Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Soldier and Software Engineer

A conversation between a Soldier and Software Engineer in Shatabdhi Train ...

Vivek Pradhan was not a happy man. Even the plush comfort of the air-conditioned compartment of the Shatabdhi express could not cool his frayed nerves. He was the Project Manager and still not entitled to air travel. It was not the prestige he sought; he had tried to reason with the admin person, it was the savings in time. As PM, he had so many things to do!!
He opened his case and took out the laptop, determined to put the time to some good use.
"Are you from the software industry sir," the man beside him was staring appreciatively at the laptop. Vivek glanced briefly and mumbled in affirmation, handling the laptop now with exaggerated care and importance as if it were an expensive car.
"You people have brought so much advancement to the country, Sir. Today everything is getting computerized. "
"Thanks," smiled Vivek, turning around to give the man a look. He always found it difficult to resist appreciation. The man was young and stockily built like a sportsman. He looked simple and strangely out of place in that little lap of luxury like a small town boy in a prep school. He probably was a railway sportsman making the most of his free traveling pass.
"You people always amaze me," the man continued, "You sit in an office and write something on a computer and it does so many big things outside."
Vivek smiled deprecatingly. Naive ness demanded reasoning not anger. "It is not as simple as that my friend. It is not just a question of writing a few lines. There is a lot of process that goes behind it."
For a moment, he was tempted to explain the entire Software Development Lifecycle but restrained himself to a single statement. "It is complex, very complex."
"It has to be. No wonder you people are so highly paid," came the reply.
This was not turning out as Vivek had thought. A hint of belligerence crept into his so far affable, persuasive tone. "
Everyone just sees the money. No one sees the amount of hard work we have to put in. Indians have such a narrow concept of hard work. Just because we sit in an air-conditioned office, does not mean our brows do not sweat. You exercise the muscle; we exercise the mind and believe me that is no less taxing."
He could see, he had the man where he wanted, and it was time to drive home the point.
et me give you an example. Take this train. The entire railway reservation system is computerized. You can book a train ticket between any two stations from any of the hundreds of computerized booking centers across the country.
Thousands of transactions accessing a single database, at a time concurrently; data integrity, locking, data security. Do you understand the complexity in designing and coding such a system?"
The man was awestruck; quite like a child at a planetarium. This was something big and beyond his imagination.
"You design and code such things."
used to," Vivek paused for effect, "but now I am the Project Manager."
"Oh!" sighed the man, as if the storm had passed over,
"So your life is easy now."
This was like the last straw for Vivek. He retorted, "Oh come on, does life ever get easy as you go up the ladder. Responsibility only brings more work.
Design and coding! That is the easier part. Now I do not do it, but I am responsible for it and believe me, that is far more stressful. My job is to get the work done in time and with the highest quality.
To tell you about the pressures, there is the customer at one end, always changing his requirements, the user at the other, wanting something else, and your boss, always expecting you to have finished it yesterday."
Vivek paused in his diatribe, his belligerence fading with self-realization. What he had said, was not merely the outburst of a wronged man, it was the truth. And one need not get angry while defending the truth.

"My friend," he concluded triumphantly, "you don't know what it is to be in the Line of Fire"
The man sat back in his chair, his eyes closed as if in realization. When he spoke after sometime, it was with a calm certainty that surprised Vivek.
"I know sir.... I know what it is to be in the Line of Fire......."
He was staring blankly, as if no passenger, no train existed, just a vast expanse of time.
"There were 30 of us when we were ordered to capture Point 4875 in the cover of the night.
The enemy was firing from the top.
There was no knowing where the next bullet was going to come from and for whom.
In the morning when we finally hoisted the tricolour at the top only 4 of us were alive."
"You are a...?"
"I am Subedar Sushant from the 13 J&K Rifles on duty at Peak 4875 in Kargil. They tell me I have completed my term and can opt for a soft assignment.
But, tell me sir, can one give up duty just because it makes life easier.
On the dawn of that capture, one of my colleagues lay injured in the snow, open to enemy fire while we were hiding behind a bunker.
It was my job to go and fetch that soldier to safety. But my captain sahib refused me permission and went ahead himself.
He said that the first pledge he had taken as a Gentleman Cadet was to put the safety and welfare of the nation foremost followed by the safety and welfare of the men he commanded... ....his own personal safety came last, always and every time."
"He was killed as he shielded and brought that injured soldier into the bunker. Every morning thereafter, as we stood guard, I could see him taking all those bullets, which were actually meant for me. I know sir....I know, what it is to be in the Line of Fire."
Vivek looked at him in disbelief not sure of how to respond. Abruptly, he switched off the laptop.
It seemed trivial, even insulting to edit a Word document in the presence of a man for whom valor and duty was a daily part of life; valour and sense of duty which he had so far attributed only to epical heroes.
The train slowed down as it pulled into the station, and Subedar Sushant picked up his bags to alight.
"It was nice meeting you sir."
Vivek fumbled with the handshake.
This hand... had climbed mountains, pressed the trigger, and hoisted the tricolour. Suddenly, as if by impulse, he stood up at attention and his right hand went up in an impromptu salute.
It was the least he felt he could do for the country.

