individuals and
families and who provided it in the early stage of growth and remained
actively as a part of the venture. Merchant venture capital fund is a form of
institutional venture finance which focuses on financial engineering to
invest for short term investment horizon. Hence, corporate venture finance
may take place by investing in either externally managed or internally
managed firms. According to McNally (1994) internal corporate venture
may be in the form of spin offs from the company which are managed inhouse
and external corporate venture may take place by investment in semiautonomous
and autonomous firms which are independently managed.
William Wetzel (1983) first defined informal venture capital as the finance
provided by business angels for young entrepreneurial ventures. Lerner
(2000) later defined business angels as wealthy individual who invest in
innovative ventures.

The genesis of modern venture capital in existing literature is traced to
the activity of Spanish Queen Isabella of Spain who sponsored the voyage
of Christopher Columbus. DuPont (1919) is regarded as the first modern
day venture. DuPont purchased thirty eight percent of equity interest in
General Motors. IBM was established in 1924 by a group of wealthy
individuals by merging a few smaller companies. Ralph Flanders, president
of Federal Reserve Bank of Boston proposed creation of fiduciary funds
which would enable institutional investors to invest five percent of their
assets in equity of new ventures. Xerox Corporation is an excellent example
of corporate venture finance whereby Haloid Corporation invested in the
technology developed by Chester Carlson and Battelle Memorial Institute.
The first venture capital firm in California – Draper, Gaither and Anderson
was founded in 1958 and led to development of formal venture capital firm
in Silicon Valley and San Francisco (Florida and Kenney, 1988). 

In the year 1286 in Italy, Giordano da Pisa invented eye glasses by
utilizing convex glasses to correct vision problems. However, it took more
than 400 year before a British optician Edward Scarlett created a modern
pair of glasses by connecting the frame to a “temple” passing over the ears
to hold it. For nearly 20 generations, people have had to hold the glass
frames in their hands while reading, before this easier way was found.
Almost till recently, there has been very little published work teaching
various processes to do innovation and due to the absence of such material,
it used to take a very long time, before new products could be created with
the available technologies. In the last few decades, due o rapid
communication, technology and globlization; rapid innovation has become
important to remain competitive for most corporations had Industries. The
knowledge gap between Nations has been greatly reduced by the internet.
While Spaniards could keep the recipe of making chocolate a secret for a
hundred years, it is difficult to do so in this small world. With globalization,
protectionist trade barriers which used to protect local industries have also
been removed by most nations. Leaders, from both the political and business
worlds, and from both the developed and developing worlds, have realized
that only innovation can give them competitive advantage and have been
urging their people to think innovatively.

Political and business leaders in United States and other developed
nation have been supporting the off-shoring of jobs hoping that their people
are innovative and would create new products and services. Their
assumption that future innovation will happen mostly in United States or
other developed countries is based on the fact that previously most new
products and services were created in the developed world and the developed
world has been blessed with the right social, legal and industrial
environment to support innovation. However, with the knowledge gap
between the developed and developing world evaporating due to the internet
and globlization, Innovation has become possible in almost any part of the
world. The developing world which till now has been mostly using concepts
and products created and tested in the developed world, now has the
potential and the capacity to create new products and services on their
own. Just like the last fifty year have produced a breathtaking number of
innovation like the Internet, GPS System and Mobile Phone and has
handsomely rewarded those who have produced innovative products, the
nest fifty years will also witness a race among nations, corporations and
individuals to innovate. This book is an effort to answer two main questions
in this space (a) What are the major ways of doing innovation? ; & (b) If a
particular innovation would sell in the market?

For a long time in history, it had been assumed that only a few people
with exceptional education and skills can be innovative. It was assumed
that Innovation is an inborn talent and only a few people have this skill.
When we thought about innovative person, we started thinking of only
people like Thomas Edison, Bill Gates and recently Steve Jobs. Innovation
can be done in a methodical way and the book will explain the different
ways of doing innovation. This book attempts to create and lay down different
frameworks for innovation, readers can use these to improve upon their
existing products and to create new innovative solutions and products.
The book starts with a description of the frameworks, then list a few products
and services, categorizing them into the different frameworks. It will then
explain how these frameworks can be applied to develop new products and
services. Citing examples, it later tests the understanding of innovation
examples. The reader progressively learns to identify different patterns of
innovation in various products and subsequently will be able to utilize
these framework to design new products. The book also makes an effort to
explain how to understand the consumer psychology and find out what
new products would the consumer be interested in. Understanding consume
psychology will help in designing of new products. The book is an outfall of
the Sanjeev’s experience in the venture capital industry which is plays an
important role in development of companies with new innovative products.
Innovation is a skill to improve an existing product/service or create a
new product or service. The skill of innovation is different from the skill
required for fundamental research in science. I t requires deep understanding
of the scientific theories and processes in a particular and specialized field
of science. Fundamental Research is done by those who have spent many
years in that field; typically these people have advanced degrees in their
fields of science. Innovation, on the other hand requires a keen eye to
comprehend existing and available technologies and utilize them to solve
particular needs of consumers. Many times, the outputs of fundamental
research are utilized by innovative thinking people to create customer-centric
products. For example, the founders of Google did research in data mining
on internet and used that research to create the Google search engine, which
led to many other products form the company utilizing this unique ability.
Similarly, fundamental research created electricity which has been used in
millions of ways to create new types of products. Perhaps the ability to
identify a customer requirement is more useful than an in-depth knowledge
of a particular technology or tool to create a new product or service.
The expertise and skills required to do fundamental research are
somewhat different from those required to utilize that research to create
consumer products. When we think about these tow approaches and the
important innovators in history, few people have been able to do both the
fundamental research as well as utilize that research to bring a product
fulfilling customer needs in the market. Based on the nature of contribution
in the process of product development, one can divide the contributors into
there categories: Fundamental Research based Scientists, Pure Innovator
and those how have been doing both research as well as utilizing that
Research to innovate. Scientists have been doing fundamental research
facilitating new discoveries and evolution of scientific concepts. These
contributors have expertise in their field of science and their research
produces the basic building block to be utilized in creating new products.
The work of these scientists was utilized by many people and corporations
to come up with new products and solutions, thus creating wealth for
companies, society and nations.

