Saturday, January 23, 2010

'Joint Families and IIM Institutes - What do they have common?'

What does 'Joint Families' and 'IIM Institutes' have in common? 'IIM Institutes' are expected to produce country's best managers to tackle business problems and foster, promote business decisions, growth. A good manager understands the traits of all the people who are critical for business and comes up with the best possible inputs from the people leading to the optimal business decisions at a given time.

In this context, joint families contribute a lot as they also help us in learning the various possible shades and underpinnings of human relationships, traits and teaches an individual how to manage the inputs of family members with the primary objective of maintaining the unit of family enhancing the social capital and wellfare at a given point of time. Possibly in practical terms, such trainings in a joint family could be more successful than the semester trained HR courses. Although joint families would not give the degree that IIM institutes give to have a social standing in terms of CTCs, financial and capital assets (which could be philosophically questioned and that is not again the subject matter of this blog). But in terms of managerial training, joint families really contribute in developing selflessness, leadership qualities, sense of understanding each other to become good manager that might not necessarily develop in management programmes.

In today's cut throat competitive corporate world, such selfless leadership could really go a long way in developing good managers that build goodwill of a company. Specially, in a corporate world of India fraught by fraudulent practices (post Satyam scam) it is really essential to produce managers with strong sense of integrity, honesty.

Having spent the first 18 - 19 years of life in a joint family of 30 people in Kolkata, everyday was a learning exercise. During those years, I had learnt from my mom (analogous to the CEO manager of the family/corporate unit) and her colleagues (counterpart of divisional managers of the large family/corporate unit) how selflessness, actions for building trust, security, integrity, dignity, respect within and between family members should be practised in minutest things and aspects to manage the family. Joint family could in the long run give directions towards building such managerial and leadership qualities.

A management institute could produce good managers for corporate sector. Similarly, the same managerial qualities could be produced by a grooming up in a joint family that builds in the essence and importance of valuing social capital that is an essential, integral component of today's efficient corporate manager.

The importance of such values in corporate managers would increase only in future at the backdrop of the growing advent of global movement of financial capital.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How real estate brokers help in brain gain?

Real estate brokers and brain gain! Isn't this a tenous connection? Before elaborating on that let me reflect a little on some flash back facts of the year 1999. This was a year when I gave the higher secondary examination and after securing a low rank in West Bengal Joint Entrance examination decided to shift towards studying a new subject. One of the aspirations during that time was to pursue and love a subject so that one day could land up in United States (may be driven very marginally by a colonial hangover and illusion also, that gradually cleared and started changing during 2004 - 2006 while working) for higher learning credentials and also could earn some dollars. The motivation to dream in that way for some time was also to save hard currency like dollars (at least definitely during that time) to buy house back in India so that our family could have a feeling of living in our own house. So I used to think that would go to U.S to earn money, degree and come back to the country and stay in our own (non rented) house for the first time. I am sure this is the story of many Indians who go to U.S, earn dollars and invest back in the country in real estates as they want to come back to the country and settle here living in their own house after buying real estate properties. Assurance of a property back at home after investments can act as one of the levers towards helping our people to come back to their own nation.

Real Estate regime therefore has a role to play in this brain gain. But the role of the real estate brokers also holds a key in this brain gain. Recent data shows that most of the Indians who have gone abroad to earn their living, have become NRIs and planning to return to India invests in real estate properties in India through brokers. Many times the broker is found to be corrupt and money of the NRIs are lost. Transparent information dissemination to the NRIs by the agents also often doesnot happen that starts acting as a hindering factor towards return of the NRIs back in the country that could impinge on the brain gain. The performance and nature of the brokers is very important in ensuring that the money of the NRIs are used properly in genuine real estate properties. An agency is always better than a broker because the risk of fraudulent practices could be higher in case of an individual as the uncertainty regarding the behaviour of an unknown individual is higher than the agency. Also the people planning to come back to the country should be cautious of the asset in which the broker is putting the money. Ideally NRIs should check whether their money is put in real estates developed by renowned developers or in real estate projects towards completion. True information disclosure by the real estate agent to the NRI and its subsequent monitoring can fasten the building of trust between the agent and the NRI. Class of real estate asset also holds key regarding how fast the NRI could realise the dream of actually living in a new home in his/her home country after the money has been invested in that asset class.