PS:- The incident he narrated during the capture of Peak 4875 is a true-life incident during the Kargil war. Capt. Vikram Batra sacrificed his life while trying to save one of the men he commanded, as victory was within sight. For this and various other acts of bravery, he was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the nation's highest military award

Warm Regards

Atul Sikrai

Sr Vice President & Head Equities

wiTdom investment advisory.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dollar is King

Dollar is king and Commodities its Slave in 2011
The inevitable periodic sell offs in the general stock markets indiscriminately hammer all stocks lower. But they pose a special magnified risk to commodities stocks. In addition to weighing on this sector directly, stock sell offs ignite fast US dollar rallies. This rapidly drives dollar-denominated commodities prices lower, amplifying the selling pressure faced by commodities stocks.

I believe that the market is a giant discounting mechanism. The market discounts news, political variables, and the future supposedly. It is hard to know if the future is actually priced in, but the experts say that it is as do the academics, therefore we might as well consider it fact else be thrown to the proverbial wolves. Can’t believe I'm about to say this, but I believe the US Dollar Index may be setting up to rally here.

A rally in the US dollar would be somewhat contrarian as most people are expecting a pullback. I'm not trying to imply that the US dollar is going to rally for the next five years. I'm trying to point out a short-term rally in the dollar is possible right now based on the daily chart. I would urge caution for those who are leaning heavily into shorting the dollar as it could backfire, particularly if gold, silver, and oil are unable to rally on dollar weakness.

So when the stock markets are falling, the dollar is surging, and commodities prices are weakening, Wall Street endlessly declares that commodities stocks are falling for fundamental reasons. With lower commodities prices, their profits will deteriorate. Provocatively, you usually hear bold declarations that the secular commodities bulls (or “bubbles”) are finished during these SPX-sell off events. This naturally leads to a really-negative environment for commodities stocks. They are often beaten to a pulp.

This probably sounds depressing at this point, but it really isn’t at all. Our goal as speculators and investors is simple, to buy low and sell high. In order to buy low, we need sell offs periodically to drive commodities-stock prices low enough to be relatively-cheap bargains. SPX sell offs, which are inevitable, healthy, and necessary to keep sentiment balanced, drive the best buying opportunities ever seen in this entire commodities-stock bull. These selling events should be gleefully anticipated!

Sell in May and Go Away.

Summer Cool Regards

Atul Sikrai

Sr Vice President & Head Equities

wiTdom investment advisory.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Slow Down Before You Fall Down !

The RBI raised lending (repo) and borrowing (reverse repo) rates by 50 basis points to 7.25 per cent and 6.25 per cent, respectively. RBI has not been shy of sacrificing some growth in the process and they have reiterated that they would take further action if inflation does not ease off following these steps. Inflation, especially core inflation is at uncomfortable levels and RBI will have to continue policy tightening in the months ahead to contain it from becoming generalized at elevated levels.

Aggressive RBI action is likely to help slowdown credit off-take and reduce demand in the system which will help counter the rising fuel costs and associated increases in production costs. However, we feared this will dampen the growth estimates of the economy and capital inflows will stay subdued.

As the system slows down, the EPS growth estimates will slowly be revised down and the markets will therefore, stay capped and not rise rapidly above the recent levels of 5,800—5,900 in the near-term, until the global commodities rally subsides in any meaningful manner. RBI actions on the monetary policy for 2011 have been fairly aggressive and the intent has been made clear to fight the inflationary trends in the economy. Facing downside risks from the sovereign debt crisis in the euro-zone nations and high oil prices, the Indian economy is likely to grow 8 per cent in 2011-12.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank had forecast that India’s economy would grow at 8 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively. Should the global recovery will impact our economy through trade, finance and confidence channels.
An environment of price stability is a pre-condition for sustaining growth in the medium-term.

The Inflation is new equation to be dealt with. Slowdown and fall down is the new normal to live with.


Atul Sikrai

Sr Vice President & Head Equities

wiTdom investment advisory.

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