Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Outsourced : Master-Slave relationship

I have spent more than 10 years in industry after passing out from IIT in 2008, worked in 6 companies and a couple of them have been in outsourcing setup of banks.

I started my career in 2008 with a small US technology firm ran by an Indian and which had a lot of Indians. The firm ultimately got sold to another firm. When I got the offer the share price was $12, when I joined it was $6, when I was there it was $1. Obviously witnessing the fall wasn't great. But I was never a tech guy despite studying in one of the best engineering institutes. I quickly moved on to FuturesFirst, a proprietary trading firm, headquartered in London because of my new found passion for trading. Of all the companies I've worked till now I think discipline at the firm was exceptional and culture towards employees totally unbiased. But since my performance in intraday trading wasn't great I had to move on. 

(Un)Luckily I found a job with a US bank's Global markets division (outsourced) in Mumbai and had to work for with European trading desk based out of London. This was my first experience in "outsourcing" and the first realization of Indian workforce being the "cheap" labor capital of the world. Initially, I was excited to work for a global trading desk. I thought I was selected because of my performance in tests, interview and academic background. Truth be told I was the smarter out of the interviewed lot in India but still a low cost INR replacement to do clerical work compared to a GBP/USD counterpart. For the bank, the technology budget would be more expensive than hiring few brainy IITians in India. What followed - there were constant reminders on how flying business class to London/US, getting bloomberg, blackberries was such a luxury and upliftment for us. Truth be told it was indeed a luxury. But the treatment of being "lucky" few out of poor India was a blow to self-respect. It was coming to terms with how rich own the poor and enslave them mentally in the modern corporate world. All the talk around culture and equality in MNC banks seemed less and less meaningful. The worst part was it was implicit. We had two managers, one in London responsible for our work assignment and one in India looking after local operations. I remember 3months into the job asking my London manager whether desk's P&L would play a part in India team's year end bonus. He said yes of course. I stayed with the desk for 3.5 years, we were benchmarked to rest of India team and never to our London trading desk's P&L. The setup ultimately was a low cost KPO for a bank. I totally get the economics for foreign businesses to hire in India - but I must highlight the hypocrisy these firms showcase in their culture, behavior and communication. 

I moved on after 3.5 years due to overdose of clerical work. Most of my IIT batchmates also moved on to IIMs or different locations. I then worked for a couple of Indian trading firms for the next 3.5years. In 2016, I moved to Dubai. After a year or so, I had to come back and managed to only get an offer from a foreign bank for Mumbai location. My fears of outsourcing came back to haunt me. This one is even worse. No perks like travel, bloomberg etc. More bureaucracy with Indian employees resigned to their fate, trained to carry the attitude of servitude and in a perennial state of being grateful to foreign nationals. The culture is more like as we Asians are born slaves to western nations. The supervisors in US do Skype calls and mails and acts as task masters. Reminds me of the British policy of divide and rule, promote local managers (loyal to them) to keep the labor in check. Accented English is really appreciated. Challenging and questioning any foreign or onshore team member is a sin. Growth in the organization is dependent upon impressing people up in hierarchy, greeting them when they are in office is a must and getting their accolades is considered a badge of honor. If they are foreigners the code of conduct is to pay extra respect. 

I must say most of my corporate career has been painful and disgusting. I am a bit of nationalist at heart, mathematically sharp by mind, middle class by birth, relatively fearful of failure and super confused after 10 years on how to change the situation. I write this post to share my feelings and experience to leave readers with some thoughts. The current situation at workplaces is sad and we Indians should think about on how to improve it for ourselves. I consider myself a part of this problem too since I continue to depend on such setups for my income.    

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Quantify India

Launched a website  http://quantifyindia.in to help out all traders and investors. It publishes quant signals on Indian markets on a daily basis. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Absolute or Relative: the game to play

IIT was the first place to witness relative grading. Almost after 12 years I want to tell you why playing relative is a poor concept.

Experience makes you both wiser and bitter. Comparisons are pretty irrelevant between individuals as backgrounds, capabilities and motivations almost always differ. Most of us are grappling with multitude of vagaries of life. The wisdom gained over time tells me to stop comparing and competing with anyone except myself. The bitterness grows when I observe lack of understanding of this concept in our society. The tendency to compare is also embedded in me somewhere which needs to be worked on.

It is high time we redefine failure and success for our own well being. To do better than most and still have a poor life because focus is on there are some still better than you is unfair. One of the seven sins is envy and playing relative makes us prone to it. It hardly serves our purpose as it can lead to distractions from our own self. A better approach is to ask ourselves what can we offer to the world and then spend our energies to do that better. If someone does even that better than us, applaud and learn. Competition is good and also necessary to measure and push ourselves but let it not bring us down. The want for competition should be self-driven and the mind should be trained to accept failure.

