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Monday, February 28, 2011

Need inputs on a car purchase

After test-driving a couple of cars over the weekend and post my success with crowd-sourcing the name of my website in my previous blog-post, I thought its best to seek the opinion of my knowledgeable readers for inputs on the CAR purchase.

In Short: I am looking for a Sedan with a budget of 6-8L, ample leg-room (for obvious reasons), preferably diesel car (plan to go on lots of long-drives) with good mileage (14-15+ in City), Decent looks and power (CC, Power-To-Weight) and most importantly reliable after-sales&service / parts availability at low cost.

The options that I am currently looking at:
1) Hyundai i20 or i10 Sport (Leaning towards one of these for now)
2) Toyota Etios Petrol (Liked it overall, only downside is that it has a 3 month wait time)
3) Fiat Linea (Budget / Power / Resale concerns)
4) Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire (Downside is my bro already owns one :-))
5) Ford Figo / Fiesta (Downside - High Maintenance as seen from Dad's Ford Ikon Experience)
6) Maruti Suzuki SX4 Diesel (Might be slightly over this budget for fully-loaded model)
7) Mahindra Xylo (Only SUV in this range)

Please do input your new suggestions (if not in the above list) or your thoughts/experiences on any of the above. In return, I promise to blog my learnings once I do make the purchase. :-)

Post Updated with some of the suggestions that I did more research on & liked post the suggestion.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

New Website Name Contest - Winner Announcement

SI recently asked for suggestions on my new website name in my previous blog-post and the response was awesome. I started off with the following three:
1) www.randhirhebbar.com
2) www.brandhir.com
3) www.brandhebbar.com

The journey was short but intriguing where I kept shifting from one suggestion to another with every new comment.

Some of these suggestions might help you come up with your own domain name:
1) Jayaprasad - Hebran.com
2) Harish Gudi - Ranbar.com (Don't drink that much these days Harish ;-)
3) Rammohan voted for brandhir.com (Glad to hear that the post inspired someone :-))
4) Karthik CS and Machani voted for randhirhebbar.com
5) Rajesh (vr4u.com / vr4u.in /iserveindia.com / iserveu.com / iservu) - I didn't fully understand this suggestion and am sure there was a sound logic behind it.
6) Sal: Narcirandhir.com (This one wins points for pure wit)
7) Rajiv K- Try randhir.com / org / in  or hebbar.in (This is probably the closest to the winner since I decided to search for variants of randhir post seeing this message) Tip: Try http://instantdomainsearch.com/ for getting help on available domains
8) Rajiv K also suggested randrants (a variant that I thought off was brandts or randts which I almost fell for (in fact I am thinking of redirecting this blog to randhir.net/rants) before finding www.randhir.net was available
9) Bargava: heprandy.com / helprandy.com
10) Tom Castro: Suggested trying an anagram of his name. This did bring up some interesting options for sure but nothing as interesting as www.macrotots.com (which means Big Kids - Aren't we all big kids?) :-)
11) I did get a few other suggestions on e-mail, phone and in person as well. Thanks everyone for your great inputs.

Time to decide the winner:
While Tom's suggestion was definitely a great one, the obvious choice is Rajiv for his 2 good suggestions (trying variants of name which made me recheck and find randhir.net and the one on randhirrants (which I almost fell for). Rajiv - Next time we are in the same city (Your next India/Bangalore visit?), will buy you lunch/dinner at the place of your choice.

While I have registered the domain and started setting up the website (www.randhir.net), it will probably take a couple of weekends before I have it up and ready.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mistakes are opportunities

This is something I got in the mail that I thought was worth sharing. Might be relevant for all you parents with kids growing up and breaking things (and for those not yet there too on how to treat your nephews and nieces :-)).

This is a story about a famous research scientist who had made several very important medical breakthroughs. He was being interviewed by a newspaper reporter who asked him why he thought he was able to be so much more creative than the average person. What set him so far apart from others? He responded that, in his opinion, it all came from an experience with his mother that occurred when he was about two years old. He had been trying to remove a bottle of milk from the refrigerator when he lost his grip on the slippery bottle and it fell, spilling its contents all over the kitchen floor a veritable sea of milk!

When his mother came into the kitchen, instead of yelling at him, giving him a lecture, or punishing him, she said, "Robert, what a great and wonderful mess you have made! I have rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage has already been done. Would you like to get down and play in the milk for a few minutes before we clean it up?"

Indeed, he did. After a few minutes, his mother said, "You know, Robert, whenever you make a mess like this, eventually you have to clean it up and restore everything to its proper order. So, how would you like to do that? We could use a sponge, a towel, or a mop. Which do you prefer?" He chose the sponge and together they cleaned up the spilled milk.

