Sunday, 11 June 2017

Penguins and the Zoo - at another zoo

Some time back I had written on this blog about the penguins at Mumbai zoo - "The Penguins and the Zoo". A while after posting it I had the opportunity to visit the zoo at London which also has a penguin enclosure with the same kind of penguins that the Mumbai zoo has. Yes it’s the Humboldt penguins and they are held in an area called "Penguin Beach" within the zoo premises.

I was awestruck by the size of this exhibit as compared to the one in amchi Mumbai. For starters the Penguins were out in the open. There were no closed enclosures or air conditioned viewing galleries.

Here is some information on this exhibit: There is a 1200 square meter (Almost 12500 square feet) pool holding 450, 000 liters of water. Yup that's just the size of the pool they swim in. There is a breeding facility for these humboldt penguins with a nursery, an incubation unit and pool where the young ones learn to swim. How about that. You don't have to worry about importing new ones in case the current population goes down for whatsoever reason. Apart from viewing them along with the general public you can also have a one on one session with these guys and learn more about them, of course for a small fee.

The viewing is open with a stadium like mini sitting area on one side where visitors can sit and watch the creatures. There are two feeding sessions every day with a live commentary providing you with all information about these penguins.

Here are some photographs for you.

 An overview

A Port hole to watch the little guys swimming

That's how close you can get with just a glass partition in between.

All Photos were shot in the afternoon with the outside temperature at 20 degrees Celsius. 


Friday, 2 June 2017

Ah London! How to spend a day or days doing nothing

London is not to be visited. London is to be lived in. It is quite quiet for a city, without any sense of urgency in the air. Being there calms you down (especially if you are from Mumbai or any other chaotic city) so was I told and so it is true. Here is quick journey of relaxation through my pictures.

Look out of the window endlessly

at the empty streets 

at the skies while the clouds pass by

feed ducks at a park

and watch swan families go by

sit on a bench and look in the horizon, would your life be in a castle or a wheel on the fly

cross over to the other side for every view has an opposite story

Come back to your side to sit by a lake

to watch birds of different feathers who are not fake

Don't forget to walk the empty streets for you may not bump into anyone else.

Relax and Enjoy.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Penguins and the Zoo

Sometime last year Penguins arrived in Amchi Mumbai. Their coming had been controversial from the day the city wished to have some. Was it necessary? Was the contractor competent to construct their enclosure? Do we have the funds to support them? I don't know but since they were here, they had to be viewed.

The Mumbai Zoo or "Rani chi Baug" acquired 8 Humboldt Penguins. One unfortunately died leaving 7. Humboldt Penguins are natives of coastal Chile and Peru and named after the cold water current they swim in and this city's weather is nowhere close to cold. Anyway an opportunity of a mid week Tuesday holiday resulted in a visit to the Zoo along with the Junior and one of the Seniors. Luck was in favour with minimal traffic on the way, an immediate parking spot and no crowds. This is like a dream situation for most Mumbaikars.

 Over the years the Zoo has undergone a whole lot of beautification. Beautification has nothing to do with betterment. The condition of the zoo and its inmates has only deteriorated but more of that later.
The newspapers had reported massive crowds wanting a look at the "Phoren se aaya hua Penguin Log". This was my only fear which turned out to be unnecessary as there barely seemed to be any visitors on a public holiday. And none of the those mumbai darshan buses seemed to be there. Demonetization had no effect on the zoo tickets. You could pay in coins and get in. At Rs. 5/- for an adult and Rs. 2/- for a child (a total of Rs. 12/- for three) I had paid more for parking my car (Rs. 20/-).

For all the crores spent on creating the special enclosure, there is not a single sign board giving directions to the penguin enclosure. Initially we followed the crowds in the general direction they were taking since this was the numero uno exhibit currently but gave up after a few minutes in the searing heat. We finally got to it by asking 3 security guards and one gardener at various cross roads within the zoo. I knew we had reached my destination given the heavy police presence on the last mile. Right at the back of the zoo and a considerable walk away, there stood a massive 2 storey white and blue building with "Humboldt Penguin Kaksha" in marathi headlining it. But that’s not where you enter from. You have to walk at least 200 metres around the building, go to the back of it and enter. Photography not allowed. Mobile phones in your pocket. What follows is a complete let down.