I'm not giving the pill of following your passions and day dreaming like it's a fad these days. Think first, understand your background, responsibilities, risks and most importantly the fire and capabilities within you. If you are not the "special" one regarded by the society, understand this, it does not always translate to a "special" life and vice versa. Go absolute. Stop measuring against others. Start assessing yourself, your goals, your desires, your limitations. Basically get real.

The stress of relative game will kill most of us over time, the realization of beauty within and our uniqueness will lead to a better life.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Post IIT: Dilemma and solution

I don't know whether I'm the only IITian thinking about this or there are many. There are higher expectations from life after IIT in terms of career and ambitions. And you often end up with relative failure. Why?

1. Is it a case of high expectations or just an alignment to appropriate levels based on your capabilities? 
2. Is it change in your methodologies/ways that leads to such a situation or are different skills required to tackle a more practical and not-so meritocratic system in the outside world?

As an IITian I keep measuring myself against my peers, against my expectations and against society as a whole. And more often than not results are disappointing. And then I think further about personal circumstances, the choices I make/made given certain constraints, how coming from different backgrounds and having different starting points have an effect. Should money or successful professional career be the only metric for success? If they indeed are, do you have control over them? If yes, how much control?

Looking for answers  ----

1. Warren Buffet is biased towards brainy people and yet he feels its a small ingredient in the overall "success" of a person. He attributes his success to emotional stability, doing what he loves for a living, starting early and being born in US(concedes he was lucky to be born in a capitalistic society). He also says the book by his teacher Ben Graham on investing changed his life. A very good idea he shares is look for people whom you like and whom you don't like, write down 5 qualities which you like/dislike about them. Practice to follow the ones you like and the ones you dislike to become better all the time. In the long term, you will automatically become the most liked person you wanted to become at the first place. Key takeaways from Warren: Do simple things right all the time. Seems easy but its quite tough to follow. 

2. Sachin Tendulkar says become a good person first and then you can give a shot at something else. We all listened to the great man in his farewell speech. However talented and gifted you may be; preparation, discipline, hardwork and overall work ethic are extremely important. Playing in the right spirit never hurts. Ricky Ponting was a great player but the kind of love, respect and admiration Sachin garnered was truly exceptional; a testimony to the great man's way of carrying himself.

3. Sanjay Bakshi, professor at MDI Gurgaon and a value investor teaches and teaches well. In my small world, I have never heard of a professor who has so many followers, well wishers and who is so respected. A lot of teachers would do well to learn from him. Reading is so important to know about people, experiences, ways to act and solve problems is a thing to learn from him. How to develop clarity of thought and keep the focus right is important. He also says envy is the most dangerous sin out of seven sins (gluttony, wrath, sloth, anger, greed, lust, envy).      

4. Victor Frankl (Man's search for meaning) - The book that was recommended by Frank Martin(a fund manager) to all young people changed the way I think. In the book he says "You should measure yourself by not what life gives to you but what you give to life" (a bit like BhagavadGita's philosophy) and that for me is a very important lesson. As you mature, you begin to understand that each life is unique and each life has a course which is not comparable to any other. So focus on what you DO right here and not what happens with you. 

SO what is the essence of all the above?
1. We all know what's right and wrong. And more often that not we have a choice between right and wrong. Choose "RIGHT" always.
2. Consistently do "RIGHT" to do well.
3. You do not have control over most important things in life. But control what you can.
4. Avoid envy, don't compare and try to avoid all seven sins. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Seize it (IIT Life)

It might be taking things too far but nevertheless its good to know and one should always keep this at the back of his/her mind. People have a tendency to look at the success stories only, maybe rightly so and thus its always good to be on that side. The point I am trying to make and which few realize is the days at IIT can shape your future ahead. There is a tendency to get into relax mode once you enter IIT. Those two years of JEE make you feel so. Little do we realize we have decades to go and a lot more to achieve before you relax. Taking time off is never a bad idea. But getting off the track is. Its worth pointing out that most of the IITians that are making it big may not have realized the point I'm making here and may not be the best examples to prove my point either. But they must be doing some things right. They must be doing something different.

Things that you should focus on while you are at IIT should definitely include networking, preparing yourself to work on your risk taking abilities and reading. I would say with changing dynamics across the world there are a lot of opportunities so you should be aware about them and figure out your strengths. But some qualities are just common in all successful people.

