Notes to Myself



Good Read: Definition of A Bank

Brilliant Definition Of A Bank…

A bank is a broker between the middle class and the rich. The only place where the two meet is in a bank. The middle class brings the money, through saving, and the rich takes it, through borrowing. A middle class person saves the money because they have more money than their thinking capacity. So they keep the money in the bank so they can go and think what to do with the money they saved.

On the other side, the rich people come to pick that money, through borrowing, because they have more ideas than the money they have. On a practical side, please show me one billionaire who got rich through saving and I will show you a million Indians who have money saved in the banks and are still renting the houses that the Millionaires and billionaires build through the middle class people’s savings which the rich borrowed from a bank.

Source: WhatsApp Forward


Good Read: Investment Lessons from Chess

Two of my passions are “investment/valuation” and “chess”.  I immensely enjoy spending time on both and keep reading/learning. So I was twice as delighted when I read about the title of this article “Investment Lessons from Chess”!

Usually such articles only have fancy title and when you start reading you get totally disappointed. But not in this case! I really liked the article and hence thought of reproducing it here with due credit and link.

So read and enjoy this article by Mehrab Irani (Twitter:@RealMehrabIraniif you like investments and chess…


Most people don’t think; some people wrongly think that they are thinking; while very rare people actually think.


I was recently invited as the chief guest at a chess competition. As it is customary for the chief guest to deliver a talk, while preparing my talk for the event and speaking at the event, I found a lot of similarities between chess, life and investments. This article summarises some of those findings. Play to win; but be ready to lose. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking in which we created them.


No One in Chess, Life or Investments  Ever Won by Just Making the Forward Moves: We are disillusioned that we have to always make forward moves, to win in life or investments. But chess teaches us that, sometimes, to move forward in the game, to win in life, or to make the best investment decisions, we need to move a few steps backwards as well. To get a better job, we need to quit the current job; to derive a more profitable business deal, we need to give small incentives; to avoid big investment losses, you need to cut small losses; some situations demand us to spend money to get rich and so on.


Even a Pawn Can Convert Itself to the Mighty Queen: Once a tiny pawn is able to navigate and negotiate all the enemies and dangers to reach the other end of the board, it can convert itself into the mighty queen. Never underestimate the potential of anything in life or investments. All significant things began sometimes when they were insignificant. Most large companies began as small companies and many of the large-cap stocks started their journey on the bourses as small-caps. Small savings, over a period of time, create great wealth which capacitates a person to achieve financial emancipation.


Moves Which a Knight Can Make, Queen Can’t; Way a Pawn Can Kill, a Knight Can’t: Chess has six types of pieces— pawn, knight, bishop, rook, queen and king. While there are some similarities between the moves of various pieces, each piece has its own unique way to move. All pieces, except the knight, move in a straight line—horizontally, vertically or diagonally. A knight is unique as it moves to a square that is two squares away horizontally and one square vertically, or two squares vertically and one square horizontally. The complete move, therefore, looks like the letter L. Unlike all other standard chess pieces, the knight can ‘jump over’ all other pieces of either colour to its destination square. Although the queen, which has the most widely spread power to move up to any extent diagonally, horizontally or vertically, it still can’t jump over other pieces; nor can it move in L shape. The knight’s ability to ‘jump over’ other pieces means it tends to be at its most powerful in closed positions while a queen or bishop is more puissant in open long positions. Also, although a pawn moves straight and forward, it kills one step diagonally which can’t be imitated by the knight.


Whether it is life or investments, everyone has his or her own space; all of us have some gift with which the Almighty has given us for this earthly journey. We have to identify that divine talent, discover our genius, hone our skills, gain experience, improve our suaveness, consolidate our strengths while minimising our weaknesses and play the game in the best way we can.


Plan but Be Flexible with Your Plans: Chess trains you to think outside the box. There are many times in a game where your plans are foiled and you need a creative solution to stay in the game. Thinking outside the box helps you find solutions to problems in ways that others may not think of. Chess teaches us to plan but it also inculcates the essential habit of persisting and winning when the plan fails. This is also a skill you will need, over and over again, in life. Things don’t always go according to plan and people are unpredictable. The less rigid you are, the better you’re able to handle situations that come your way. For example, when your decision to buy a stock has been based on faulty analysis or information, it’s better to be flexible and get out of the wrong investment at minimum loss rather than sticking to it and nursing your ever-increasing losses. Remaining flexible is an invaluable lesson in life.