His mother then said, "You know, what we have here is a failed experiment in how to effectively carry a big milk bottle with two tiny hands. Let's go out in the back yard and fill the bottle with water and see if you can discover a way to carry it without dropping it." The little boy learned that if he grasped the bottle at the top near the lip with both hands, he could carry it without dropping it. What a wonderful lesson!

This renowned scientist then remarked that it was at that moment that he knew he didn't need to be afraid to make mistakes. Instead, he learned that mistakes were just opportunities for learning something new, which is, after all, what scientific experiments are all about. Even if the experiment "doesn't work," we usually learn something valuable from it.

I was just telling my brother and SIL how we need to instill some fear in Dhimant (my nephew) so that he stops breaking things around the house. He's broken his Dad's Spectacles and celebrated atleast 5-6 times in the last 2 months. :-) So this definitely is a new perspective. :-) Worth trying???

Recent Posts you might be interested in:
How to gamble and win in Roulette?
My Malaysia Trip Details and Photos
My New Website's name - Ideas

Monday, February 21, 2011

New Website Name - Ideas Contest!!!

I am looking to create a website for myself and need ideas on a domain name for the website. While it will probably have sections such as analytics, investments, my start-ups and trips across the globe among others, it will largely be about Me and my personal and professional life with consolidated links from across the web world. If you come up with the winning idea, I'll work with you and help you build your own website or of course take you out for lunch/dinner at the location of your choice in Bangalore *YOUR CHOICE*.

Three ideas that I am toying with:

www.randhirhebbar.com (Plain old simple one - but could lead to difficulties remembering the spelling for one)
www.brandhebbar.com (Brand - rand + Randhir - hir + Hebbar - some letters) - I like this one the most
www.brandhir.com (Brand - rand + Randhir) - I like this one too because its short and sweet

Post your feedback on the above or new website name ideas on the blog, or on facebook or tweet/DM them to me @rhebbar or e-mail me at arhebbar@gmail.com.

Recent Posts you might be interested in:
How to gamble and win in Roulette?


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Sunday, February 20, 2011

How to gamble and win in Roulette (Casino)?

This strategy is something that I'd heard off before but remembered again when my brother suggested that I try this just before we were heading out to Malaysia. Just an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur is Genting Highlands – the Casino Capital of Malaysia and possibly the only place in the country where betting is allowed (incidentally Malay Muslims are not allowed to gamble there since it is against their religion). While I was relatively successful at this, an obvious warning is to try this at your own risk and with capital that you are ok with losing. J e.g. Don’t gamble away your return ticket money because you feel you are going to strike it rich in the next roll of the die.

What is Roulette
A game where the ball rolls and falls on a coloured (red/black) number (0-36) and people bet on which number/colour is going to come next. You can bet on a individual number, a series of numbers (1-12, 13-24, 25-36, 1-18, 19-36) or a colour (red/white) or even odd/even or even the first (1,4,7 and so on) second (2,5,8, etc) or third (3,6,9, etc) column of numbers.

The strategy is quite simple.
1.       Pick a fair machine (The odds are shown on the screen and if the table has around 50% odds of black/white and a 50% odds of odd/even), you are good. Atleast my hunch on this was, the Casino is possibly not doing any manipulations on this table. I’ve heard of casinos where there are magnets placed below certain numbers electronically so that certain numbers come up.
2.       You place the smallest bet on an odds that you think has a good chance. For this example, say you bet on Red. You place 1$ on Red.
3.       Check the results of the bet
a.       If you win, which starts a new series. Go back to Step 2.
b.      If you lose, you double your bet on the same call (Red). Go back to Step 3.

4.       The only downside is that your losses can start going up exponentially (e.g. In our second visit to the Casino, we were 400Ringgit Up just 20 mins before our bus was supposed to leave and in around 5 rounds when there were effectively 10 Reds on the Trot, we ended up losing around 300Ringgit = 4500Rs).

5.       If you want to take it slower and play it safer, you can bet in the following series
a.       Place the min bet (say X). Let the total amount so far that has been bet (Y) = X.
b.      Let the incremental amount that you bet (smallest unit of currency) be equal to Z
c.       If you lose, the next bet will be Y+Z and Y is updated to 2Y+Z
6.       E.g. Let min bet be 20Ringgit and the smallest unit of currency/coin available be 5 Ringitt.
a.       Bet X=Y=20
b.      Bet = Y+Z = 20+5, Y = 20*2+5 = 45
c.       Bet 50, Y=Total amount bet so far = 95
d.      So on an so forth.
e.      Pros:
                                                               i.      Every round of betting, you will end up with more than what you started off
                                                             ii.      You have more cycles per round before you run out of the money you have put
f.        Cons:
                                                               i.      The downside of course is that the upside is smaller. :-)
7.       An obvious warning is that the Casinos will not appreciate someone coming in and playing a strategic game and winning. So do keep a low profile and if the dealer looks at you suspiciously. Just take your winnings and move on to the next table/casino. :-)

Do try this on your next Casino Trip (Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Singapore, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Atlantic City are a few places I am aware off, I am sure there are tons of them in Europe) and let me know how this worked for you.

