Tag Archives: relationship

Sensitivity

This post is not about any statistical analysis. Neither is it about people’s sensitivity about others, which is associated with empathy. This post is about what I can, incorrectly but more specifically, call “self-sensitivity”. About people who are really thin-skinned and who are likely to “feel bad” at the drop of a hat. I argue that as far as social impact goes, it is no better than arrogance. For purposes of the rest of this post, the word “sensitivity” is to be read in this context – about sensitivity towards one’s own feelings.

A number of people see sensitivity as a positive trait. “Oh, she’s such a sensitive person” is usually bandied about as a compliment to the sensitive person. One is supposed to feel some sort of sympathy to the sensitive people, and remain sensitive (!) to their feelings while interacting with them. It somehow so happens that, more often than not, sensitive people also happen to be nice, and it is as if in return for this niceness you need to take extra care of them.

Thinking about it, sensitivity arises thanks to some deep-rooted insecurity, or some kind of inferior complex. This insecurity means that the person is more likely to associate some kind of malevolent intent to the counterparty’s words or actions, leading to much disagreement and tears and loss of trust. While it is okay for a sensitive person to expect counterparties to be sensitive to their sensitiveness (!), it needs to be understood that over the long run, this could cause friction and be counterproductive to the cause of the relationship.

The problem with both sensitivity and arrogance is that it increases the effort involved in talking to a person. If you talk to an arrogant person, you need to put up with his/her arrogance and the possibility that he/she might put you down for no fault of yours. You need to be always prepared for the conversation to go unpleasant, and thus overall your costs of conversation go up, which as a student of economics, you will understand, decreases the total amount of conversation.

While arrogance is a well-known cause of friction in conversation, less understood is that sensitivity can also have a similar impact. While dealing with a sensitive person, you may not be required to be prepared to be humiliated, or for the conversation to go really bad. However, at all points during your conversation, you will need to keep in your head that the counterparty is extra-sensitive, and that means you have a constant background process that censors your speech, and makes sure you don’t hurt the counterparty. This can again have an adverse impact on the conversation itself, and might tire you out quickly. Again, simple economics tells us that it affects quantum of conversation adversely.

While in the short run, it is okay for sensitive people to ask people around them to be aware of their sensitivity, expecting similar support in the longer run, while making no effort on one’s own part to get rid of one’s insecurities or inferiority complex, is not fair on the part of the sensitive person. Like arrogant people, sensitive people need to understand that their sensitivity is a cause of friction and it can affect their relationships in the longer run; and they need to work on it.

Unfortunately, sensitivity is seen as a largely positive trait, mostly by people who are unaware of the friction it can cause. More importantly, how do you tell a sensitive person that he/she should be less sensitive while at the same time not hurting him/her? In that sense, dealing with arrogant people is simpler – you can speak your mind to them without much long-term impact, and the general understanding of arrogance in society means that it is easier for you to at least make an attempt to tell an arrogant person to be less arrogant.

But how does one deal with sensitive people? Who will bell the cat?

 

Relationships and the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma

It was around this time last year that something snapped, and things have never been the same again. Until then, whenever she threw some tantrums, or we had some fight, I’d always give her the benefit of doubt, and unconditionally apologise, and make an effort to bring the relationship back on track. But since then, I don’t feel the same kind of sympathy for her. I don’t feel “paapa” for her like I used to , and have questioned myself several times as to why I even aoplogise, and not expect her to do that.

The optimal strategy for Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma has been shown to be a strategy called “Tit for tat”. To explain the problem, you play a series of games against an “opponent”, and in each iteration, each of you choose to either “cooperate” or “defect”. For each combination of choices, there is a certain payoff. The payoff looks similar to this, though the exact numbers might be different. In this table, the first value refers to the first player’s payoff and the second represents the second player’s.