Sacrifice Is the Ultimate Wisdom for Victory:  Sacrifice is a very important lesson thought by chess: you may sacrifice a pawn to make a better attack later on in the game; a pawn has to be sacrificed, to save the bishop and the rook needs to be sacrificed, to save the queen. The same principle applies, once you walk away from the chessboard. Sacrifice is a necessary part of life as well as investments. Insurance premium is a small monetary sacrifice made to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our assets from unforeseen situations which may randomly arise. Postponing spending on extravagances today to create your investment kitty will help you enjoy luxuries at a later stage without disturbing your financial independence. Sacrificing a safe job for a profitable future business venture, working to learn and grow rather than merely earn are sacrifices one makes in life to do things you really want, at a later stage. Without sacrifice, we will never get what we truly want or be completely happy.


Protect the King or Game Is Over: Things which are important should never be at the mercy of things which are not significant. The game of chess is on till the king survives. Hence, at all times, most resources should be directed towards protecting one’s king and destroying the opponents. While dealing with money and finance, you must know who is the king—what is the importance of asset allocation; how to protect your wealth from financial predators; how to budget for yourself before you pay others; when to cut spending and when to spend your way to riches; the best investment avenues and how to create positive leverage to multiply your wealth; how to insure your present and future wealth; and know the rules of money to avoid the common financial mistakes. Never let your king, whether in life or while dealing with your money, be at the mercy of anything else.


Investment Is a Board Game: Investments (and life), like chess, is a board game—you must know when to make the right move and when not to make the wrong move. You must know when to wait and when not to procrastinate. You must know when to think and when not to think too much. To a mind that is still in life, the universe surrenders. To a mind that is still in markets, during volatile times, the stock market surrenders.


When Someone Makes a Move Which You Don’t Understand; Don’t Try To Understand It: When someone makes a move which you don’t understand, don’t try to understand it as it might be an insensate move. When everyone in the market is greedy, don’t just follow the herd; when some market guru recommends a stock, don’t just buy because the so-called market guru has recommended; just because majority of people are pursuing a particular career or business venture, don’t enter it, if you don’t feel comfortable or understand its intricacies.


Win with Grace; Lose with Dignity: When you know you can’t lose, you are bound to win. But when you lose, you should know how to lose with dignity. The more you worry about being applauded by others and making money, the less you’ll focus on doing the great work that will generate applause and also make money. Two things define you— your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything. When you’re happy, you enjoy the music; but when you’re sad, you understand the lyrics. Chess teaches you to enjoy the music as well as understand the meaning and purpose behind the lyrics. Chess teaches that while dealing with your investments you should not be a victim of mental accounting or decision paralysis or bigness bias or buyer’s remorse or sunk fallacy theory. Nor should you suffer from the endowment effect.


Strategy without Patience Can Be Caustic; Patience without Strategy Can Be Anaemic: Strategy without patience can be caustic; patience without strategy can be anaemic; both, together, are the qualities of an astute winner. Make a proper strategy while dealing with your money; execute your plan but also keep periodically rebalancing, reviewing, changing and refreshing your portfolio allocation with time and your financial goals and circumstances.


At the End of the Game; the Mighty King and the Tiny Pawn Go Back in the Same Box: This is, perhaps, the most profound lesson of chess. At the end, we all go from where we came—dust. But our consciousness floats to the higher world and is directly positioned to the deeds which we have done. Although you may have worked hard throughout your life earning and preserving your wealth, that is not the thing which you will take with you when you, finally, move ahead from this world. Money is certainly not a permanent thing—that’s why it is called currency, i.e., it is just like electric current which moves from one point to another, from one house to another, from one person to another. Yes, it’s very important to achieve financial independence when you are alive but never forget the fact that money is not eternal and the thing which is not permanent can’t give you enduring happiness. So, earn money, reach the pinnacle of success, attain financial independence but always aim for a clean conscience.