Also, property grabbing often acts as a barrier for the NRIs who are planning to come back to their country. Efficient laws, speedy recoveries of property, punishment of all agents involved in such property grabbing could work and help in brain gain. Punjab has already amended the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act of 1949 to sort out the cases of property grabbing of NRIs.

This kind of legal reforms along with laws regulating unaccountable practices of brokers could go a long way in bringing back the people (who want to come back to the country and settle in their own homes in India by buying properties in India in a post financial crisis regime) and that could lead to a brain gain for the nation.

Even we could set an example for our neighbouring nation like China where significant brain gain has been happening but in a very different way. Definitely we have to work towards this brain gain through our own "Jugaadu", innovative way. That's why our nation is so interesting as a place to stay and as a subject of research, policy making and implementation.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Does any one know of movement of Iranian directors facilitated by Film Festivals"

"Movement of Iranian directors facilitated by Film Festivals"! It might give a feeling that how could film festivals facilitate movement of Iranian directors. But before stating some explanations to how this could happen one needs to know from where the idea and title of blog came. The idea of this blog and its title came after knowing about an Iranian film called "No One Knows About Persian Cats" directed by Bahman Ghobadi. What is unique about this film? This film has been banned in Iran and uses lot of underground music, lyrics to show the domestic oppression in the political regime of Iran. The film won a special jury prize in Cannes Film Festival. A view point came out that Iranian filmmakers are using the international film festivals as a platform to put their voice against the political regime in Iran that came to power after the presidential election.

This has not happened only with the above stated film. Similar instances have happened with many other politically sensitive Iranian films that have been shown in film festivals of London, Berlin, Montreal. A recent trend shows various Iranian film makers are increasingly going out to international film festivals with their projects and has been raising their voice against the political regime in Iran through their films by using the platforms of international film festivals in various European and other countries of West. The ruling government in Iran has also taken initiatives to curtail such movie makings in Iran. Often, ruling government has been curtailing politically sensitive movie making in Iranian film industry with the defense of putting a logic of cushioning Islamic identities from western influence. Clash of conflictual identities between the state and the directors of Iranian films has become prominent. The push factor emanating from this clash within Iran has contributed towards movement of Iranians to various film festivals organized across various countries of West.

The clash between state and Iranian film directors has not been limited only to politically sensitive films. It has happened in case of a film called "The Circle" directed by Jafar Panahi that highlighted the position of women in Iranian society. The director of the film was arrested, but later he went with his movie to Montreal Film Festival. Clash of identities and lack of space of different values within Iran could have been one of the reason towards this movement. It could also be due to lack of intellectual freedom of directors, different value systems of the directors that differs from the cultural homogenisation process of the ruling Iranian state that has been happening in Iran. Sense of insecurity of state from the directors and capability of influencing the society by the directors towards a different cultural regime could have also forced the state to create pressure on the directors that further acted as push factors. So, within Iran itself, clash of cultures, values and identities between two entities viz. state and an intellectual class (individualistic identity) might have helped in creating such push factors. Additionally, the film festivals in the European countries have acted as incentives for these film makers to put their voice to get a recognition of their work. The film festival platforms also helped them in sensitization of the world about the clash of cultures, values and entities, identities in Iran. The question is to see how far these film festivals have acted as a significant pull factor in creating a movement of the Iranian film makers towards these festivals in comparison to the push factors. Statistical significance testing of the relationship between the "movement of the Iranian directors to the film festivals" and "push factors" (within Iran) and "pull factors" (from outside Iran) {with film festival platforms as proxy variable of pull factors} along with other relevant variable indicators could be a way forward to come out with some empirical conclusions in this domain of research.