Player 1/ Player 2 Co-operate Defect
Co-operate 1 / 1 2 / 0
Defect 0 / 2 0.5/ 0.5

So you play this game several times, and your earnings are totalled. There was a tournament for computer programs playing this game sometime in the 1960s, where the winner was “tit for tat”. According to this strategy, you start by co-operating in the first iteration, and in every successive iteration you copy what your opponent did in the previous iteration. Notice that if both players choose this strategy, both will co-operate in perpetuity, and have identical payoffs.

Relationships can be modelled as an iterated prisoner’s dilemma. You can either choose to be nice to your partner (co-operate) for which you get a steady return, or you can choose to be nasty (defect), in which case you get a superior payoff if your partner continues to be nice. If both of you are nasty simultaneously both of you end up getting inferior payoffs (as shown by the Defect-Defect box in the above matrix).

Early on in the relationship, I was very keen to make things work and did my best to prevent it from falling into any abyss. I played the “Gandhi strategy”, where irrespective of her play, I simply co-operated. The idea there was that whenever she defected, she would feel sympathy for my co-operative position and switch back to co-operate.

So something snapped sometime around this time last year, which led me to change my strategy. I wasn’t going to be Gandhi anymore. I wasn’t going to unconditionally defect, either. I switched to playing tit-for-tat. You can see from the above table that when both players are playing tit-for-tat, you can get into a long (and extremely suboptimal) sequence of defect-defects. And that is what happened to us. We started getting into long sequences of suboptimality, when we would fight way more than what is required to sustain a relationship. Thankfully it never got so bad as to ruin the relationship.

Periodically, both of us would try to break the rut, and try to give the relationship a stimulus. We would play  the co-operate card, and given both of us were playing tit-for-tat we’d be back to normal (Co-operate – Co-operate). Soon we learnt that long defect-defect sequences are bad for both of us, so we would quickly break the strategy and co-operate and get things back on track. We weren’t playing pure tit-for-tat any more. There was a small randomness in our behaviour when we’d suddenly go crazy and defect. In the course of the year, we got formally engaged, and then we got married, and we’ve continued to play this randomized tit-for-tat strategy. And the payoffs have been a roller coaster.

Today I lost it. She randomly pulled out the defect card twice in the course of the day, and that made me go mad. While in earlier circumstances I’d wait a few iterations before I started to defect myself, something snapped today. I pulled out the defect card too. Maybe for the first time ever, I hung up on her. Do I regret it? Perhaps I do. I don’t want to get into a prolonged defect-defect sequence now.

And I hope one of us manages to give the relationship enough of a stimulus in the coming days to put us on a sustained co-operate co-operate path.

Coding

Back when I was in school (11th/12th) I think I was an awesome coder. I think I was especially good at what they called as “logic coding”, i.e. coming up with algos. I used to experiment quite a bit (as much was possible with TurboC) and had a lot of fun too. I remember doing graphics in TurboC, making a “pong” game, brick breaker, and a lot of other cool stuff. For our 12th standard project, Hareesh and I built this totally awesome cricket scoring program, which we unfortunately didn’t take forward (and went to college instead).

It was my love for coding that meant I fought with my parents (who wanted me to study Electrical) and decided to study Computer Science at IIT Madras. And then I lost it. Somewhere along the way. I didn’t enjoy coding any more. Soon, I began to hate coding. I would love coding when I would write the odd program in “pure” C, or when I would participate in contests such as BITWise. But I’d completely lost it.

So over the last six to seven years (after I graduated from IIT) there have been occasions when I have thought I’ve regained my coding mojo, only to lose it again very soon. I’m still very proud of that Excel+VBA model that I had written in the very first week of my third job. But a couple of months later, I was hating coding again. And so it was while debugging a complicated piece of code at work this morning that I realize why I have this love-hate relationship with coding.

It’s simple – basically I hate coding for others. I hate writing code that others will read or use. I don’t mind writing code that others would use as a black box, of course. But I think writing code that others will read or use puts too many constraints on the way you code. My instinct is always to stop doing something when I’m personally satisfied with it, and with code it seems like I’m satisfied sooner than others would be satisfied with my code.