To have the rewards that very few have, do the things that very few people are willing to do. Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. Everyone wants to achieve financial freedom but few really want to follow the principles and the path which leads to financial freedom. The most dangerous place is in your safety zone. The more you go to your limits, the more your limits will expand. All the very best in the New Year.


Source: Investment Lessons from Chess by Mehrab Irani, Moneylife Magazine

Date: 10th January 2018



Culture eats strategy for breakfast everyday – decoding Murthy-Sikka battle

If you were operating at or connected to the senior levels in the technology industry, the news of Sikka’s exit from Infosys would neither be shocking nor unexpected. It was a question of when – not whether – Sikka would be out of Infosys. So what went wrong ?

The History

When Sikka took charge, Infosys was in doldrums. Once an industry bellwether, Infosys stood still as industry peers like HCL and TCS grew quicker and delivered better returns. Its efforts at moving up the value chain through Infosys 3.0 came a cropper. Murthy’s second stint as CEO under those tumultuous conditions was a largely forgettable one The only positive event were Murthy’s efforts to bring in a new CEO.

The CEO search

The Infosys board envisaged what it needed in a new CEO: a successful technology executive with a global perspective and proven track record. Sikka’s academic success and credentials at SAP looked impressive: additionally, he seemed to have the depth of strategic skills and the right vision for an organization Infosys’ size. He took charge as the first non-founder CEO in 2014. All good? Not quite. Two areas simmered in the background right from beginning:

1. The very first clue comes from Infosys’s tagline: “Powered by Intellect, Driven by Values”. While Sikka’s Stanford PhD and SAP HANA success ensured his intellect stood out, his values’ fitment is unlikely to have ticked all boxes. Sikka was a global executive schooled in liberal values – diametrically opposite to te values of a traditional Infosys. Sikka’s masterful strategic skills and intelligence were an unlikely replacement for his mismatch of cultural values, especially for the top job at an organization that prided itself precisely on these very values,.

2. Sikka’s due diligence about the role of Infosys’ powerful and domineering founders presented an important potential fault line. There is a likelihood that Sikka mistook his experience in the West – where executive freedom is nearly guaranteed – as a benchmark for what to expect at Infosys. Little did he understand the true meaning of Murthy’s line “Infosys is my middle child”: Sikka, like others, might have laughed it off as parting words from a genius – not as literal words from a very possessive strong personality.

In the battle of nature vs nurture, Infosys founders expected Sikka to get nurtured by existing values whereas Sikka expected his nature to turn Infosys around. That dichotomy – as time would tell – made all the difference.

However, difference in such subtle yet vital areas rarely manifest themselves overnight: they build up overtime and blow over soon.

Enter Sikka

Sikka scored some early successes:

1. Sikka loosened the office dress code, promoted 500 employees, gave away iphones, strengthened grassroot communication and did everything to engage employees.

2. Sikka next wooed the investor fraternity and the stock markets by presenting a grand and aggressive vision of a $20 billion organization by 2020. For an organization known to under-promise and over-deliver, this was a cultural shock. The tall talk raised expectations drastically and while that enthused the stock markets in the short run, the expectations – as we now know – made it difficult for Sikka to live upto them.

3. Last, for a conservative organization known to harp on its brand but never known to pay top-of-the-line salaries, Sikka raised the salaries of his top reports to unheard-of levels.

Seen from the perspective of Infosys’ founders, these initial “successes” were not success at all: they were cultural failures, disturbing enough to lead to uneasy relationship with Sikka, but yet not alarming enough to cause a blast.

Meanwhile, Sikka brought an army of top people from SAP to change the culture and help him transition Infosys from a lumbering elephant to nimble cheetah. Unfortunately, Sikka misjudged what it would take to bring about a cultural change: if a culture of a 30 year old, hundred-thousand employee traditional organization could be changed with a handful of imported top-managers, Drucker’s powerful line “Culture eats strategy for breakfast everyday” would not have stood the test of line.

The challenges

All of the above would still have sustained but for a few areas where Sikka and the board crossed Murthy’s red line.

1. Awarding CFO Ravi Bansal a huge severance pay package raised question marks on corporate governance. Infosys prided itself on its disclosure standards. The board’s decision of not disclosing the contents of reports from an external law firm – especially when all was deemed “fine” – gave an already disenchanted founders’ team a stick to beat Sikka and the board with.