Given the size of the structure that the exhibit is housed in, there is a viewing frontage of only about 30 feet. Okay let's be lenient and make it 35 feet. There is nothing inside that comes even remotely close to resembling  a natural habitat of the Penguins. There were seven of these Humboldt Penguins. Down from the eight originally imported. Strangely they seemed to be freezing and were barely moving. You could have moved one of the fiber-glass replica ones kept outside into here and nobody would have noticed the difference. This was a complete gyp. All that we have seen on television were these shiny coated black and white creatures with yellow feet and beaks sliding on ice bergs, diving into the sea and swimming away and that is the expectation that most people must have come here with. These were the poor cousins of the Emperor Penguins whom we are most accustomed to seeing in any generic picture of penguins or on television. For all you know our guys could have been two year old kids in penguin suits made to stand in a large freezer. The python in the sun showed more movement. Slum dwellers get larger apartments free of cost. Given the size of the entire structure, couldn't there have been a larger enclosure?.

The poor penguins looked completely lost and scared. They had nowhere to go. On one side was a four foot deep pool 30 feet in length and may be 3 feet wide along side the glass viewing frontage and on the other was something to resemble icy mountains. High on top of these "mountains" were windows that looked out into the zoo compound with the sun shining in. This is probably what prison cells must be like. But one of them made his views clear. He turned around, raised his tail and shot out poop in the direction of the viewers. This was the high point with the crowds going "potty kiya".

The viewing was done in like 3 minutes tops. You couldn't view any longer. Not because you didn't want to but you were being ushered out by the guards. So out we were to see the rest of the zoo or whatever there was of it.

The rest of the zoo itself is in a deplorable condition. Many structures half demolished. New structures coming up seemingly without a plan. Animals and birds visibly unable to bear the summer heat. The Emus looked like prisoners incarcerated for life without having committed any crime.
The ponds in most enclosures were either bereft of water or covered in filth. The deer were lying in the shade of some trees escaping the heat. Luckily the Hippos had enough water for mamma and baby to completely immerse themselves. Most of the birds looked tired and depressed. There were no lions, tigers, monkeys or their ilk or at least we didn't see them.

What are we trying the achieve by keeping animals and birds in such deplorable conditions. Gone is the age of showcasing wild life in tiny cages in an attempt to bring nature to the common man. Television does it better and cheaper. 

A serious re-think needs to be done on the utility of the zoo and how well it can be planned and managed.

Here are some Random Sign Boards at the Zoo

Not Lost in Translation or Transliteration

For the hungry ones

Whatever you are having, have it around the shop only

Monday, 6 February 2017

An Idea for a Mobile Wallet Carry Trade

Many years back (and probably even today) there was an idea played in the investment market to make money which was popularly known as the "Yen Carry Trade". To put it simply one would borrow in Yen from Japanese markets at ridiculously low interest rates, convert it to US Dollars and invest in US Bonds at substantially higher interest rates thereby pocketing the difference as the profit. The added bonus to this would be the US Dollar going up thereby fetching you more gains with the downside being the Yen appreciating against the US Dollar as well as lowering of interest rates.

Coming to recent times, there has been large scale promotion of digital or mobile wallets. These are wallets which mostly reside in your mobile phone and provide ease in transferring funds amongst individuals, businesses and bill payments. One can have money in one's mobile wallet by transferring funds from one's bank account, credit card or receiving funds from another individual with a mobile wallet from the same service provider. An important feature if one were to convert this digital money in to real money is transfer from your mobile wallet to your own bank account. This is where an idea for generating cheap capital has come to germinate. Theoretically it sounds good but could well be a bubble.

This idea hovers around the fact that one can load one's mobile wallet via one's own credit card as well as transfer funds available in the mobile wallet to one's own bank account.
In a mobile wallet, one can transact with an upper limit of Rs. 20,000 per month without need for documentation. There is also single transaction limit of Rs. 5000/- as well as an overall daily transaction limit. With appropriate documentation you can enhance your monthly limit to Rs. 100, 000/- subject to the transaction limits. If one needs to empty ones wallet, one has to transfer the money to one's own bank account.

For the purposes of our idea we will stick to a zero documentation limit of Rs. 20,000/- per month.
For this idea to work the money from your mobile wallet needs to be deployed for money making purposes. To the best of my knowledge, you cannot trade on the stock/commodity exchange using your credit card. If one were to do a cash withdrawal on your credit card, there would be an immediate charge of up to Rs. 300/- per withdrawal and a monthly finance charge of about 2 % or higher. So for a Rs. 20,000/- withdrawal you would pay a sum of Rs. 300/- plus Rs. 400/- which equals a sum of Rs. 700/- for a 30 day period or Rs. 900/- for a 45 day period. Given the current times cash withdrawal and then deposit is not a wise thing and not advisable.