At a fundamental level, I like coding and I think I’m pretty good at it, so it isn’t something I want to give up. But then the formal processes and endless testing involved with writing code for others really kills joy (as does GUI, and Java). Code saves a lot of time, and helps “studdize” what might be otherwise fighter work, so I like doing it.

In an ideal world, I would be writing code that I would alone be using, AND profiting from it (I never intend to sell code; I intend to sell the results of the said code, however; that would mean no one else would read/use my code per se, so I can write it the way I want). Hopefully I’ll get there, sometime.

Relationships and Prisoner’s Dilemma

So I ws thinking about this car analogy for relationships. I was thinking about how when you start your car, you will need to drive in first gear, with full engine power, slowly releasing the clutch, using a lot of fuel. However, after you have gathered certain speed, it is wasteful and unstable to go on in first gear. It is time for you to take your foot off the gas pedal, hold down the clutch and change gears, and shift the car to lower engine power.

I think it is similar with romantic relationships. Once you’ve reached a certain level and gotten past the initial phase, it is wasteful to continue in the same full throttle. Once both of you understand that the other is firmly in the basket, there is no need to waste much time just assuring and reassuring each other of the other’s presence. It is simply a wastage of fuel. Also, if there is too much torque at too much speed, there is a good chance that the car will spin out of control, so that needs to be avoided.

A relationship is like a car with two control systems. It is important that both of you coordinate the gear change, else there is a danger that the axle might snap. Let us move out of the analogy for the rest of the post.

So there are two of you and both of you have the choice of whether to change gear or not. Now, the ideal thing to do would be to change gears together, since that will ensure the relationship is at the same level but you’ll both be spending lesser energy on it. The worst case is if exactly one of you changes gears. If one of you suddenly slows down while the other is still at full throttle, it is likely that the other will suddenly feel insecure that the one has stopped responding, and this is likely to lead to some sort of breakdown in the relationship, even if temporary. And in order to get things back on track, you’ll need to go full throttle, thus leading to wastage of energy.

So basically, exactly one party deciding to scale down can prove to be disastrous for both of them, because of which the dominant strategy is to stay where you are – at full power. Let me draw the 2 by 2.

———————————————————————

|                        |    Scale down           |  Remain at full blast     |

———————————————————————

| Scale down|    0                               |  -100                                  |

———————————————————————

|Remain at   |  – 100                         |  -50 |

| full blast     |                                      |                                              |

——————————————————————–

You will notice that the players start off at a Nash equilibrium! Of both of them remaining at full blast. And thus neither has the incentive to scale down, unless he/she is sure that the other will also scale down simultaneously! And if the couple is not communicative enough, they will continue in this suboptimal state for too long, and end up burning way too much energy and willpower, which could’ve been otherwise put to good use.

Hence it is important that the couple communicates about matters such as these, and coordinates the shift in gears, and saves valuable energy!

Pricing My Best Friend’s Wedding

Any of you remember this movie called “My Best Friend’s Wedding”? If you don’t, here is a brief description of the plot. Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney (had to look up imdb to remember his name) have this agreement that if they are both single as of her 28th birthday, they will get married to each other. As it happens, 3 weeks before that, the hero announces that he’s found a woomaan and is going to get married to her, much to the dismay of the heroine, who now puts fight to somehow spoil this new relationship.

I was thinking of this kind of arrangement as a financial product. Actually, the movie has what I call as the “European version”. More complicated is the “American version” which I describe here. Basically I give you the OPTION to marry me on any day before my 28th birthday (6th Dec 2010). That would be simple enough to “price” (or “value”, to put it in layman’s terms) – it is a standard American option. However, let me add this twist into it. I also reserve the right to withdraw this option on any day before expiry or exercise.