People who making it big soon after getting out of IITs atleast in the initial five years mostly focus on businesses. Be it their own startups, trading or private equity the skill sets are not hardcore technical or based on engineering but on the qualities that I mentioned above. Agreed there are some very good opportunities in tech as well but they are pretty limited to Comp Sc graduates. If you are in any other department and just too impatient to make it big just after graduation you have to develop in those areas. The other careers either have a long gestation times or have small payouts.

Being in IIT is a huge advantage. I do not want to say that exert extra pressure on yourself in your college days but be aware that you have to start thinking big and prepare yourself in a way to get there because while you are in IIT you have all the resources, are in the network of best minds you will find and exposed to a lot of areas at one time. The opportunity is tremendous. Don't limit your dreams and constrain your efforts only to regret later. The cost of working hard later is much more and tedious. The differences between people, the return on efforts and ambitions gets huge. Thinking ahead is the best preparation for the future.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Junk technocrats

As ironical it might sound, there would be some if not many IITians who might fall into this category. I am a bit embarrassed to be one of those. The term "Junk technocrat" here is coined by my stupid brain by combining junk bonds and technology. Its common sense to expect IITians as technology graduates to have a better sense and awareness of newer technologies and their intricacies. Or atleast not to be clumsy and outdated in the area. But yet they are. There is no direct correlation between the quality of an IITian and the technical expertise the person possesses. From IIT, you would expect that won't you.

To share a few personal feelings on the subject, it gets a bit embarrassing and sometimes irritating when people expect that I am the one that can get them the next app, website and what not made with ease. I think its the perception that the word technology creates. The reason here is two fold. Firstly, IIT never tests you as a technocrat before letting you in. Neither your ability nor your interest. Whether its possible or not its a different matter. True, people good in PCM can be expected to be fit in engineering but in a age of computers and when almost every new breakthrough innovation in technology is through computers, these three clearly are not good enough. Also in hindsight, alignment of interests of student and an institute's vision should match. Interviews could be very helpful in that regard. Secondly, as I've explained in blogs before the quality of education is still far away from it should be. The professors are not innovative and inspiring enough to embed the importance of technology in students and fail to get them motivated to gain knowledge. They have to learn to connect to students in a much better fashion. Students can be blamed to an extent only.

After joining the industry, working in technology and now in finance studying global trends I definitely see a lack of innovative spirit in our students. Its because of our education not fostering that culture and also due to the financial condition of our people. But as a country we have to realize be it US, be it Germany, be it Japan all leading nations have to depend on technology to maintain a lead in international markets. As the best institutes in technology and with the kind of recognition that IITs already get they have to do better.

To conclude, the purpose of this blog is to show the mismatch between what should we be achieving and what are we achieving through an IITian. Either we should start labelling them as universities where our top brain study from or else as a technology institutes they should welcome students only with a "techie" mindset. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

JEE - Staying motivated all along and comparisons

Going back to the preparation for IIT-JEE, there's no denying its tough and takes a toll on the student. Simply because at that stage the intensity and focus required can be hard to attain. So you have to find reasons to be always up there with your effort. Now also understand that effort varies with each individual. Think for yourself is the first important point. You cannot look around for your answer. It has to come within you. For a 15-16 year old the reasons have to be simple. As simple as find motivation within the family, you could do it for your parents or to prove a point to someone who does not believe in your abilities. It could be about feeling better about yourself because that's what achievements do to you. They make you a happier person. Embed the importance of the exam in your head so that you do not lose focus. Again, people have their own reasons and ways of going about doing things. So would reiterate that you have to find your reasons. The next part - how to handle downfalls? Never lose faith and hope, till the exam is over. I have friends who told me after 11th that they cannot clear JEE and were thinking of leaving the preparation mid way but for some reason continued and ultimately studied at IIT. Downfalls are just opportunities to regather yourself and work that bit harder so that you give yourself another chance. Its not over till the last chance. I remember from my experience wherein I went into a period of overconfidence and got a series of low scores  which affected my confidence in turn but the only way to get back to your peak is to be there and keep working hard, hit the right notes and persist. The good thing about working hard and staying there is that you keep yourself in the hunt. Nobody can promise you success in JEE and life but only you can increase your chances.

Comparisons are the other part. I strongly believe you start comparing when you feel a bit down in the competition. You start looking at others, caring about their views and try to copy them to attain what you are looking for. Now even though the basics are same for everybody, comparison never help but only lead to distractions. Its tough not to compare specially when you are lagging behind. But so is to lead in a competition. Trust me, everybody is better off not comparing. The process will not only help you to focus but also give your best. Also remember its okay to observe people who are better or to derive inspiration and techniques from people but you are better off not being judgmental about them.

So keep these points in mind and am sure you will be satisfied with the results whatever they may be. Good practices never cause any harm.