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The Best of TE
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#1 Not forcing users to refresh and lose track of what they are reading by not loading the posts:
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I remember the days when my table always had a dictionary since it was super helpful when I came across an unknown word. That is so 1990s.
Today, the best solution to this would be “googling” the word. If you are fond of vocabulary, like me, Dictionary.com might be the perfect website/app for you. In fact, one of the android apps that I first installed was Dictionary.com!
The feature, that I feel distinguishes Dictionary.com from other online dictionaries is its ability to save your “favorite” words. In other words, when you forget the meaning of a word or want to use it again, you can always look up your favorites on the app. Another impressive feature is its offline dictionary.
However, I feel Dictionary.com has tremendous amount of potential that can be unleashed as it scales to the next level. Here are some of my ideas that I feel can be implemented:
- Syncing website and android/iOS apps: A feature that dictionary.com lacks is its ability to sync desktop/website and mobile apps. Imagine a situation where you could favorite words and store/sync on any device!
- Pop quiz: Possibly the most important reason why someone would use Dictionary.com would be to improve his/her vocabulary. How about creating some games that can improve your vocabulary? May be something like a pop quiz to test if you can recollect your favorite words?
Here’s a list of five trends that have changed our lives in the last five years:
- Going Mobile:
A few years back, this were the headlines in the newspapers – “People in China and Taiwan use mobile more than computers for accessing internet ”. Today this has become a reality – mobile has practically changed the way we work and the way businesses work. A smartphone is now an essential product and not a luxury product. For a common man, smartphones have replaced his old bar phones as well as his music player and digital camera; he now books his tickets through mobile, does mobile banking and uses mobile for social networking. For businesses, mobile has become a huge segment for advertising – with companies such as Google and Facebook competing for a share of pie, and early adopters such as InMobi fighting back.
Although a bit hyped these days, e-commerce has practically changed the way we shop. An average Indian, who five years ago was hesistant to shop on Amazon or Ebay because of “trust” factor, now does all of his shopping online. After years of struggling to become monopolies, home grown companies such as Flipkart and Snapdeal have a huge share in the e-commerce industry. But companies like housing.com, bookmyshow, makemytrip.com, yatra – although having small share of the overall market – still are monopolies in their respective segments. Now there is an e-commerce company for almost every business – Bigbasket for your daily grocery or Washkart for your laundry! One of my personal favourites is kwench.in – an online lending library!
There was a time when you used to travel by a local bus, which would probably break down every now & then. Now cities have metro rail, Volvo buses. Now buses are not only comfortable, but are faster (no change in overall travel time though – traffic jams & improper roads still exist). But one segment where your local transport has changed – Taxis! Five years back, the only way you could book a taxi was to contact a local taxi guy (or someone who owns a fleet) and book a taxi days in advance. With large scale taxi-aggregators like Olacabs or Uber, planning your taxi ride takes not more than 15 minutes.
Online courses(MOOCs) such as Coursera and Udacity have revolutionized education. Integration of online & offline channels, usage of social media to provide correct and accurate news is something has changed the media industry. You get to know news by tweets and answers from Quora. Although the reliability of information is a big challenge, this segment has a huge potential that has changed how content management works. Add data analytics on top of this segment and we can make better decisions. Peer to peer sharing of knowledge through Quora, or information through social media is something that revolutionize our lives.
- Government decisions:
On number 5 is government decisions. Five years ago, applying for a passport used to take six months. Now, the verification processes take a few weeks. Earlier, booking rail tickets required you to stand in a queue at your local train station. Now, IRCTC has changed everything (including the meme industry). People are now aware of scams that have happened in the past. This segment is still the one that has the biggest opportunity. The new government is trying to reform things – step by step, but understanding that government decisions have the single biggest impact in our lives is the key.
Thanks to Street Smarts, I was introduced to One Up On Wall Street by legendary investor – Peter Lynch & John Rothchild.
If there is one book, which people interested in equities, especially beginners, have to read, then it is One Up On Wall Street. Simple language, smart concepts and splendid logic.
Peter Lynch managed the Magellan Fund at Fidelity Investments from 1977 to 1990, averaging a 29% return(as opposed to a normal 9-10% return). This book is a tribute to the mankind from the genius.
Amid all the ideas discussed in this book, one particular idea to call out is – understanding why you own an equity. When you buy an equity, you buy it for a reason – something that you believe in. This holds true for the entire time you own the equity. This will also determine when you should sell it. Despite the complex analysis you do, you need to remember the fundamentals – the company needs to be simple enough for an idiot to run. The idea of simplicity amid complexity.
The best example of simplicity(which I often quote) is Google. Although there are numerous complex algorithms running behind the search engine, for the user, the search page is unbelievably simple. 6 letters – GOOGLE, a search box & hit! Same goes with Apple.