So basically some day before my 28th birthday I can wake up and cancel this option that I’ve given you. Now the challenge is to price this. One thing that is obvious is that the value of this is now less than the value of the pure American option. But pricing it is a challenge (though, thinking about it carefully, it shouldn’t be too hard to solve. I think we can use option-on-option fundaes in order to price it, but still it’s nontrvial).

The European option, of course (as it is done in My Best Friend’s Wedding) easier to price. Basically, there are two events that need to happen on the day of expiry for the option (ok technically it isn’t an option since if these two events happen, then the parties are forced to execute the contract) and so it can be easily modeled using a two-factor model. The American, as we discussed, is tougher (though I’m sure that if I were to present this problem to my colleagues, they’d solve it in a jiffy).

So the reason I’m writing this is that I’m planning to enter this kind of a deal with someone. And I’m wondering if it’s better to enter into a European deal or into an American. Remember that if it is the “American” deal, I’ll be giving away the option (to marry me before either my 28th birthday or I withdraw the option) for free. Considering this, under what conditions should I try to sign the European contract, and under what conditions should I give away the American?

Also, how does the pricing of the American option change if I’m allowed to give it away to more than one person (with the understanding that as soon as one person exercises the option, I withdraw the option from all the other people I’ve given it to). And typically, will I be able to get more benefit in total by giving away this American option to a number of people than if I give it away to one person (assuming I’m indiffernet between all these people with respect to marriage).

Ok it’s late in the night and it’ s my third post in the last 1 hour, so it might be a bit muddled up. Also, you might find it a bit too technical (remember that I’m a quant). Nevertheless, I hope I’ve been able to communicate what I wanted to communicate. And am looking forward to your advice on this.

Bilateral Crib Arrangements and Correlation

People say that cribbing is in general good for health, and I heartily agree. I love to crib. Occasionally I bore the hell out of my listener with my cribbing. And I’m sure the readers of this blog have also been on the receiving end of this on more than one occasion. There have been occasions when I’ve been specifically asked not to crib, and others when people have tried to subtly indicate to me that they are not comfortable with my cribbing.

In order to prevent the latter problem (of boring someone with my cribs and them not being able to directly tell me to shut up), over the last few years, I’ve entered into several informal “Bilateral crib arrangements”. Ok – I’ve never used that term before – in fact, I invented that term only some two or three days back. But that doesn’t take anything away from the nature of the arrangements.

So a bilateral crib arrangement is an informal arrangement you get into where you agree to listen to someone’s cribs and lend a friendly shoulder wiht the implicit agreement that they return the favour. The terms of the arrangement are never really described in that many words but that is essentially what it is. It usually has a component where one party says “ok let’s change the subject now” or something to that effect, and the counterparty replies “no no it’s ok you can crib on”.

Occasionally I’ve also gotten into one-way arrangements – where I either only put or receive cribs, but dont’ do the opposite action. Basically this happens when one of the two parties is more comfortable with the ohter than the opposite relationship, or if one of the parties alreeady has enough crib-receivers and doesn’t need one more, but is happy to receive cribs. Though some of them have lasted, occasionally I’ve felt uncomfortable in those – assymetric relationships create mental obligations.

So coming to bilateral crib arrangements – the biggest threat to these arrangements that I’ve observed is what I call as correlation. For a bilateral crib arrangement to work effectively, it is useful if one party is in the position to receive cribs while the other wants to crib. The situation when both don’t need to crib is also good. The problem occurs if both parties want to crib and want to crib to each other.

I’ve been through this several times and it hasn’t really been pleasant. On a number of occasions, I’ve had to back down and somehow bring my cribs under control while lending a friendly shoulder to my crib-partner. On others, I’ve visibly noticed crib-partners putting up with my cribs just so as to not create conflict. Such situations are suboptimal for both parties involved, and need to be avoided.

In this regard, it is important to choose a crib partner whose correlation with you is low. That way, the chances that both of you will want to crib at the same time to each other is low, and the awkward situation of competitive cribbing or backing out can be avoided. I don’t really know how you can choose people with low correlation with you, but I supopse you’ll have to take a few data points and extrapolate. Also avoid people whose correlation with you is obviously high – such as collagues.

