interest rates for farmers….

Had this thought midway through this morning’s “social entrepreneurship” class. What kind of interest rates are applicable for microcredit?

On one hand, farmers are typically poor people and can’t afford to borrow money at high rates. Hence rate of interest should be much lower than that for the urban/middle class counterparts. This is just like Public Distribution System where the poor are given essential commodities at low prices.

On the other hand, going by pure financial basis, the inherent risk in lending to farmers is really high since the probability of repayment is low. Hence, the credit spread charged should be high and these people should pay a higher rate of interest. Another argument supporting it is that the traditional moneylenders usually charge insane rates (sometimes over 100% per annum) and in this scenario, an interest rate of 25-30% per annum from a commercial bank shouldn’t be a problem for the farmers.

Comments please.

breaking up…

You are an investment banker. Company A comes to you saying that Company B is trying to take it over and asks you to assist in the process. After due valuations, you tell Company A that Company B is really lousy and not worth going to. And design a wonderful formula to prevent a hostile takeover.

She was my childhood friend. Knew her for ten years – from 1st to 10th standard. Haven’t met her for the last seven years though. However, we’ve come into contact recently through yahoo messenger. Yesterday she asks me about my opinon of a certain guy, an acquaintance of mine. He happens to be (IMHO) one of the most detestable guys and one of the few people i *can’t stand*. Tell her that.

She then tells me that she’s been in touch with him through phone and chat over the past couple of years and fallen in love with him. Asks for more info about him. After an hour of going round and round in circles, a GTalk conversation and 2 phone calls she decides to ditch him. Results of her ensuing phone conversation with him are awaited. Have just received a short message so far: “feeling horrid now”.

Feeling slightly pathetic about the whole thing. Why is it that I shoot off my mouth at every given opportunity? What right did I have to nip in the course of an hour a two-year long relationship? I know messing up people’s minds is right. But why did I have to mess her mind so much that she immediately decided to ditch him? Why did I have to be so blatant about my opinion about this guy?

I know what I have done is right, though. She definitely deserved someone better. But couldn’t I have conveyed it to her better and more gently so that “zor ka jhatka dheere se lage”?

more on the JEE – interview with BSR

met prof. BS Ramachandra Rao (BSR) today. A retired professor of maths from IIT Bombay, BSR now teaches at BASE, the biggest JEE coaching center in Bangalore. was talking to him about the JEE pattern change.

He said that the basic motivation for the IITs was to reduce the burden of valuation of answer scripts which no one wanted to do. Apparently, IITD has been outsourcing valuation of answer scripts to DU profs since none of their profs want to do it. Similarly with IITK. And there have been no quality checks on these valuations which might be producing fraudulent results. Remember that even a couple of marks here or there in the JEE can move you by a few hundred ranks.

I then asked him as a coaching factory teacher, how he has reacted to the changes. He replied that the focus now was on concepts (as I had predicted) and that his teaching methodology hadn’t changed except that he doesn’t work out long problems in class now. He was a little pissed that the other teachers in the factory had changed their methods too much and have started neglecting concepts – which he maintained were still paramount.

Interesting… and yeah, he hadn’t read my article in the papers. Said he would this evening.

The B School Paper Clique

Fifth term. Time when grades don’t matter. Time to “build up” one’s resume, in terms of co-curricular activities. Such as publishing papers and writing business plans. Huge demand for paper and business plan competitions. Huge supply also, with various B Schools and B school recruiters holding similar competitions. Time for fraud. Also, time for Google Ctrl+C Ctrl+V.

Coming from a background such as CS@IITM, it’s hard to fathom a fraud paper. Most profs there indulge in (or try to indulge in) “cutting edge research”. Try get new results, and publish in international journals/competitions. Takes months to produce a paper, unless it’s a “Delta paper” – one which is an incrememntal improvement on an existing paper – which are not well looked upon by peers.

Most papers in B Schools aren’t even delta. No MBA student wants to publish in international journals/conferences. Not even national. Inter-B School competitions would suffice. Sufficient enough for that line in the resume which might ensure a shortlist – prepared by one who had written similar papers a few years ago.