2. Within months of the Bansal episode, the board raised Sikka’s already high salary by 55%. The stick in the disturbed founders’ hands now got a poison tipping and became a lot more potent with Murthy incessantly and publicly lynching the board.

3. After some initial success, Sikka’s turnaround strategy missed its target by an embarrassing $5 billion: finally in June 2017, the board scrapped the $20 billion target.

For an organization that consistently beat investor expectations for years, this was a strategic Freudian slip and the Infosys stock – and Sikka – lost support of some of the vital institutional investors.

And for Sikka – long dismissed as a cultural misfit – who had strategic results as the last armory in his toolkit, a slipup in strategy, positioned his rhetoric as “all bark, no bite”. This was the last straw on the camel’s back.

The Exit

With a frustrated founding team led by combative Murthy, allegations of corporate governance, a failed turnaround strategy questioning the very competence of Sikka and missing investor support, Sikka had nothing to fall back on and nothing to look forward to – except a good nights sleep and the much needed peace of mind. Exiting Infosys provided him precisely those benefits – and Sikka cut his losses.

There are some really valuable lessons:

1. With the infamous Tata episode still fresh in memory, Indian founders and family business heads would do well to rethink if they really want to let go in the true sense when they hang up their boots. If all they want is to remote-control a strategically minded executive – who is tasked with the responsibilities of a CEO without the requisite authority, they should stop searching the market and instead stick to the comforts of loyal insider.

You can have loyalty or results – rarely both.

2. For prospective CEO choosing a top job at any organization – specially with powerful founders or families, it is well worth developing a thorough understanding of the cultural factors and sensitivities involved. Raw Intelligence is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to succeed – emotional intelligence provides the much-needed sufficiency. And that involves recognizing stakeholders interest before picking up the top job.

There is no point in diving in deep oceans and complaining about sharks.

The forces of nature are so strong that in the battle of nature vs nurture, nature often wins hands down. As Sikka learns that lesson and walks into the sunset, he would do well to recall Peter Drucker’s golden lines that Cyrus Mistry at TATA group learnt equally painfully:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast everyday”.

Source: WhatsApp Forwards and long-time Infoscions

Prof. Aswath Damodaran on “The Value of Stories in Business”

Excellent talk by Prof. Aswath Damodaran on “The Value of Stories in Business” – Talks at Google

Aswath Damodaran: “The Value of Stories in Business” | Talks at Google


Interesting forwards on Valuation

I received a series of interesting forwards on Valuation of companies. It shows how markets reward future growth over the steady and stagnant growth.

Valuation, Jan 2017:

  • Snapchat: $25 billion
  • Viacom: $17 billion

Valuation, Jan 2014:

  • Viacom: $37 billion
  • Snapchat: $3 billion

Facebook valuation in 2007:

  • $15 billion (after Microsoft investment)

Facebook’s valuation in 2017:

  • $377 billion

Valuation – February 2017:

  • Ford: $49 billion
  • Tesla: $44 billion

Valuation – February 2012:

  • Ford: $49 billion
  • Tesla: $4 billion

2016 Revenue:

  • Google: $90 billion
  • Time Warner: $29 billion

2010 Revenue:

  • Google: $29 billion
  • Time Warner: $27 billion

Apple’s valuation in 2017:

  • $700 billion

Apple’s valuation when iPhone was unveiled in 2007:

  • $75 billion

Valuation, February 2017:

  • Amazon: $400 billion
  • Walmart: $210 billion

Valuation, February 2012:

  • Walmart: $202 billion
  • Amazon: $82 billion

Number of Google Employees: (Global Workforce*)

  • 2017: 72,053
  • 2011: 32,467
  • 2007: 16,805
  • 2005: 3,021
  • 1999: 8

*start of each year



A sarcastic take on eCommerce start-ups

I received the following sarcastic write-up on WhatsApp about the eCommerce start-ups that are burning VC money. Thought of sharing. It summarizes the problem precisely!

I’ve got a BIG eCommerce idea that will dwarf Flipkart and Amazon together. I’m going to sell CASH. At a discount of 15%.

Consumers can buy cash at a discount of 15%. Send me Rs.850 and I’ll send back Rs.1000.