Another effective tool in cribpartner management is to be diversified. You need not have several bilateral crib arrangements, but with a judicious combination of unidirectional and bidirectional crib arrangements, keeping in mind various time zones, you can ensure that there is a receiver to listen to you whenever you want to crib.

Bol Bol Why did you ditch me …

of late i’m having frequent bouts of extreme depression…

After careful analysis you see that the only chance for you to win is if the Queen of Hearts is with West.

I’m trying to figure out whether i have a crush on her or not.

…I’ve started enjoying it - talking to her frequently, guessing what goes behind each thread of conversation, trying to understand her while she tries to understand me…

You think of a wonderful scenario. You start day-dreaming about it. You day-dream about it so much that you start believing it’s true.

Of course, this screw-up has been hitting me for the last 12 hours. And that reminds me of the fact that she hasn’t responded to my mails or messages for a long time. Pushes me further down. Feel like totally giving up in life.

Suddenly “inspired” by an arbit conversation with a friend, I happened to rummage my almost defunct yahoo mailbox and look through some old mails. a series of exchanges with her, circa early 2004.

I input a girl into my algorithm and ask it if there is a possibility of a relationship with her. If it says no, I can completely believe it and get on with life. A ‘yes’, however, means trouble. It means there is a possibility of a relationship, but there is no guarantee.

That little bit of indiscretion. The little bit of getting carried away. And then, that little bit of my foot in my mouth – I could’ve probably wriggled out of the situation, but i chose not to. Yet another relationship in limbo.

Think I have hit a local optimum. And jumping the gun being my habit, I tell my mom about it before I confirm it with the woman in question.

I’m still trying to figure out the nature of this relationship. It’s much stronger than simple good platonic friendship, but doesn’t seem to be anywhere near a romantic relationship

I made the measurement today. don’t ask me how. we are good friends.

Ranga sends this: Any kind of symbiotic relationship ends up being remunerative.

i believe people enter your life exactly at a point when u need them to grow together and exit/fade away from your life at the right time, enabling you to move ahead. its sad but true”

at several points of time in life, you end up in the unpleasant situation where your relationship with someone has hit the pits. there is a cold war on, and you haven’t spoken to him/her for a while. and you want to try and re-build the relationships.

She took my hand in hers and started gently stroking my fingers. One by one.

For most of the first half of last year, I used to turn to her whenever I was depressed.

When we met for the first time, my order of a mousse was met with a “oh, I didn’t know you are such a high calorie person. I?m very calorie conscious you know. I’ll have tea -without milk or sugar”. I had quickly changed my order to a cup of cold coffee.

And that relationship. Something had snapped right at the end. She had suddenly wanted to puke and wanted to hang up.

Having been in a budding long distance relationship (which ultimately didn’t wrok out; in fact, it failed before it became “official”), I couldn’t agree more with this article.

She is still an out-of-money option – quite ordinary for most of the time, offering nothing, or mildly negative returns; but once in a very long time you get great value, making the long periods of mediocrity worth their while.

Tauba Tera Jalwa, Tauba tera pyar,
Tera Emosanal Attyachaar!

Arranged Scissors 9 – Cost Benefit Analysis

Neha, also known as MotherJane, writes in her blog:

…I do not believe in love. Partners offer solutions to everyday issues like running a house, satisfying needs and filling in the blanks. However they come at a cost – often too high to bother. Still we go ahead and do the trade – its just what we do. In our lives friends become the people we talk and listen to, partners become people we are forced to talk and listen to, so that we can have everything else they offer. If you think about it, your relationship is already transactional. If calling it love makes easier on your conscience, I won’t hold you back.

I was trying to figure out how it all fits in with the arranged scissors process. And every time the answer came out that the Arranged Scissors process is fairly irrational.Mainly because of the short time for decision. A few basic checks are made, obvious misfits are checked for, and things get “done”.