Till I find enough evidence and data to carry out such a testing let the above question stay outside the statistical software for now.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Scene 2 - Another usual evening on the baddy court. Venue - Badminton Court, Time - 6 p.m. (Continuation)

In the last blog, I had mentioned that how one day the expectation hypothesis that I had created in the badminton court got questioned. The next set of question which came on mind was with what expectation hypothesis between the caller and the badminton player a truthful information is revealed. The answer was quite simple and was buried in the mystery that all social scientists, economists try to unravel with the wide world of economics of information. Probably, when the caller has already been informed by the player about his baddy playing routine practice, its best for the baddy player to reveal the truthful information so that the trust that has been created by truthful revelation of information in past experiences persists. A truthful information creates trust and that trust create future expectations between both the caller and baddy player to maintain the trust levels at each time period by revealing truthful information. So its the incentive of the baddy player to reveal the truthful information to consolidate the expectation that has been created between the player and the caller. But the real question is will such an incentive to reveal truthful information exist for the baddy player under all circumstances.

Here the answer is really not so simple. In this regard I am really grateful to my very close friend Sambuddha Mitra Mustafi (who works for BBC) who raised a very interesting question yesterday on facebook to the earlier blog of badminton. His view point was under various circumstances based on at what state the game is the chances of telling a lie can go up or down. So, Mustafi's view point was that - "if a baddy player is on matchpoint or close to winning he/she will lie at home to stay back in the baddy court" and "if the baddy player is in a worse condition he/she could find an excuse to escape by means of the call from home". Once this view point came yesterday, I kept on thinking till quite late night and a very interesting discourse to the expectation hypothesis (developing betweeen callers, receivers) that I was trying to set up came up.

The expectation hypothesis (which is more generic in nature with an analogy to general equilibrium models we create through some kind of CGE structures) that I was trying to set up was totally based on the level, nature and degree of exchange of information between the caller (from home) and the receivers (in the baddy court). Based on that fact, I was trying to establish a generic theory of trust, information and expectation hypothesis between two individuals under various conditions of their relationship status and information disclosure levels between them. But, I had totally missed, neglected out certain scenarios (as we call them in economic or policy modelling) that could outweigh this generic theory by creating different incentives for a baddy player to tell a lie or a truth based on the state of the baddy and the inherent expectations of the baddy player about winning and loosing a game.

So this raises the scope for another set of thinking where I would now try and test this generic theory of trust, information and truth/lie telling by creating more scenarios of incentives for the baddy player. This creates more incentives for me to have some sleepless nights, till I can find out some answers through sample testing on these lines in Scene 3 of the next blogs to come.


Mobile phone loud speakers as lie speakers in badminton court

Scene 1 - An usual evening on the baddy court. Venue - Badminton Court, Time - 6 p.m.

People have assembled and have formed two teams for playing a doubles badminton match. Suddenly, the mobile phone of one of the team members of the playing team rings up. The player says that he is busy in some work and so would be getting late for home. The phone was in loud speaker mode and so one could realise the phone was from one of the family members from home expecting the person (playing baddy) to come home to fullfill certain family responsibilities. Immediately, the mobile phone loud speaker became a lie - speaker. The question which immediately sprang up in my mind is that why does a person have to tell lie about the fact dealing with playing badminton. Lie could come from fear many times. What could be the possible sources of fear that could lead to telling lies? Is playing badminton not accepted by family members in the evening once somebody has family responsibilities or gets married? Does the expectation amongst family members differ about the individual who is playing badminton? So although the individual relaxes at the end of the day by playing badminton, still he has to tell a lie to the family members by not disclosing the information about baddy playing to the family members as the baddy player has a fear of consequences of not matching the expectations of family members. Or is it that the baddy player expects that if he discloses to family members about his baddy playing they would be unhappy due to a jolt in their expectations. Then why could they be unhappy. Probably family members expect the baddy player to do something else other than playing baddy. So expectations have a role to play behind telling these lies regarding playing baddy in the evening. The nature of the expectations between the player and the person calling in mobile also change depending whether the person playing baddy is married, unmarried, staying alone, has girl friend or boyfriend, lives with family and so on. The propensity of telling a lie also depends on who is calling the baddy player. These observations were summarised after observing many such incidents of lie speakers through the loud speaker of mobile phone in the baddy court. Then I started thinking of making my own sample size to analyze in which cases the chances of telling a lie goes up and under what kind of expectation hypothesis the chances go up. Suddenly, one day then the next scene of this script happens -