Innovators utilize their understanding of consumer needs and utilize
available research work to create new products and services. Steve Jobs
become a billionaire by understanding the needs of the end-user and created
desirable products from existing set of technologies. Steve jobs utilized the
concept of digital music on a handheld device to create iPod. He later, utilized
the concept of smartphones and multi-touch screens to create iPhone. He
also create the iPad that supported basic customer requirements form a
personal computer and made it easy to use. Mark Zuckerburg, another
innovator has utilized the concept of social networking to create a multibillion
dollar company facebook.com. He utilized existing set of available
tools on the internet to create this website and made it popular.
A skill to identify a customer need and then how it can be fulfilled by
utilizing existing set of technologies what is required by organizations. Few
people have both the skills of doing basic research as well as doing innovation.
One of these few people was Thomas Edison as he was equally successful in
doing both the fundamental research on electricity (had over 1000 patents)
and using that research to come up with innovative products and selling
them. It is noteworthy that many the companies started by Edison still exist in
one or the other from as large profit making corporations. His Edison General
electric which later merged with another organization become GE (General
Electric). In today’s world, Larry Page and Sergey Bring, the founders of Google
have displayed the capacity of doing both the fundamental research as well
as the ability to utilize that research for creating innovative products. The
company was founded based on their research world for their PhD program
on data mining of the we pages. Their research was utilized to create Google’s
powerful internet based search engine. Once this fundamental capability of
web search was built, other products of Google were created by innovation.
For example, Google utilizes data mining about an online user’s interests
(based on the user’s searches, the web sites her browsed and based on the
email contents he read) and matches the user to display only those online
advertisement that would be of interest to the user.

Sanjeev, has outlined five main methods to outlined the basic framework
of any innovation. The text explains how these methods have been applied
products, processes and industries as wide ranging as finance, Information
technology, mechanical tools, consumer electronic and internet. Sanjeev
Sharma gives examples of innovative products and explains the methods
that have been used in creating these products. He has explained how
products ranging from simple household items to cutting edge electronics
and telecom products, all utilize the same basic methods of innovation.
Sanjeev also shares his ideas on how these methods can be applied to solve
the existing needs of consumers and new products can be designed. He
explains what would make in innovation desirable by the consumer and
the step by step process of applying these. Sanjeev also draws on to his two
decades working experience in the financial technology world in USA and
Asia, sharing insights into the strategies of many companies and also
explains the working and problems of the venture capital industry and the
innovations there in.

Sanjeev beautifully brings forth as to how Innovation is an application
of better solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulate needs and
existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products,
processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to
markets, governments and society. Innovation marks the path of something
original, new, and important - in whatever field - that breaks in to (or obtains
a foothold in) a market or society. The text lays a good foundation for one to
understand and take necessary steps to induce innovation and venture
capital to have inclusive growth and development. It would have been nice
to see some detailed real life case studies given for the five core components
discussed in the text to enable the reader have a better understanding of
them. The book is relevant for post-graduate students of Management,
entrepreneurs and professors looking at text to introduce innovation and
venture capital formulations inducing innovation.

Indian Institute of Finance Aman Agarwal

Delhi, Noida & G-Noida
"

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Solar power Roads

An interesting solar power story has been the development of technology for solar power generating roads:

(http://www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml
)

The material for road construction is strong and has an added heating element so that snow could be melted with it during winters.



Friday, July 4, 2014

Can we generate solar energy and do farming together ?

When thinking of Solar Energy, we always think of utilizing barren land areas like deserts.

A major step forward would be to utilize the same land for farming as well as putting solar panels above it.

This can be accomplished by strategically organizing  solar panels at a height  that allows farming to be continued below it. Strategically designed gaps and holes between and within panels along with specialized farming equipment would enable dual use of land in such cases.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

'5 core methods of innovation' won an award

The book got an award in the non-fiction category at:

http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/spr-awards-2014/

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cloud Computing and Corporate Privacy

The Cloud computing companies would like us to believe that information technology and computing power are ordinary utilities like electricity and water, and corporations should outsource the business of IT infrastructure management to a third party somewhere in the 'Cloud', being managed by them for a monthly fee.


However, unlike electricity and water, computers contain the business process logic and business algorithms developed over decades, giving unique advantages to a corporation.

It is questionable if passing all this information in the hands of another organization managing the 'Cloud' would be safe and beneficial in the long run.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Is Information the opium of the masses in 21st century ?

We are getting addicted to information almost non stop 24 by 7, and a large amount of this information is irrelevant to our lives.

Besides unending personal and business emails and latest news from online and TV, we are getting information from social networking sites: 'Which peanut butter sandwich did Michael eat',  'What clothes Kardashian is wearing', 'Hillary and her new haircut', 'What is the latest news in far east', 'Which sports star said what'. Many people also like to play video games almost all the times.

Some people are so addicted to screens that they are even texting and browsing while driving.

New and exciting information, though irrelevant, gives our brains a high, just like other addictions did. We feel we are in control and empowered, though it hardly changes any thing in our lives.

I tried 'Information de-addiction' for a few days by restricting information to only a short window during the whole day, and it was like I was back in 1970s. I definitely felt that I had a different set and level of hormones and the music in my car felt way better and interesting than other days.