Now, this book was first published in 1989, before the internet era. Times have changed, the method by which you evaluate tech companies is completely different (eg: Amazon). Although some of the methods specified in the book is not applicable to certain industries(like tech), One up Wall Street, even today, holds good for a majority of the sectors. The ideas expressed are so lucid that you can possibly use it as a framework for developing your own method.
Certain terms, such as a ten bagger, is coined by Peter Lynch. These set the standards that you can expect from this book. While One Up On Wall Street definitely helps you in understanding equities, I would like to highlight the importance of learning over knowing, a principle that is hidden in almost every page. At every stage, Peter Lynch “learns”, he does not “know”. This fundamental principle makes him succeed, almost every time.
One Up On Wall Street is a charm, embrace it. Definitely a must read.
After Street Smarts (& being considerably impressed by it), Hot Commodities seemed a logical sequel for reading. This book gives an introduction about the commodities market, something which you might find in your copy of Economic Times or WSJ, but which is difficult to comprehend. The book starts by making you familiar with terms which are increasingly used in the futures market. If you have already read Street Smarts, you will definitely find the similarity in writing-style, concepts and strategies. However, the most important thing about this book is the fundamentals of economics are hard-tuned with it. The concepts of demand and supply and how it affects the commodities market is something that every investor should keep in mind. The book primarily deals with how the prices of various commodities, listed in the futures market, have changed historically. As Jim tries to analyse the reasons behind a particular rise or fall, you start to understand why the fundamentals are important.
However, if you have read other Jim Roger books, you would find some of the concepts repetitive. But it is important to understand that unlike triology sagas, this book is standalone. If you are interested in business books and thinking about a quick summer read, grab this book!
Verdict: Great introduction to commodities. Must read for everyone who is interested in both equities and commodities.
Business + travel wonderfully integrated with the nuances & emotions of life. Is there anything else you would want in your work-life harmony?
The book – Street Smarts is written by the American investor, businessman & author Jim Rogers. Considered in the likes of legendary Warren Buffet, Jim Rogers is one of the most famous investors in the world. In this book, Jim begins his journey of life with how he accidentally joins Yale & Oxford eventually landing up in the Wall Street in the 1970s. He talks about the bull & bear markets and how he learned to cross the markets through the bull & bear times. His strategies on stocks as well as commodities reflects his attitude towards life – that every problem has a solution and every fall is an opportunity to rise stronger than before.
The best part of this book is how it tells about travel as an integral part of life and what Jim learns through travel. Jim has actually travelled around the world thrice! His strategies of integrating travel with markets and learning how businesses are in different countries, learning how a war in one country can raise the price of a commodity through the world, his learning of getting the basics right, supply & demand is a learning for us. At each stage, Jim is constantly “learning” and importance of learning over knowledge makes this book philosophical. This book brilliantly connects the dots, which is very similar to Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement speech. You can only connect the dots backwards and I am pretty sure this book is written as an attempt to realize that.
The book also talks about how Jim’s strategies changed through time, a career spanning many decades, why he chose to become a Singapore citizen and wanted to learn Mandarin, on why probably there is a shift in terms of development from the US to the Asian countries in the 21st century.
Street Smarts is an amazing book. The hardcover, optimum font sizes and the way the book is written makes it a brilliant book. If you are interested in investing, business, travel etc then this book is highly recommended. The book is nevertheless important to everyone as it relates the beauty of things in the world and how everything is connected in the world. I started reading this book on an evening & trust me – all that I wanted was to read till I completed it.
Possibly one of the finest books ever.
Rashmi Bansal is one of the most famous authors from India. Her books – Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, Connect the Dots, I have a Dream have been big hits. All of her books are on entrepreneurship – she shares stories of people who have made it big. Stay Hungry Stay Foolish is book on 20 entrepreneurs with MBAs. This one is about another 20 without. Both of these books’ titles link back to the famous Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech.
The book starts off the famous story of Prem Ganapathy, Founder of Dosa Plaza. The book then moves on to back-to-back biggies like Kunwer Sachdev(Su-Kam), Ganesh Ram(Veta), Sunita (Fem Care) and N.Mahadevan(Oriental Cuisines). All of these stories are gripping and an absolute delight to read. It will probably give one of those “Eureka” moments. The book then has stories on entrepreneurs in diverse fields – book store chains, agriculture, dairy, software products and what not! One surprise was introducing stories of entrepreneurs in the field of design & arts towards the end of the book. Some of the stories of enterprises like Reva, story of Harishchandrachi Factory movie inspires the readers to do think different.