Also see:

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Top 10 things to do / places to see in Langkawi

I recently spent three days in Langkawi and here are the details. Langkawi comes from two Malay words, Lang and Kawi. “Lang” means Eagle and “Kawi” means the colour reddish brown. The island was once famous for the reddish brown eagles that hover around the island. Known for its sandy white beaches, Langkawi has numerous picturesque coastlines with crystal clear waters and gentle sea. Langkawi is blessed with sunshine all year round.

Visit Dates: 29th Dec to 31st December 2010
Companion: My Soulmate/Wife Bhagyasri
Recommended Visit/Season: Any time, the winter months (Nov-Jan) is better/cooler
Getting Around in Langkawi: Taxi is available but relatively expensive. Renting a car (80-120 Ringgit a day) or motorbike (25-40 Ringgits a day) is a popular choice. We rented a bike for around 50 Ringgits (possibly that much because it was Peak Season)
Recommended Stay: Minimum 3 days (Good Hotels cost you around 150-200Ringgit a day with Breakfast)

Top 10 Attractions in Langkawi:
1.       Beaches - Pantai Cenang, Pantai Tengah, Pantai KokThe one we went to was pantai cenang. Supposed to be one of the beautiful beaches in Langkawi, Pantai Cenang’s beach is itself a popular attraction due to its beautiful sandy shores which face the crystalline waters and expansive horizon. Pantai Cenang Shopping is also good. You can also do a lot of water sports here including Paragliding, Jet-Skiing, Banana Boat and a host of other such games. This was fun!!! Like all other places, don’t hesitate to negotiate on the prices. You can typically bring down the prices 30-40% easily.

2.       Island HoppingThe four-hour Langkawi Island Hopping Tour included visits to multiple islands, mangrove trees, Bat Caves, Eagle Feeding Tour, Pregnant Maiden (Mountains in the shape of a pregnant lady) and a Freshwater lake (just off the sea). The name of both the island and lake is attributed to the legend of a lovely fairy princess Mambang Sari who married an earthly prince Mat Teja. Her first child died shortly after birth. She was so sad and depressed that she buried the child in the crystal clear waters of the lake. Before she returned to her celestial abode, she blessed the waters so that any childless maiden who bathed in the lake would conceive thereafter.

3.       Underwater World - Lots of marine and fresh-water fish species, water animals like penguin and seals are available to see here. Bhagya loved the Sting Ray (the one that killed  the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin). We went in assuming that there would be Dolphin Show and were disappointed when we found out that there wasn’t.

4.       Langkawi Bird Paradise – Lots of different species of birds from all around the world are found here. You can hold a few of the birds and of course the Python J and get snaps taken.

5.       Durian Perangin Water Fall – A small waterfall that you could probably skip and not miss much. There was a Tender Coconut Vendor at the foot of the falls with really huge coconuts.

6.       Air Hangat (Hot water Spring) - After a tiring day late in the evening we spent sometime in the Hot spring dipping our legs inside the small well where there was a continuous stream of hot water.  It is supposed to be a natural healer for many ailments.

7.       Langkawi Skybridge Tour in Langkawi Cable CarLangkawi Cable Car is supposed to be very nice (gave it a miss since we’d been to the Genting Cable Car and of course time-constraints) and gives you the complete view of the island. It takes visitors all the way up to Mount Mat Cincang, Langkawi’s second highest peak.

8.       Langkawi Crocodile Farm - Watch over 3,000 crocodiles of various species feeding and basking in the sun. We missed this too due to time constraints.

9.       Pulau Payar Marine Park Excursion – The Pulau Payar Marine Park is a series of four gem-green islets strung together to form a marine park. Comprising Pulau Payar, Pulau Kaca, Pulau Lembu and Pulau Segantang, it spans across two nautical miles and is known as Langkawi's premier snorkelling and scuba diving spot. The park is dominated by a curving of smooth virgin-white sand beach and its tropical undersea action is spectacularly exotic and colourful. Besides its below-the-waters offerings, visitors can relax on the glittery white beach or swim in the teal-blue waters.

10.   Langkawi Snake Sanctuary - a wide variety of snakes. L Missed this too. But then, after holding onto a Python in the Bird Park, this wasn’t that bad a miss, I guess. J
If you are planning your trip to Langkawi and want more details on any of these places, feel free to reach out to me by posting a comment below or in FB or on Twitter (@rhebbar).

Also see:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Top 10 things to do/see in Kuala Lumpur

I recently spent a week in KL and thought I'd share what some of the things to do / see there for reference of future travelers. Photos are shared here.