The mind boggles at how much cash I could sell. I’ll have no dissatisfied customers. No complaints on social media.

NO DELIVERY OR OTHER LOGISTICS problems. No packaging. No ST, CST, excise, octroi.

No production problems.

No warehousing issues.

Endless scalability.

You want me to increase the turnover to Rs. 1000 CR? Done. Rs. 10000 CR? Done. You want me to go international? Done, I’ll sell dollars, yen, euros, all at the same discount. As much as you want.

With a GUARANTEED cap on losses at about 16% (15% discount + bank charges).

Bigger, safer and better than any existing eCommerce business.

Any VCs around?

On Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder of Paytm

Not sure if you follow Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of Paytm. He is a very interesting and inspiring person and he is just 37

Sharing few interesting links.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm sold 40% of company for 8 Lakh when he was in crisis, coz he had borrowed money at 24% per year interest. And he recently sold 1% of parent company for Rs 300-400 Cr.


I liked when he quoted D.L. Moody who said: “Character is what you are in the dark.”


This was published in Jan 2016, long before #demonetisation was announced.

Swag of Paytm CEO | Vijay Shekhar Sharma | Startupreneur Series


Vijay explains Paytm business model



D8: Steve Jobs Onstage: Full-length Video

Steve Jobs interview at D8 – All Things Digital conference…he mentioned about iPhone 4G leak and within a few days, i.e. Yesterday Apple announced iPhone 4G!!! Look forward to watching Steve Jobs product launch presentation soon…

~ Kaustubh

The New Buffettology: Book Review: Part 1

I recently read this book – ‘The New Buffettology’ by Mary Buffet (who was Warren’s daughter-in-law for 12 years before she divorced her husband and Warren’s son, Peter) and David Clark.

I immensely enjoyed reading this book; though not a fool-proof, it has some very interesting snippets and anecdote’s about Warren Buffet’s investment strategies and business acumen. It gives you some insight into how Warren thinks and makes his investment decisions.

The books is filled with small write-ups/ tid-bits used to explain some basic concepts/ Warren’s investment philosophies. Here is one excerpt on the shortsightedness of Mutual Fund and how investing in Mutual Funds with long-term perspective is not a good idea (to which I fully agree. I had similar thoughts but was not able to put it in such precise words as te following write-up has done!)



A number of years ago the authors were having dinner with a middle-aged mutual fund manager who oversaw tens of billions of dollars for the money management division of a large West Coast Bank. He brought along an enormous book that contained a brief analysis over two thousand different companies that he and his fellow analysts followed. They called it their “investment universe”. At his invitation we thumbed through the book and found a company that we knew Warren had been buying, Capital Cities Communications. Capital Cities was a television and radio broadcasting company run by Tom Murphy, a management genius with a keen eye for the bottom line. Warren loved this company and once said that if he were stranded in a deserted island for ten years and had to put all his money into just one investment, it would be Capital Cities. Definitely a strong vote of confidence.

Our friend also had a list of the stocks his fund had purchased. As we read through the list, we noticed that he didn’t own any Capital Cities. We quickly pointed this out and told him that Warren had recently been buying it. He said that he knew it was a great company but he didn’t own it because he didn’t think the stock price would do much over the next six months. We told him that was insane. That it was a fantastic long-term investment selling at a great price. He told us that he was under great pressure to produce the highest quarterly results possible. If he couldn’t beat his competitor’s returns quarterly, his clients would take their money elsewhere, which meant that he would lose his job, his Porche, and the income to send his son to Harvard. (Sounds grim, doesn’t it?)

Our mutual fund manager felt he couldn’t buy a single share of Capital Cities for his fund, even though he knew it was a great investment, because he wasn’t sure that it was going to go up in price over the next six months. This is the nature of mutual beast; it caters to the short-term oriented mutual-fund-buying public. If it doesn’t, money flows out the door and down the street to the fund that produces better short-term results.

(in case you are wondering, Capital Cities eventually merged with the ABC television network, which eventually merged with entertainment giant Disney, making Warren billions in the process. Good things do come to those who have patience and foresight.)


I am now fully convinced that investing in Mutual Fund with a long-term perspective is a bad idea…and have vowed never to invest in it 🙂

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