Scene 2 - Another usual evening on the baddy court. Venue - Badminton Court, Time - 6 p.m.

Again a phone comes in the midst of a badminton match and one of the badminton players doesnot tell a lie and exactly reports that he is playing badminton and would be late for home. My entire research hypothesis about lie telling in mobile in baddy court gets questioned and I form a new set of expectation hypothesis. The findings of those analysis would gradually come in the next segments of blogging.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Can change in broking house working hours create emissions?

Can broking house trading create environmental emissions? This thought was coming as a wave early in the morning in auto while I was going to office. Like a law of association, the thought came. While travelling in the morning, I was seeing some smoke coming out of the auto. Then at the same time was reading an article on the changed office timings in National Stock Exchange (NSE), Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). Immediately a question appeared on mind. What environmental costs and benefits could be created if the working hours in NSE and BSE is extended by 1 hour. A shift in office hours from 9 a.m in BSE, NSE in Mumbai could mean that people working in these offices might have to start from their home atleast 1 hour earlier. This would also depend on the distance between the home of the NSE, BSE employees and office. Assuming most of this NSE, BSE employees in Mumbai travel in local train and avoid the road traffic, will this change in the office timing create a larger rush in the local train during the early morning. Will this change in the office timing shift some people towards using local train early in the morning instead of driving. That shift could reduce the daily total emissions from cars in the city. But if the people switching to local train are the ones who in any ways use train for commuting (in the earlier working hour schedule), then it wont change the daily emissions from cars and it would stick to the baseline value of emissions. Will the change in the office timing change the lifestyle habits and push people who earlier used to commute by driving in their own cars towards car pooling in the morning as they wont like to drive everyday in the morning. Car pooling could reduce the total emissions in the city as some users of car would go down each day. What effect this change in office timing could have in the lifestyle habits of the people. Will this mean that some of the office goers who used to drop their kids in school on way to office has to rely on alternative means of transport for arranging the commuting of their kids from home to school. If they keep some private cars (that run on fossil fuels or blended fossil fuels) on rent now to arrange the dropping of the kids in their school then that would again create a new emission source. Will the new working hours from 9 a.m. add to the stress levels of the employees of NSE, BSE. and would push them towards driving cars (using fossil fuels) as a stress buster or reduce the use of cars (to avoid additional stress)? Will public transport be increased during the new time to accomodate the traffic load that would be shifted in the morning due to opening of BSE, NSE from 9 a.m.

Another question that needs to be answered is if public transport in the new working hours is increased and they run on blended clean fuel then how much increase in the emissions take place? However if the entire traffic shifts to using train due to change in office timing the emissions wont increase. But if they shift towards using individual cars (using fossil fuels) in the morning hours due to change in office timing then the emissions would increase. Thus emissions could increase or decrease based on how lifestyle behaviour of employees of NSE, BSE changes due to change in office timing that finally affects the use of cars from where emissions happen (assuming that no car entirely runs on altogether clean fuel so there is some amount of emission from any car).

Hence change in the timing of broking house working hours could increase/decrease emissions based on how lifestyle behaviour pattern of the people (whose office working hours change) respond to the change in the office working hours. May be a calculation of the change in the emissions owing to change in the lifestyle behaviour of each of the working officials of NSE, BSE whose office working hours change could be a way forward research for future.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Music, Identity and Cooperation - Why do rocks bands break up?