If you were to load your mobile wallet via a credit card it costs you nothing. A transfer to your bank account may cost you anything from nothing to up to 3 % depending upon your service provider. Assuming it is 3 %, it will cost you Rs. 600/- for transfer of Rs. 20,000/- to your bank account. Now please note that credit cards usually have a credit period of 45 days to 55 days. Assuming it’s a 45 day period, you would have to pay your credit card company within 45 days of loading your mobile wallet using your credit card.

So on day one of your credit card cycle you load your mobile wallet with Rs. 20,000/-. The same day you transfer this money to your bank account. Your bank account is linked to your stock/commodity trading account with your broker. You transfer this money to your broker to be used as margin for trading. If You are trading in  stocks your margin may be as high as 50 % which would give you a trading limit of Rs. 40,000/- and you avoid delivery stocks. In commodities or currencies the margins are usually around 5 % and you avoid trading in grains and stick to only metals. This would give you a trading limit of up to Rs. 400, 000/-. So in a 45 day period (remember you have to pay back your credit card company within this period) there are usually around 25 trading days on the lower side. If one were to trade on the stock markets without delivery with adequate risk protection strategies and make an average of about 1 % daily net of associated trading costs, you would make about Rs. 400/- daily which would mean about Rs. 10,000/- (400*25) within the 45 day cycle. You reduce the transfer cost of Rs. 600/- and you make Rs. 9400/- and repay your card bill of Rs. 20, 000/-. In the currency or commodity market you would make about Rs. 4000/- daily which would translate into Rs. 100,000/- (4000*25) within the 45 day cycle. You reduce the transfer cost of Rs. 600/- and you make Rs. 99400/- and repay your credit card bill of Rs. 20,000/-. On an annualized basis you would make anywhere between Rs. 75,200/- to 795,200/- depending which markets you trade in.

Now again the gains are on the limits based on documentation free single mobile wallet. If you were to submit full documentation, you can get my mobile wallet limits enhanced to Rs. 100, 000/- . Thus on the above calculations your annual gains could be anywhere between Rs. 376, 000/- to Rs. 39, 76, 000/-. This is only on a single mobile wallet. Your gains increase exponentially if you were to use multiple mobile wallets.

The above rosy illustration is based on ideal conditions, adequate risk protection, stop losses and regulations permitting. You are also prudent to pay your card issuer on time and not incur late payment charges. You also do not display too much greed.

The downside is that transfer to your bank account from your mobile wallet may not happen immediately and may take up to 7 working days. Your bets may go wrong and you may lose your margin and more. You may push for late payments or minimum payments on your credit card bill and incur additional costs thereby wiping off gains. There are per transaction limits and a daily transaction limit as well. So your transfer from mobile wallet to your bank account may be spread over some days. You will end up as a credit card defaulter.

The above is just a thought being said aloud. It has not been tested. I don't know whether it will work. I don't know if the system allows this. I don't know if this attracts any regulatory action. I don't know if there would be any additional costs. But like I said at the start, it's an idea which may or may not work.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

20 things of an Office Lift that reminds you of the Mumbai Local Train

This is something that I experience every morning in the office building which reminds me of the Mumbai Local Train. I am sure that you will agree with at least a few of these.

1.      It's crowded;
2.      There is always room for one more;
3.      Almost everybody is late;
4.      Everyone wants their floor to be the first halt. Think slow, fast, and double fast;
5.      Someone will always be running to catch the lift before the doors shut, no matter how full it is and the fact that the next one will be available within a short while;
6.      You will be surrounded by sweat;
7.      First, Second, and Goods are all rolled into one. It's a one class carriage;
8.      You have things jabbing at you. Think briefcase or an umbrella;
9.      The fan never works;
10.  Nobody believes in queuing;
11.  It takes forever for the lift to arrive on the ground floor;
12.  There will always be that one traveler in reverse direction who will go up and then come down. Like getting in at Kandivali so you get a seat at Borivali and then commute to Church Gate;
13.  Somebody will always step on your feet;
14.  In the rains there will be water dripping on you from somebody's raincoat/umbrella;
15.  There will be at least one person with an oversize backpack/purse/shoulder bag which will get caught in somebody's else's oversize backpack/purse/shoulder bag and in the process break or tear your bag;
16.  There will be someone asking you if it halts at a particular floor. "Mira Road jayega kya";
17.   There is no such thing as courtesy to move a little and allow somebody at the back to get off at his floor. Think of  a Virar fast from Church Gate and you want to get off at Dadar or Borivali;
18.  If you are getting in mid-floor, no matter how empty the carriage, there will be someone standing right in front of the door blocking your entry and showing extreme reluctance to give way.
19.  There will be a mad rush to stand on the side of the carriage with the coveted spot being next to the key board. Imagine a rush for a window seat or a spot next to the doors of your train compartment.
20.  And lastly that one guy/gal who lets off a "Silent But Deadly" when you are deeply entrenched in the carriage and you realize the true meaning of time standing still.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Zebra Crossings for Ghosts who Walk