Here goes the list of Top 10 places to visit in Kuala Lumpur:
  1. Petronas Twin Towers - Surely worth seeing from both near during the day and from far during the night, one of the stand-outs that symbolize the KL sky-line.
  2. KL Tower - The Tallest tower in Asia and the 4th largest in the world and has a revolving restaurant that we decided to give a miss considering my partner (a pure vegetarian) wasn't a big fan of the cuisine/dishes served there and time-constraints (a bus to Singapore to catch in a few hours)
  3. Genting Highlands - Loved this to the core. Having gotten lucky on my first trip to New Orleans (US$ 800 on a damn slot machine), I considered myself "The Great Gambler". This was Bhagya's first Casino Royale experience and she thoroughly enjoyed it. We had a real good time losing upto RM150 initially, going up 250RM on the first day and coming back on Day 2 to go RM300 up on the second and almost losing it all in the last 15-20 mins of gambling. I know it would have been more fun if we had walked away when we were around RM600 up (1RM = 14Rs). Anyway, I am wiser now and live to gamble another day. As for Bhagya, she's said that all her next few overseas trips will be to gambling destinations (Hong Kong/Macau, Singapore, Phillipines, Las Vegas, etc)
  4. Petaling Street (China Town) - The place for getting all things cheap - be it KL T-Shirts, Fake Perfumes, Bags, Clothes, Slippers, Shoes and a million other things. We spent nearly an hour walking up and down this street and haggling away to glory. We made a few friends with shopkeepers who realized they'd found their match and acknowledged it and also made a few enemies with shopkeepers who got frustrated by our haggling styles.
  5. Batu Caves & Murugan Temple/Statue - Supposed to have the World's tallest Murugan Statue, a good walk up to the Caves as you avoid getting attacked by the Monkeys looking for food in your bags/plastic covers/hands ends in the calm of Batu Caves. Inside there are a couple of temples and several Stalactites/Stalagmites growing in the calm and quiet of the Caves.
  6. Little India - A little over-hyped for anyone coming from India. But might be a big hit (view of India without going to India) for foreigners. This was supposed to be inaugarated by Manmohan Singh on his recent visit there. Tons of Bolly/Kollywood posters, loud music and pretty much everything/anything Indian you want, you can find here including a couple of temples.
  7. Sepang Circuit - Of course, the F1 circuit of Malaysia. How can you miss it? It is quite close to the LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) airport in case you want to visit. Visiting it from the City will be quite far and painful. We had to miss this ourselves, but would have loved to run around the track maybe and get a few photos.
  8. Fish Spa - There are tons of places where you can relax and get bitten my fishes. Especially super-soothing after a long shopping experience in China Town or any other Flea Market in KL.
  9. Kuala Lumpur Bird Park - Supposed to be the world's largest aviary. We had to miss it but we had heard great things about this park.
  10. Bukit Bin Tang - Shopper's paradise (Berjaya Times Square and other malls), foot reflexology/body-massages galore in the area, swanky bars, night markets, the real KL. This is the place to be for all young and old. Well, the young for sure. :-)
Overall, we had a great time in KL and hope this is useful for anyone planning a similar trip to KL. Reach out to me if you want any suggestions or have questions.

Coming Up:
Top 10 Things to do/see in Langkawi Islands and
How to sure-fire gamble and win on Roulette? (You'll thank me and probably pay me for writing this)
How I almost didn't make it to Kuala Lumpur - The Visa Story?

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My Malaysia Trip Details

I recently spent a week+ in Malaysia primarily in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi Islands and would like to share some details for future travelers.

Visit Dates: 24th Dec to 31st December 2010
With: My Soulmate/Wife Bhagyasri :-)
Reason: JLT (Just Like That) :-)
Other Notes: We also spent 3 days in Langkawi Islands and will describe that experience later on.
When to Visit: Any time, the winter months are probably better/cooler

  1. 20k per head on Round-trip tickets (probably a little on the higher side considering I flew Air Asia primarily because of the peak christmas/new-year season)
  2. 1.5k per head on Visa (Visa is mandator for Indians and we got it through a consultant - original fee is Rs. 750 I believe / I have another story to tell on this. Maybe for another day)
  3. 3.5-6.5k per night on a decent to good hotel
  4. 10k per head on KL to Langkawi (Again Air Asia) and
  5. Misc Expenses (Food, Shopping, Entry Tickets, etc)
A few photos (on public demand):

KL Tower
Malay Film Actress

Bhagya finds her client

Foot Reflexology - After Shopping galore
Mist-covered Genting Highlands

Coming Up:
Top 10 things to do/see in Kuala Lumpur
Top 10 things to do/see in Langkawi Islands
How to gamble and win in Roulette (Casino)?

