Blaming Pakistan is not the answer

Like many following the Mumbai terror attacks I went through a range of emotions.

Initially shocked, I was unable to concentrate on work the morning of the attacks. Since I called family and friends the night of the first attacks, I was relatively calm but felt the pain immensely.

Photos from Vinu brought out the anger. Stereotypically, I  associate “terrorist” with uneducated, mindless, calculating, heartless misfits. The image of young 20+ year olds with AK-47’s and magazines of bullets brings out deep anger at our state.

The usual questions came to mind: 1) Why is this happening? or Why are they doing this? 2) How can we stop this or What can be done to solve this?

I dont profess to have a lot of answers, but I think we need a much better strategy than a set of talking heads claiming to annhiliate Pakistan or wipe out “Muslim terrorists“.

Why is this happening?
1. The growing gap between the poor (mostly minority communities) and rich is one major cause of this. There are homegrown terrorist organizations in India. I dont think anyone would dispute this, actually. Muslims are a minority in India. So are Christians and myraid other “castes”. Hindus are the majoriy. They all have either their “terrorist outfits” or “Naxalites”.

We have to find more inclusive growth. This is not an easy problem to solve. In fact I cannot think of a single country including the US and China, that has solve this problem. Somehow they dont have as many homegrown terrorists. Why? I dont for a moment think its because of homogeneity.

2. The injustices and supression: It exists in many places, but is more pronounced in India. In report after report, its obvious the minorities have fewer opportunites, make less money and are a poorer lot. Yes, they have “freedom of religion” and inalienable rights but at the end of the day its the majority that calls the shots.

3. Unresolved conflict. Kashmir is a problem, we know, but somehow want it to go away – not the state mind you, just the “problem” of Kashmir. There’s no easy solution to it obviously, else we I am sure we’d have tried it. But if it means sacrificing something to gain peace, we should explore that option. Trouble is I dont think anyone is convinced peace will reign without both sides being completely satisfied with the outcome – which is similar to the Israel / Palestine problem.

What can be done to start to solve this problem?
1. Acknowledge why this is happening. I’m not sure over 50% of Indians even agree that these are the cause of the problems. Most still prefer to blame Pakistan. I dont claim they are innocent, but they are not listed in the top 3 are they?

2. Shore up defences. India has over 1.2 Million policemen and over 1 million paramilitary personnel. Its the largest force in the world. But that number is dwarfed by the size of the population. I dont think adding more people is the answer. The willingness to use the masses to help and the aid of new technology is the need of the hour. I believe you can use the size of the population to an advantage.

3. Create opportunities to help clear the mistrust. India had a terrible Sikh terrorism problem, which no longer exists or is largely subdued. So how did that go away? A combination of ruthless handling of the insurgency and an inclusive approach towards the economic benefit to Punjab.

I am still searching for answers.


You get paid to do that research?

Ever wonder who funds these people that do the useless reports that state the obvious?  I am wondering and the answer is we all do. Take for example:

I mean really do you need research for that?

I remember the Seinfeld episode in which he makes fun of the researchers that invented seedless watermelon ( I personally am thankful for that BTW), but he asks a good question – “What kind of people work on this kind of stuff? Flunkies? Other people work on Aids, cancer research, but these guys (spits out an imaginary seed) they say this has to stop”.

The other extreme is the guys that do the research on the weird. If you remember USA Today always has their little survey box on front page with obviously ridiculous items:

  • When adults in America shower do they soap their left hand first or the right – with a pie chart that has to have the “refused to disclose” at a small percentage at 7. I swear I am not making this up.
  • How many people who eat fruit in the morning prefer their watermelon cut in squares versus wedges?
  • Nytimes this morning: Happy people dont watch TV.

Now to be clear, I love data as much as Flowing data and its representations fascinate me, but dont you think this goes beyond the norm?

What car inventory tells you about manufacturing processes

Great graphic from the NYTimes on car inventory in Long Beach port (near LA). Tells you that BMW is the closest to Just in time manufacturing as claimed by them in several articles. They are best managing the current downturn (in terms of inventory on hand).

So if you are in the market to buy a car, this is a great time to get an awesome deal. Inventory of any kind in excess is not good.

The difference between US and India : Ability to take risk

I was talking to a friend today about the difference between the willingness for Indians in India to take risks versus the ones in US to take risk. It is well known that there are several problems with the inability for Indian investors and entrepreneurs to take significant risks (which usually results in breakthrough returns). Most Indian entrepreneurs face different challenges than Americans OR even Indian entrepreneurs in America.

He boiled it down to one specific thing: Other People’s Money. Its a very powerful concept which I have not completely had the time to think through but the more that I think about it, the more it makes sense. I’d love any alternative opinions.

What does that mean?

He argues its easier to take large risks with other people’s money (which is the case in US) versus your own money and assets (which is the case in India).

Its well known that entrepreneurs in US look to get funding from VC’s to grow. So many entrepreneurs (who dont bootstrap) dont put their own money into their startup. They put sweat equity but not their own cash (most cases). You could argue its the same or more vaulable, but its not the same thing.

The Venture Capitalist does not put their own money in also, it comes from their Limited Partner.

The Limited partners (like pension funds, etc) dont put their own money in, its the money they are managing for retirees, investors.

So in some terms there is a fourth degree of separation between the money and its owner, who feels the pain when its “lost”.

In India however its your money or your own assets on the line(though that’s changing with more VC’s coming in), or from friends and family. You have an obligation to return their money with “interest” – its usually debt not equity.

When its your money or your collateralized assets, you tend to take less risk.

What do you think?

What Does Media Spending on Campaign Coverage Tell You About Objectivity?

From Fox News.

“The media have spent twice as much money
traveling with the Obama campaign as with John McCain. The Politico
newspaper reports Federal Election Commission records from the time
they announced their candidacy through the end of September, show the
press spent $9.6 million on hitting the trail with the
Obama camp
versus $4.4 million on McCain’s.”