The biggest cost of getting married (which Neha doesn’t mention) is the opportunity cost of the option of getting married to any of the other women in this world apart from your wife. Divorce is messy and expensive (in more ways than one), and hence once you have hitched yourself to someone, this opportunity cost immediately kicks in.

Later in her post, Neha talks about the “friends-with-benefits” model, but the problem with that is that it doesn’t help propagate your genes. It is tough to raise kids in that kind of an environment, and considering that the purpose of life is to procreate (this is the general case; i konw you may be an exception so don’t shout at me for this) the friends-with-benefits model is not stable. The reason the world has settled down into a model of bilateral commitment is to optimize the costs and benefits of propagating genes.

So if you want to propagate your genes (again, I’m not sure if you want to. If you don’t, I’d recommend you to settle down with the FWB model – but then it’s easier to find one stable counterparty rather than several FWBs, so you’d rather get married) you need to get into a bilateral commitment deal. And these deals are mutually exclusive so you need to realize that when you get into one, you will be foregoing the option of getting into any other.

There are several other costs and benefits when it comes to the marriage thing – there will be lifestyle changes, you get “tied down”, you need to take on responsibility, share duties and all that, but in my humble  (and unmarried) opinion, the biggest cost is the opportunity cost.

I say this quite often (and this reminds me, I have a paper to write – which I’ve postponed for nine months now) but I think outside of the financial world, option value is generally underrated (even in finance options are more often than not undervalued since the most common pricing formula ignores fat tails). And in settling for a Common Minimum Programme in the arranged marriage market, people severely underestimate the value of the option value of the rest of the world.

So the next time you want to propose to someone, or want to answer “the question” in the affirmative, make sure you do the following:

  • Make a list of all the people in the world belonging to the opposite sex (gays feel free to generalize this)
  • Evaluate the option of marrying them. Your job will be quite easy because with respect to most people, either you don’t want to marry them or you know that the chance of them marrying you is so infinitesimally small that the option value is negligible
  • I’m sure there will be a number of peopl ewho you prefer to the person you are proposing to/saying yes to. If you think there is a nonzero chance of them saying yes to you, ask them. Rejection is cheaper than a lifetime of guilt
  • Once all the options have been evaluated, and an additional buffer term added to account for all the people you don’t know yet, you know the full value of the opportunity cost. Then add up the other costs and benefits, and then make your decision.

Typically to know the other costs and benefits of the person that you are currently evaluating, you need to know them rather well. Yes, you can draw a sample and estimate the population based on that, but the cost of a type 1 error (error of commission) is very high. So make sure you collect enough data. To collect enough data, make sure you give yourself enough time.

Ok now I don’t know the point of this post. I don’t even konw if it fits into the arranged scissors series, but I think I’ll let it stay. Changing the title is too messy. I think I wrote this to put fundaes about opportunity cost. Maybe I had something else in mind when I thought up this post, but then subsequently forgot the contents and remembered only the outline. In any case, I’ll stop here. Before that I’ll tell you for one last time that you need to keep track of option value, and opportunity cost.

Arranged Scissors 8: Culture fit with parents

That you are in the arranged marriage process means that your parents now have full veto power over whom you marry. Given that you don’t generally want them to veto someone whom you have liked, the most common protocol as I understand is for parents to evaluate the counterparty first, and the “candidate” to get only the people who have passed the parental filter. Then the “candidates” proceed, and maybe meet, and maybe talk, and maybe flirt and maybe decide to get married.

Hypothesis: The chance of your success in the arranged marriage market is directly proportional to the the culture fit that you have wtih your parents.

Explanation: Given that parents have veto power in the process, and given the general protocol that most people follow (which I have described in the first para above; however, it can be shown that this result is independent of the protocol), there are two levels of “culture fit” that an interested counterparty has to pass. First, she has to pass the candidate’s parents’ culture fit test. Only after she has passed the test does she come in contact with the candidate (in most cases, not literally).