The book is, of course, non-fiction and writing style suits it. The language is simple. Any person can pick-up this book & read through 20 brilliant entrepreneurial journeys(without MBA). While the first few stories were totally gripping, the book seemed to lose its charm towards the middle. Some of the stories lacked details or were too short to leave a lasting impression on the reader. Also, too much of similar stories make it difficult for the reader to read it at a stretch. But towards the end of the book, as Rashmi introduces designers, photographers, dancers & movie-makers, the book totally brings back the wavering attention and gives the perfect finish.
Bottomline: The book was an exciting read for me and I totally recommend it.
Book: The Mckinsey Way
Author: Ethan M.Rasiel
Who should read the book?
Any person who has little knowledge on how management consulting(MC) works. You could be an MC aspirant or someone working in the industry. You have a basic knowledge of how problem are solved in the industry and what methodologies are followed. But you are “curious” to understand how The Firm works and how it is different. Please note that this book does not tell any detail about the clients or problems already solved by Mckinsey. Client confidentiality is fully respected, perhaps just the way it is in The Firm. It will however give you a perspective on how problem solving is done and how Mckinsey problem solving is different. This is not the book to be recommended for someone with years of practice as a Management Consultant.
The Mckinsey Way is a typical weekend read. You could perhaps read the entire book at one go during your flight or train travel. The book is very easy to read and the language is simple. The book starts off with the author’s life at Mckinsey, some of terminologies/everyday work at Mckinsey. The entire problem solving approach is then discussed, right from the initial hypothesis to issue tree to storyboarding. As my work includes most of these, I was easily able to relate to all of the processes used. However, this might be difficult to understand for an MC newbie but he will be able to grasp all of these.
The book states of the interesting approaches followed at Mckinsey – 80/20 rule, the elevator test, looking at the big picture – all of which is extremely useful. For someone who is aspiring to be an MC, these turn out to be something which is pragmatic in everyday work-life. The book then proceeds to the do’s and don’ts at work and will probably act as a guide for a novice. The book also tells some of the secrets(:=D) like waterfall charts in presentations. Turns out that I was already aware of things like 80/20, waterfall charts before reading the book, but I am pretty sure it will be interesting to someone who is new to MC.
The book also mentions how Mckinsey-ites gives importance to Clients, The Firm, Me – in that order as well as recruiting, mentoring – something which is essential for its functioning. The book ends with some interesting insights from ex-Mckinseyites about what they have learnt from the firm.
Verdict: The book gives a general idea on how management consulting works. Interesting read while travelling.
One Sunday morning, I got an email stating – “Your team has been selected for the Bootcamp in Eximius 2013 in IIM-B, the largest entrepreneurship summit in India”.
It all started a few months back, when one of my friends suggested me to participate in the Bootcamp in Eximius, an annual entrepreneurship summit in the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. I had submitted Musicperk, an initiative by me & some of my friends for Bootcamp. Bootcamp is an event that has “booths” or stalls by various ventures within the country(both by students & full-time entrepreneurs). It also has dedicated sessions essential for the bootstrapping a firm as well as sessions by successful entrepreneurs, professors from IIM-B which can help you run a successful organisation.
I looked at the IIM-B event website and realised that it contained multiple events for B-School students as well as some workshops, guest lectures and keynote talks. Our team decided to participate in the Bootcamp, an event for start-ups from India. I and Venkat decided to start-off for the two-day event. We couldn’t have a stall as we had very less time to prepare for it. I realised that Kiran Bedi, one of the eminent personalities of the country, was giving the inaugural speech with Kris Gopalakrishnan(Co-founder, Infosys) as the keynote speaker for the event.
We started off on 10th August,2013 early morning for IIM-B. It was atleast 20 Km journey but I realised Bannerghata road was far more developed than what I had imagined it to be.
The first thing you notice about IIM-B is the lush green campus – I unusually found it similar to IISc, Bangalore. We first attended a social-entrepreneurship business plan event(of course I was just a part of the audience) where students from across the B-schools in the country presented business plans on social entrepreneurship focussed mainly on using the experience the 60+ age group to develop businesses.
The highlight of Day 1 was definitely the inaugural talk by Dr. Kiran Bedi – a social activist, the first woman IPS officer, Founder of Navjyoti India Foundation(an NGO for welfare and preventative policing) and India Vision Foundation(an NGO for prison reformation, drug abuse prevention and child welfare) and also the recipient of Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1994 for Government service. The talk was on her life and experiences from it where she highlighted her experience in India – as a student excelling in Tennis as well as academics, as an IPS officer from the early 1970s, her work in as Civilian Police Advisor in the United Nations, her role as an Inspector General of Prisons and prison reformation, the techniques she had jused for controlling Delhi traffic(one can never forget the famous towing of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s car for parking violation), vipassana meditation and her role through reformation and welfare programs in 1990s and 2000s. The most important take-away from this talk was the importance of discipline and how it help you strive your goals in life. It was easily one of the best talks I have listened to.