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You can also follow me on twitter @rhebbar to get frequent updates on this and my other blogs along with hear from me about other things I find interesting as well as provide feedback on this post or my other posts.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Guest Post: New entrepreneurship idea: Online concierge service for companies

This is a series of blog-posts based on my call to wannabe bloggers who wanted to start off their blogging career/hobby with one post and keep that going one at a time. Bargava Raman is a friend from Mu Sigma (I talk about my time in Mu Sigma here) who is currently based in Bangalore and works for Cisco's Marketing Analytics Team. Here's what he had to say about why he posted this blog here: "Been wanting to blog for a while - but indolence takes precedence as always.Havent written in a long time and only when writing did I realize I hardly know how to write :)

Do write to me if you want to post any of the themes listed in my previous post. Anyway, here goes Barg
ava on his new product/solution idea.
Randhir posted about his travel from Bengaluru to Hyderabad when he had to book a bus at very short notice.
Just got off my worst bus ride ever – All I can say is if you are ever given a chance to choose between a Bullock Cart Ride and a ride on the Omer Travels bus, choose the Bullock Cart.
In good-ol’ days when I was working with one of the top IT companies in India in Chennai, they used to have a concierge which took care of all such personal stuff. Amongst other things that they did one of the things which they were very efficient was in getting tickets(bus, train and air) and sending the ticket to the person’s seat. All that was necessary was to send them an email with the details necessary and they would call to let you know the available modes and fares and once you confirm – its a done deal. It could be planned a month in advance or on the date of travel. They were able to offer something to the employee.

Let’s spend a few seconds to think why it would be profitable. Marketing theory talks about Segmenting-Targeting-Positioning (STP) a product. Such a concierge definitely did that pretty well.  IT professionals are price-insensitive to a greater extent than the mango-man (aam junta).  Probably due to more income at disposal at a younger age or missing home or peer pressure or could be any other outlandish reason. But that held true more then than today (College students today are shopping for iPhones – many of my friends, including me, did not think about getting a mobile until 2 years after we started working !). The employees got tickets without bothering to go and stand in line for tickets(these were days before internet became so common) and the concierge too made some money. Well – all good things come to an end eventually. With the advent of IT in travel bookings, such services have died slowly (or have become very inefficient).

Now, what is the product idea that I am thinking about? For one, anyone could target such a population with a little premium for such a service which they consider very essential (just look around IT professionals in Bengaluru-very few native folks !)

What I am toying with is to create an online concierge service (or rather – just an online travel service). The segment would be the employees working in IT companies.  A premium would be charged for booking – but not big enough for them to immediately attrite and go back to the current process of booking on their own.

Why would this succeed? This is just a hunch and not really a well-thought out plan. But given that there are not a whole lot of websites that offer customers price comparison (a la-orbitz kind of stuff for travel in India is non-existent) – this could be a good place to tie-up with various bus operators and share the premium/commission.

Is it just travel-booking? Again – I don’t have a good answer for this. But then, thinking what can be added to this, probably vacation planning. One could tie-up with hotels and give good travel packages. Hey come on – such sites exist. Dont BS? Yes – I don’t deny that.  One could use cleartrip, redbus or irctc . But something that caters to corporate with a good customer service would work like a charm. And sites like makemytrip charges a huge premium to the partnering sites.  Competition could always be useful :-)

Will company make money ??? This is something I am very sceptical about. Let’s assume a medium case scenario (worst is an eventual close-down!).  For eg: 1000 folks use the site every month and say 10,000 folks use it in year. And say – we are able to make Rs 10 profit from each customer. That translates to Rs.1,00,000 per year.  Very minimal and hardly attractive. Cost would be hosting the site – with database connectivity- charges would be around Rs.10,000 per year. Also, if telephonic customer service is to be incorporated – paying the person for phone and working hours will make it very unattractive.
As a note: Alexa reports that redbus is ranked 500th in terms of page views in India. Consider monetizing through ads – the proposed site can break even. Effort to bring in additional features(like travel, packages etc) and impact of social media can make it work bigger.

What to do? Hey – isn’t entrepreneurship all about satisfying one’s ego and not caring about money? :p

Bargava - All I can say is an idea's success largely depends on its execution. There sure is an opportunity (supply-gap) here and you can always provide the service for a year and then exit with a sell-out to one of the existing players. If you need help brainstorming this or taking it further, let's talk. :-)
You might want to read this post on who is a typical entrepreneur and also read my other posts on entrepreneurship

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How not to travel to/from Hyderabad?

Feedback on a painful Omer Travels Bus Journey:

Just got off my worst bus ride ever - All I can say is if you are ever given a chance to choose between a Bullock Cart Ride and a ride on the Omer Travels bus, choose the Bullock Cart. :-)

How did this happen? Since I'd to make an urgent trip to Hyd and the local agent was not willing to book return journeys for some unknown reason, I went online to makemytrip and started looking for buses. Since I needed three tickets, Omer was unfortunately the only one available or atleast the one at the top of the search among the first 10-15 I looked at. I thought how bad can it be and booked it.