These paper presentation competitions are part of “business fests” (i’ll write a separate post about them later). A list of topics is given for paper presentation. The topics would’ve been chosen carefully – careful enough that it is impossible to do any original work on them (that is necessary to maintain the clique, you see). A thousand papers arrive from the top B Schools in India. Each one more fraud than the other. Typically the chosen ones would be the ones which quoted the maximum number of references.

Move over to the next biz fest. And the next such paper presentation competition. Topics are identical. Small changes are made in the papers and sent to this new place. If you send the paper to a hundred fests, you’re sure of being selected in one. You might even win if it’s one organized by a “lesser B school” where there won’t be too many other teams from top B schools.

I too got sucked in into this clique a few days back. Gave in an extremely fraud paper. Happy i’ve gotten out of the thing now. Simply don’t feel like writing any fraud stuff. And as I mentioned earlier, the topics don’t allow for any non-fraud stuff.

The three way protocol

Based on some learnings from the networking course I did three years ago in IITM. Was one hell with a slave driver of a prof. Had a good assignment group though, so had some fun also.

The three way protocol is used to keep in touch with long-lost friends/relatives. It goes like this:
1. I send him/her a mail saying “hi i’m skimpy, hope you remember me” and all that
2. He/she replies with “yeah of course i remember you, hope you’re fine. i’m working at XXX. what are you upto?”
3. I reply to that mail, with more fundaes about my life.

I don’t get a reply to that mail.

Has happened multiple times, with multiple people. Sometimes it does get extended and you have enuff material to rebuild the friendship rather than just “keep in touch”.

But on most occasions, it ends in three. After all, both messages have been acknowledged. And this can’t go on for ever (remember the red army – white army problem in Tanenbaum?). And the minimum number of messages to ensure both is three. Simple, isn’t it?

And not so long ago I used to be extremely pissed if people didn’t reply a second time. Until I started doing so myself!!

IITM Open Quiz

It all started with a scratch when Schaum Knott and I felt that IITM, despite being host to the country’s greatest college quizzing challenge, didn’t host an open quiz worth its salt. We roped in bofi and A Mani as co-quizmasters and bhaand as coordinator of administrative affairs and held the first edition of the IITM National Open Quiz on 18th April 2004. Despite Murphy being in full form that day, it was a fair beginning and QED emerged winner amongst 150 teams.

The Hallmarks of this quiz were the “modified infinite bounce” format (which has become a standard at IITM and IIMB), “closed book themes” (which has been adopted by, among others, the Karnataka Quiz Association), a 72-visual connect and for perhaps the first time at IITM, questions on a powerpoint slide-show.

The third edition of the quiz was held yesterday (the October 2nd National holiday slot has been “captured” by the IITM open; Landmark is on Independence day and Odyssey on Republic Day). Much better organized than the first edition which we organized (for details of the second edition, refer bhaand’s blog). The ambience was amazing, infra was in perfect order (all thanks to Baju, the “organizing secretary”), there was a new electronic scoreboard and yeah, the much-maligned acoustics was given a face-lift with new Bose speakers.

All of fifteen hundred people turned up, from places as “far flung” as Hyd and Bombay. Questions, as usual, were excellent and well-researched; and an attempt was made to make it a junta-quiz, though at no point of time did it show up as a quiz show.

There were some usual cribs though – too much of Europe, too much Christian Theology, not much sport, unfairness in part points, etc. However, such cribs are an integral part of any huge quiz and can thus be forgiven.

All in all, feeling damn proud to have started something which has now taken off on such a huge scale.

footage

i had recently written an essay on the recent reforms in the IIT-JEE. To give it more publicity I had given it to our student media cell (which, except for a jarring abberation, is a pretty well-run organization) and they had sent it to a few newspapers.

The Times of India has published it as a front page article in today’s education times. Takes up around 4/5th of the top half of the front page, with teh other 1/5th devoted to Prof. CNR Rao (JNCASR) ‘s views on the same.

Whatz more, they have published the article exactly as I have sent it – they said that since it is an opinion based article, they are against editing it and asked me to make some changes by myself. Kind of ethics not expected from the ToI !!

Anyways, i’m feeling kicked that I managed my first “publication” in a national scene. Hope I can write a few more good ones.