All through school we were taught the virtues of using Zebra Crossings or to cross the street at pedestrian crossings with a light for safety purposes. Even today we see road safety messages that educate people to cross streets at pedestrian lights or where there are zebra stripes to indicate a pedestrian crossing. The crossings in my area either seem to be made for the terminator T 1000 model or for ghosts who walk to pass through the protective barriers as you  cross from one side walk to another. Take a look.

Note the pedestrian light behind the steel barricade. 

Once again the pedestrian light is behind the steel barricade. Since nobody can cross over at this spot, you might as well park your car. No traffic violation here.

Same story here too!!

Looks like a zebra took a dump on common sense.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

E-Tax on E-Commerce

Every time you shop in a large departmental store, mall or a shop belonging to some retailers association, you are made to pay for the polythene shopping bag. You pay as per the size which cost may vary from Rs. 3/- to Rs. 9/-. This rule was made to dissuade people from using polythene bags, encourage recycling, reduce dependence and move towards an environmentally friendly end user packaging regime. This is a user pays model. You may bring in your own shopping bag and save on some money.

Now this rule covers a walk in customer in a shop. What about shoppers in the digital world of E-tailers.

Sometime back I had posted about the new age entrepreneur who made money on the packaging material of the E-tailers. See link

To me the E-tailing packaging is far more serious threat to the environment than the polythene bags of the brick and mortar retailer. In a regular set up, you buy the product, put it in your shopping bag and walk out. This is not the case in E-commerce. Assuming you buy four products and irrespective whether you get free delivery, it is likely that you will be delivered four different packages as the goods will be sourced from four different locations. So what would otherwise be carried in a shopping bag worth Rs. 5/- may see a packaging cost of Rs. 50/- collectively. The customer is not complaining here with the kind of deals going on. He doesn't really care who pays for the packaging or who is paying for the discounts or the delivery.

I recently happened to order some laminated paper posters. I got a discount of 25 % on list price and having crossed a certain threshold with purchase of other products I also got free delivery. Since the posters were sourced from the same seller, I would have expected a single package. But that was not the case. The pictures given below will be proof of the wastage that goes in. Now mind you these posters can be rolled easily and hardly have any weight.

The single rolled up poster and the six foot carton it came in

The other two rolled up posters and their carton with the third poster hanging in the background

The empty space in the carton filled with air pillows
So effectively I got two packages where the cost of packaging and delivery may have possibly exceeded the cost of the posters. FYI each poster cost me Rs. 90/- and three such posters were ordered for a total cost of Rs. 270/- inclusive of delivery.

I understand there is a need to package goods in way so that no damage is caused, but how much of protective packaging is the question. Typically the outer packaging will be a paper carton with the inside filled with bubble wrap or air-pillows. The invoice will be in a polythene bag stuck on the outside with lengths of sticky tape. Effectively there will be more polythene in this than in your regular polythene shopping bag.
Now given this background, I do not see any harm in the government charging an Environment Tax on this business. If there could be a Swacch Bharat cess on services, why can't there be a similar cess on e-tailing. There could be different ways of charging it. It may be charged on per package or a percent of the sale value. It could be a user pays model or the seller pays model or the platform pays model. I would much prefer a user pays model and cess of at least Rs. 5/- per package is not much to ask for. News reports talk of a single E-tailer getting 100,000 orders in a day. Assuming there are a 100,000 packages delivered per day across the country (and growing), Rs. 18.25 crore per year (@ Rs. 5/- per package) is not a bad collection to start with.

This needs a serious thought by the government.