What went wrong? Maybe the right question should have been what went right? Well nothing. Old and creaky bus which refused to go beyond 30kmph thru most of the journey. Seats that didn't lean back and if you did you couldn't straighten. Rude ticket collector, cleaner and driver. Stopping every 10-15 mins to get someone on board despite the bus being full. Stops every 2-3 hours for a toilet break - looks like the driver had some other problems. :-) Reached home at 10:30am after starting at 9pm when typically a 9pm start gets me home by 7:00am.

On the bright side, my Bangalore to Hyderabad travel was a real comfy one with Navin Travels - another unknown name to most people I've spoken to since. But, brand new bus, courteous staff and smooth journey. And since we booked that with an agent - it did not include a online transaction fee and ended up costing us lesser. After this terrible journey, now, I'm thinking, should I go to work or just catch up on sleep? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Other Popular Blog Posts:
Active and Wannabe Bloggers - Please read this
My big fight with #bigloser - here and here

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Big Loser - Update #0.5

I now have a few official sponsors for the #bigloser contest that I talked about in my previous post :-). In fact, one of the sponsors has gladly upped the bet to Rs 100/kg from the original Rs. 10/kg (Thanks Salu). This is purely a voluntary exercise and I will not force anyone to donate to the cause that I choose. But from my side, I'll make a commitment to publicly reveal the result of this bet (on this blog), send out a note to the sponsors with the final result and cause/amount details and of course make any matching payments required from my side.

You might say from the last two lines that there's some over-confidence in my belief that I'll win the bet ... my only fear is that I might delay this to so late in the day that I might not be able to do too much. Treating this as a project as I do most things in life, I'll break this down into smaller goals internally and keep my sponsors posted on the progress with monthly updates via FB Msg/e-mail/Twitter DM  on where I am. :-)

In case you are wondering, I surely won't reveal my weight or my goals on this public forum at least till the end of this contest (there has to be some additional perks to sponsoring me). :-) You are of course welcome to add yourself to the sponsors list at any point and get that exclusive piece of gossip material. :-)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Guest Bloggers - Invited

My blog has been focused on different subjects at different points in time and right now, it is about the following five themes with the bonus theme of analytics added in:
  1. My Life and learning that I want to share with the world (Travel, Hobbies, Adventures, Sports)
  2. Investments and Money Management (Real Estate, Stocks, MFs, Tax, etc)
  3. HKUST and Other Global MBAs (Improve Apps/Essays, Interview Prep, How to pick a school, Past Students writing about the experience and how the MBA changed their life, Current Applicants talking about their interviews)
  4. India - Change, GenY, PoV on Current Affairs/Politics, Corruption, etc
  5. Entrepreneurship in India (New ventures/Ideas, struggles, successes, B-Plans, Support needed)
  6. Analytics (New Trends, Careers in Analytics, Training, Books, etc)
The general guideline I've heard across the blogging world is focus on one niche area for each blog and my blog is definitely dead against that principle. What I want to do is find 2-3 bloggers who are passionate about one of these areas and are willing to commit to partnering with me in posting strong, meaningful content that readers can enjoy/benefit from. Once I know one or more of these are capable of sustaining itself, I'll branch it off and keep this main blog focused on (1).

I'd like to invite friends who love writing but have somehow not been able to start blogging or actively blog. Maybe, take a first step and write a blog-post on any of a fixed set of topics listed below and maybe you'll surprise yourself as to how much you enjoy it.  So, do mail me to my personal mail id (arhebbar at gmail) or post a comment below with the following details (Name, E-Mail, Optional Blog URL, Subject/Title, Optional Contents of Post and Optional Contact No) and I'll get back to you soon.

Look forward to hearing from you.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

My Analytics Journey so far - What next?

My last 18 months have been my most inactive on this blog due to a super-busy life at Mu Sigma and some changes in my personal life (Hint: My only post in 2009 was my marriage invite :-)). I have had almost a month and a half to reflect on both whether to move on from Mu Sigma and of course the journey over the last 18 months. The Mu Sigma journey was easily the most fast-paced section of my life (possibly along with my HKUST/LBS MBA) and it has been a super-rich experience. I would have loved to carry on if not for a few hiccups/experiences towards the end.

When I went in, I was thinking "Analytics - What is it? Will I be able to cope with this new field? Will I be good enough?". But it wasn't as difficult as people (who hired me) made it out to be :-). I guess they were just doing their job for obvious reasons. The first few months were smooth-sailing, lots of learning and fun. My strengths were in understanding the customer's needs by asking the right questions, mapping them to solutions (IT before) that met their needs, working with a team to ensure the customers' needs were met and challenged the team enough and most of these I had been good at these activities even before my MBA at HKUST where they only got better. It was an awesome combination of applying project/team management and business consulting skills both of which were my strengths. Besides the accounts that I was managing, I also got to interact with almost every team in Mu Sigma due to the fast-paced growth of the company and the numerous pitches we made, made loads of friends, reduced the average age of my friends list in every social network by atleast 5 :-) and contribute/learn from a diverse range of analytics problems-solutions/people/eco-system. The key skill that I have gained is of course is the ability to listen to a problem statement and work with the customer to design an analytical solution to possibly even the most complex problem.