Then, she will have to pass the candidate’s culture fit test. By the symmetry argument, there are two more such tests (girl’s parents’ filter for boy and girl’s filter for boy). And then in the arranged marriage setting, people tend to evaluate their “beegaru” (don’t think english has a nice phrase for this – basically kids’ parents-in-law). So you have the boy’s parents evaluating the girl’s parents for culture fit, and vice versa.

So right at the beginning, the arranged marriage process has six layers of culture fit. And even if all these tests are passed, one gets only to the level of the CMP. (given that very few filter down to this level, i suppose a lot of people put NED at this stage and settle for the CMP).

Without loss of generality, let us now ignore the process of boy’s parents evaluating girl’s parents and vice versa (the problem is complex enough without this). So there are basically four evaluations, made by two pairs of evaluators (let us consider parents as one entity – they might have difference in opinion between each other occasionally but to the world they display a united front). Now for each side it comes down to the correlation of expectations between the side’s pair of evaluators.

The higher the “culture fit” you possess with your parents, the higher the chance that you will agree with them with regard to a particular counterparty’s culture fit. And this chance of agreement about culture fit of counterparty is directly proportional to the chance of getting married through the arranged marriage process (basically this culture fit thing can be assumed to be independent of all other processes that go into the arranged marriage decision; so take out all of those and the relationship is linear). Hence proved.

Now what if you are very different from your parents? It is very unlikely that you will approve of anyone that they will approve of, and vice versa. In such a situation it is going to be very hard for you to find someone through the arranged marriage process, and you are well advised to look outside (of course the problem of convincing parents doesn’t go away, but their veto power does).

So the moral of the story is that you should enter the arranged marriage market only if you possess a reasonable degree of culture fit with your parents.

(i have this other theory that in every family, there is a knee-jerk generation – one whose “culture” is markedly different compared to that of its previous generation. and after each knee-jerk, cultural differences between this generation and the following few generations will be low. maybe i’ll elaborate on it some other time)

Arranged Scissors 1 – The Common Minimum Programme

Arranged Scissors 2

Arranged Scissors 3 – Due Diligence

Arranged Scissors 4 – Dear Cesare

Arranged Scissors 5 – Finding the Right Exchange

Arranged Scissors 6: Due Diligence Networks

Arranged Scissors 7: Foreign boys

Arranged Scissors 5 – Finding the Right Exchange

If you look at my IIMB grade card, one subject stands out. It is one of the two Cs that I have on the card, and the other was in a “dead rubber” (5th/6th term where grades didn’t matter for placements). This C was in introductory marketing management. Where the major compoenent was a group project called the application exercise (ap-ex). I frequently crib that I did badly in that project because four out of six people in my group did no work, or even negative work (and this is true). Digging deeper, however, I think the more fundamental issue was that the two of us who worked didn’t really know what we were doing. We failed to understand the concept of STP till a few years after the project was over.

STP is one of the most fundamental concepts in marketing. It stands for Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning. I quickly appreciated Positioning, but took a long time in trying to figure out the difference between segmentation and targeting. In my defence, they are highly inter-related concepts, and unless you look at it from the point of view of social sciences (where each unique point fetches you one mark in the board exam) it is not intuitive that they are separate concepts.

So you segment the “population” based on various axes. Taking these axes in conjunction, you end up “segmenting” the population into a large number of hypercubes. Then you do the “targeting”. Find the set of hypercubes that you want to sell your product to (in the context this post is about, sell yourself to). And so once you have found your “target segment” or set of “target segments” you “position yourself” and go out to sell. And then you need to figure out the “4 Ps” of marketing. Product (fixed here – it’s you). Price (irrelevant if you don’t plan to take dowry). Forgot one P. The other is Place (where you will sell).