The afternoon went on with a discussion with the rest of the startups in the Bootcamp. Each of them pitched in their start-ups, discussed some of the problems they face in the day-to-day life. I met many interesting people including Shashank – a full time entrepreneur who was working on an Cloudsgreen – a startup working on the amazing idea of digital printers.
The evening started off with the keynote speech by Kris Gopalakrishnan – Co-founder, Infosys. This talk wasn’t based on his own story but on 3 stories in which he had played a role – in his own way. The three stories were about Panindra Sama(Founder, Redbus.in – a personality everyone would look up to), Sanjay Vijaykumar(Founder, MobME and Startup Village) and the Infosys story. The highlight of the talk was on Startup Villlage – an incubation cell based of Kerala, which has not only reformed the education in Kerala but has also produced hundreds of entrepreneurs every year.
Day 2 was much unexpected and it totally refined the way I think. I had expected it to be a day full of sessions by guest speakers. Instead, the day had sessions by IIM-B Profs. It started off with an introduction to NSRCEL, an IIM-B incubation cell, some of its ventures including Just Books, one of Bangalore’s finest rental libraries. There were sessions on pricing, pitching, marketing and experience from start-ups. It is always great to learn from your own experiences as well as experiences from others.
The weekend was well spent in IIM-B learning things, meeting new people and getting a better idea of how things work.
I was switching TV channels when I found this particular show “Ancient Aliens” on the History Channel interesting. It was interesting not because the show had aliens & UFOs & ETs but because it was relating to Albert Einstein – his extraordinary intelligence, his ability to change & define the rules that governed physics at that point of time.
As we all know, Einstein, in a period of one year wrote 4 papers that changed the rules of physics. They included the famous E=mc2 as well as the theory of relativity and the paper which proved that light is of particles in nature & not waves. It is said that Einstein was deeply immersed in himself & he called it the “thought experiment” – a state of mind where his thought process was at its best. At this state of mind, he could visualize himself as particles of light & think of how light travelled – in his mind.
Einstein’s brain was researched by scientists for decades & they found that a certain part of his brain was wider & also that Einstein’s brain – at the age of 76 was similar to that of a youth. Now, the show’s obvious insight from this was whether Einstein was communicating with super powers, cosmos and aliens from other galaxies to write the papers which were practically impossible to write in 1 year! But let’s come to this point later.
Socrates was a great philosopher & a visionary & it is said that he was in touch with “demons” (not the ones that are evil but this was something similar to demi-gods who were in touch with the humans). Ramanujam, possibly the greatest mathematician to live on Earth, was supposedly in touch with his family God, who could impart the knowledge which no one in Earth knew about. He supposedly, could visualize equations in his dreams, memorize it & write it back when he woke up. Nikola Tesla, who defined modern day Electrical Engineering, could not only visualize to build a motor but he could also visualize how a motor would work. Isaac Newton, my favorite, could redefine mathematics, physics, history & whatever you can think of! The question now is whether these scientists were crazy, immersed in their own thoughts or whether he were more sane than most of the individuals on Earth & think beyond what is present on Earth. The discussion in the show moved on to the Angkor Wat & Mahabharata – that parallel universes exist & all knowledge was predefined & it’s the individual’s will to attain it or not(Now, that’s something which you need to decide, not touching upon on philosophy here).
The common points that we discussed here is something about “lucidity” (one of my favorites – after Nolan’s Inception – now you know why Nolan is a genius). The famous scientists, philosophers whom we discussed had ONE thing in common – all of them could visualize things beyond the normal “state” of mind – in a lucid state of mind (It is upto you to decide whether they were in touch with cosmos, extra-terrestrials, aliens or whatever) but what is important here is in the “lucid” state of mind. How does the mind connect with your body as well as something beyond “normal” things? This is something which we need to think about. The foundation lies in one of Albert Einstein’s papers which states that a particle when split has an ability to connect with each other(to be in sync with each other) no matter what the distance of separation is. (which brings us to philosophy here – body is made of particles which can can be in sync no matter what the separation is & so on. Also, this reminds us of what Hindu mythologies say – about body, about soul et cetera but again let’s limit to philosophy with this).
Nolan is someone who has himself said that he has been in lucid dreams which inspired him to create “Inception”. Nicola Tesla, in one of his letters to the Red Cross has stated that he received communication from the world beyond.
Possibly the greatest of the application of Albert Einstein’s papers is yet to come. It is the “time travel” something which is based on his theory of relativity – something that can prove that parallel universe can exist, which can redefine not only physics, but everything in this world & also how we can think.