After a lot of thought, I felt that I had covered to a great extent the breadth of analytics (CRM, Marketing, Retail, and it was time to explore the depths of one area of analytics and also get a lot more hands-on in it than I had been in Mu Sigma. I decided that Supply Chain Analytics and Web Analytics were two areas that I would choose from. I had a strong background in Supply Chain (Having done a lot of work for Gap in that area) and Web Development (that I have been working on and off since 2001) and these two areas most fascinated me. While the decision to move into Web Analytics kind of got made by the first good offer that came along, the more I read Avinash Kaushik's and other such blogs on the state of the WA industry/trends, I was sure that this was going to be a wonderful journey over the next few months/years.

For those of you who still don't know, I have taken on a Online Analytics Consultant role in DELL (which incidentally was one of my key clients in Mu Sigma). So, it is a homecoming of sorts. Wish me luck for this new and exciting phase of my work-life.

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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Big Loser

#bigloser is trending on Twitter and I am considering joining it. :-)

A few details about how this works: A Sponsor is a person who cares about and feels a friend/family member needs to lose weight.A Participant is a person who loses the weight and does a good turn by getting money donated to charity with his efforts. As someone on Twitter said, instead of me donating money to the gym and not use it, let me at least get money donated to a charity and feel good about myself. No greater motivation than doing something for a social cause and boosting my self-esteem.

While at first glance, Rs. 10/person/kg might seem like a small number, it surely does add up especially looking at the way it is trending.

So, now that I want to be a #bigloser. Any volunteers who wants to sponsor me? You'll need to donate Rs. 10 per kg I lose to a charity of my choice. Please drop in a comment or send me an e-mail (arhebbar at gmail) if you want to sponsor me. :-) To make it sweeter and MOTI-vate myself to do something significant, if I lose less than 5kgs by Feb 2012, I'll match your donations.

I have to mention this just to rub it in. While this is not really the same thing, a friend Ravish (remember this, Ravi, Gops, Chandu, Mahaniya and the rest of the gang) had bet against my losing 10 odd lbs in a little over a month way back in 2006 and lost the bet as I lost way more than 10lbs. So, while I am not as healthy (unhealthy to tell you the truth) as I was way back then, there sure is potential. :-)

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Getting your CV ready

A CV (generally ranges from 1 to 3 pages depending on the level of detail and the audience) is the single-most important document for your job search. It’s a filter that can get you out of the reckoning before you can say “reckoning”. In this post, I’ll share five tips to improve your CV (Get it out of the closet even if you are in your dream job – never hurts):
  1. Spell-check it, read aloud and get it reviewed by at least two people who don’t know your background and preferably one from your target industry and one from outside. The questions raised will need to be addressed by re-assessing if the intended reader of your CV will have similar reactions as the reviewer.
  2. Answer the So-What question three times for each line in your CV to produce specifics of what impact your work created. If you don’t remember what revenue impact your work had, get in touch with your colleagues from the past to get an estimate from old project documents or come up with a ball-park by doing some rough calculations (don’t pull numbers out of thin-air – this is also called lying and I definitely don’t encourage that). If it did not produce an impact, maybe it doesn’t belong there. You are the best judge. Remember that it is going to be looked at for one split second before the reader makes a decision on whether to read more or throw it away (into the circular file – also called trash-bin in layman terms).
  3. Keywords – This is important to get chosen for review by automated search tools (used extensively in India I’ve heard from good sources). Use the most important keywords that identify your strengths. e.g. It could be an expertise in a unique tool that’s a rare commodity. If you don’t mention it here, your CV might not even get looked at. Talk to a head-hunter or look up a few job descriptions of jobs you are targeting to see what are the words that are being highlighted/mentioned repeatedly. This is especially important in CVs that you post on Job Portals and might not be as important to word documents and one-page CVs that you send out.
  4. Targeted CVs – Key-words can get you a look in. But that’s only the first step. Don’t come up with generic CVs that you send out to all companies. Broadly categorize the jobs that you are looking at and keep one version of the CV ready for each. Each version should not only contain the relevant keywords that I mentioned above, but also be reworded to reemphasize the skill required in this particular CV. If its a technical job, highlight the technical side of it. If it’s a Project Manager position, highlight how you managed the project timelines, resource plan, etc in completing the project.If it's more about your consulting abilities, highlight the business impact and the difficult problems solved.
  5. Having a summary at the top of your skills, experience and uniqueness helps to catch the readers attention especially in-case your resume is more than one-page.
I don’t claim to be the expert on CV writing. Hell at the time of originally writing this post, I didn’t even have a job. I’d like to reiterate a quote that I came across recently.