The arranged marriage market can be broadly be divided into two – OTC and exchanges. OTC (over the counter) is the case where you have a mutual acquaintance setting you up with a counterparty. The only difference here between arranged and normal scissors is that in the arranged case, it is your parents who are set up with the counterparty’s parents rather you getting set up directly. Since it is a mutual acquaintance doing the setting up, the counterparty is at max two degrees away, and this makes the due diligence process a lot easier. Also, you have one interested third party who will keep nudging you and pushing hte process back and forth and generally catalyzing it. So people in general prefer it. Historically, there were no formal exchanges (apart from say a few “well known village elders”). Most transactions were OTC.

One problem in financial OTC markets is counterparty risk (which is what has prompted the US government to prop up AIG) but this is not a unique problem with OTC arranged marriage market – counterparty risk will always be there irrespective of the method in which the relationship was formed. Apart from providing counterparty protection, one important role that financial exchanges play is to improve liquidity in the market. The number of transactions that happen in the exchange ensure that the market is efficient and prices are fair. Liquidity is an important asset in the arranged marriage exchanges also.

The problem that I’m trying to describe in this post is about segmenting the exchanges based on their most popular commodity types. I don’t have reall live examples of this, but then for each product you will want to go to a different exchange. For example (this example may not be factually correct) both the Chicago Board of Trade (CBoT) and Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) trade in both corn futures and cattle futures. However, the volume of corn futures that are traded on CBoT is significantly larger than the volume of corn futures traded on the CME. And the volume of cattle futures traded on the CME might be siginicantly larger than the corresponding volume in CBoT.

So if you want to buy cattle futures, you are better off going to the CME rather than the CBoT since the former has significantly greater liquidity in this product, and thus you are assured of getting a “fairer” price. Similarly, to buy corn you should rather go to CBoT than CME. I suppose you get the drift. Now, the same is true with the arranged marriage market also. If you want to get listed on an exchange, you will need to make sure that you get listed on the right exchange – the exchange where you are most likely to find people belonging to your target segment.

To take an example, if you think you want a Tamil-speaking spouse, you are significantly better off listing on tamilmatrimony.com rather than listing on telugumatrimony.com, right? Of course this is just a simplistic example which I have presented because the segmentation and difference in markets is clear. Things in the real world are not so easy.

There are various kinds of marriage exchanges around. In fact, this has been a flourishing profession for a large number of years, and even the recent boom in louvvu marriages has done nothing to stem the flow of this market. You will have every swamiji in every mutt who will want to perform social service by opening a marriage exchange. Then, you have a few offline for-profit exchanges. Some of them work on a per-deal basis. Others charge you for listing, since it is tough for them to track the relationships that they’ve managed to create. Then, this is one business which has clearly survived the dotcom bust of 2001-02. The fact that this business is flourishing can be seen on the left sidebar of this page where I suppose a large number of them will be advertising. In fact, I encourage you to click through them since that will result in precious adsense revenue for me.

There is nothing wrong in carpet bombing, but that comes at a price. Notwithstanding the listing fees (which are usually nominal), you will have to deal with a significantly large number of “obviously misfit” CVs and bump them off. Especially if you live far away from the exchanges and have someone else broking for you, you don’t want to burden them too much, right? So the problem is in doing your segmentation and targeting. And then researching the exchanges to find which exchange has most liquidity for products belonging to both your segment as well as your target segment. And get listed on them ratehr than wasting precious time, energy and money listing on exchanges that are unlikely to be useful.

Since I began this (extremely long) post with marketing fundaes, I should complete it with some more (which is irrelevant to the rest of this post). A standard process for advertising is AIDA (Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action). Typically for a relationship to “happen”, you need a minimum of D from at least one of the parties, and a minimum of I from the other party. The normal arranged marriage process, however, assumes that an I-I is a sufficient condition for a sufficient lifelong relationship, and don’t give enough time and space for people to check if D is there. Hence the disasters. Hence the tilt towards the CMPs.

Arranged Scissors 1 – The Common Minimum Programme

Arranged Scissors 2

Arranged Scissors 3 – Due Diligence

Arranged Scissors 4 – Dear Cesare