My son is now an "entrepreneur". That's what you're called when you don't have a job – Ted Turner
So if you do disagree with any of these or have other suggestions that you’ve found useful in your job-search, please do share it with the author of the blog.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

My Investment Rules

Some simple rules I swear by:
  1. Keep it Simple Stupid – The more complicated you make it, the greater chances of messing up, the greater the chances of you feeling this is not working and giving up.
  2. A penny invested is a penny saved – What I’m getting at is if you invest something, it’s surely not being spent on something you didn’t need. You know what you want and you also know what you don’t need.
  3. I will not gamble – This means no hot tip (even if it comes from the very respectable and your favourite business guru – take the tip, do your own home-work, take responsibility)
  4. I will diversify (Within your limits of course – If you are not comfortable with investing in China, don’t do it). A good suggestion is around 10-20% in overseas markets
  5. I will only invest for the long term. This also means that you will have sufficient cash on hand for your short term needs (say at least a year). You should be thrilled when the market falls to new lows.
Simple investment techniques for the common investor:
  1. One or more MUTUAL FUND SIPs that invest out 10-20% of your monthly income (Bring some sector diversity in if you like or even some geographical diversity to reach your diversity goals).
  2. One or more Index funds again invested on a monthly basis without looking at the overall market size.
  3. Setup a rule for how much of your portfolio you would like invested at different levels of the market and do a monthly rebalancing to ensure that you are close to that level. e.g. At a Index level of 9000, I plan to put 80% of my assets in stocks – essentially moving cash into stocks to make this level and at 18000, I plan to have just 40% of my assets in stocks – essentially moving stocks into cash. You can pick these values once or twice a year depending on your understanding of the market’s best and worst possible levels. Don’t change this rule too often.
  4. Rebalance once in 2-3 months (again follow a rule and a reminder in your calendar to do so) to ensure you don’t end up tracking this every week or maybe even every day.
  5. Beware or Be-aware of the Tax-Man (even though he comes only once a year). This could effectively mean delaying the sale of a stock on which you are sitting on a profit for several months for a few more months so that ST gains turns to LT gains.
Coming Up … My Investments Dashboard – A simple excel that semi-automates my investments and satisfies my gambling instincts too?

The not so real estate

My search for a flat landed me in Bellandur and a decent looking apartment called Parijatha Apartments. The dude who spoke to us was overly nice. Some of the promised he made were:
- You won't get another apartment at < Rs. 2800/- in this area. I'll give this to you for Rs. 2100 and if you book by tomorrow for Rs. 2000/- per sq ft.
- You can make any modifications you want to the plan at no extra cost
- I will provide you 10 years of free real estate consultancy (buy/sell/rent this house)
- Construction of the Apartment will be done by June this year
- There is a play-home / creche right next door ... and so on and so forth

Why is he doing all this? we wondered and then we wondered aloud. His answer was
- This is a 3 year old building. The builder ran out of funds and stopped construction
- I have now come in and put over 1 crore in this building. We convinced the builder that it won't take him more than 50 lakhs (this reeked of use of poor quality material to get the work done :-))
- I guarantee you the quality and so on and so forth

I have to admit we almost fell for it and here we were ready to sign up when I thought I'll just do a quick check on the builder's past buildings and reviews. A couple of quick google searches revealed that this builder is one who has a great record of cheating people and a poor track record of completing building constructions. There were atleast 5-10 posts from people living in that very same apartment bitching about how they were cheated by the builder.

Thought I'd put this on here so people looking to buy a house beware of such builders. Just do some online research, or go to http://www.consumercomplaints.in/ and you'll probably find complaints on tons of builders. Another thing that worked for us is talking to a real estate broker in the area and checking with atleast 2-3 builders in the area.

MF and Equity SIPs - The way to go

Having invested through Mutual Funds SIPs (Strategic Investment Plans?) over the past 2 years religiously, I decided to calculate my annual rate of return today and was pleasantly surprised to see that it had returned over 17%. While this is not mind-boggling, it is still a great number because I barely spent more than a few minutes in making this investment. On the other hand, I've burnt my hands on so many stocks that the only big winner in the stocks is the ESOPs that I got from Infosys at about a 6th of the current price. Big Deal eh!!!

Today, I decided to start off the next big step in my investment/trading cycle. While I will continue to trade in FnO, my investments are largely going to be via the SIP route. I today invested in 2 Equity SIPs. Instead of buying 20 shares worth about 1lakh, I decided to invest in 20 installments of 5000 each over the next twenty weeks. Equity SIPs - Hope you do as well as the MF SIPs. The only challenge I guess is going to be disciplined enough not to track this on a daily/weekly basis and let the strategy work. It worked with MFs since I never ever went to that page. With Stocks, I am not so sure that's going to happen any time soon.