Why do rocks bands break up? This question has always emerged in mind since I started listening to rock bands. The immediate answer that used to come and still come in mind is it that it happens due to different incentives that arrive between band members during the course of their creative journey of composing music. But could it be always explained by such a simplistic answer of different incentives of a band member. In order to answer this question one could first analyse why does a band form? Is it because of doing one form and type of music together? Is it for the sake of earning money and recognition by doing one form of music? Is it to spread a philosophy? Is it to stay happy by doing one form of music together as collective music creates greater happiness? Is it to stay happy with the created collective identity of a band?

While doing rehearsals together with other colleagues one day, it appeared to mind that may be all the above questions in some way act as an explanatory factor towards formation and sustenance of a band. But for this blog, I would only focus on the last question which is how music creates a collective identity that finally helps all band members to cooperate and create a collective identity that makes them happy to stay together. Simplistically, one could say that a band stays together as long as they are happy to stay together. Here I have a feeling even if there are monetary and other social incentives for a band member to seperate from a band, he or she doesnot move out as long as the person feels the happiness from the collective identity created by their contribution of music inputs in the band. So a band stays together because of primarily of a musical identity that generates happiness for the members of the band together. What is this musical identity? To put simplistically, lets take an example. Say, there are 4 members in a band. 2 members of the band specialise and has a liking for blues form of music, 1 member has for jazz and another member for western classical. Now a band is formed with these 4 members. How these 4 people who have different preferences could join together and keep on continuing composing music? A simple answer is that there has to be an optimal mix of each form of the music (jazz, blues, western classical) that could create a collective composition
so that each one of them could relate to their individual identities (jazz, blues, western classical) in the collective music they compose together. Game theorists working on cooperation theories could come out with an algorithm to find out the optimal set of musicians and of what class, type that could help the members to cooperate and stay together as a band.

For me, the trick to stay together and maintain the existence of the band is to cooperate in a way that could optimise the musical identities of the band members in their compositions in a structured way to generate happiness for band members. As long as that exercise is done there is a chance that personal music identities of band members wont outweigh the collective music identity of the band. Balancing of music identities of band members is an essential step to hold the band together. These are like endogenous components of a stable system. The system could become unstable (in this case the band) from outward components, forces (like social, recognition and monetary incentives of individual band members) once this collective identity of the band is not maintained. May be physicists could study a band as a stable system and could analyse how such a system behaves under different entropies like external forces of social, monetary, recognition incentives for individual band members.

What is the way to maintain the stability of this band/system? May be repeated practising of collective mixing of individual music identities in the rehearsals. Like a Pavlov's conditioned reflex experiment, once a rock band diligently practices to become selfless and disciplines themselves to practice the creation of a collective musical identity (through mixing of individual music identities - this mixing responsibility has to be taken by one member who would act like a valve in the system and would allow the right flow and mix of music identities to happen), the larger is the chance of long term persistence of the band. This might also help them to do good music together for a long time. One group of skeptics might say that creativity of a band lies in the looseness and flambuoyance that creates their identity. But I would say that there is a need for the right mix of structured experimentation of a band with an analogy to Pavlov's conditioned reflex experiment (so here repeatedly the band would practise mixing of music identities in rehearsals and one day it would happen naturally and then they wont have to push themselves for doing it) and at the same time there is a need to be loose, not too structured in the rehearsals to allow creative genius to come in the creation of composite musical identity of the band. So there are areas where being structured could help the long lasting nature of the band and there are areas where it has to be balanced with creative looseness. This would differ from band to band as the behavioural dimensions of each band members would be differing across various rock bands. May be a future study analysing the behavioural dimensions of band members from a sample of rock bands that broke out could help in analysing how far the composite music identity and collective happiness contributed in the binding of rock bands together.

So for future, the questions that geekonomists around the world might like to explore from a sample of rock bands (that broke) over a particular time frame are -

a) Why does a band form? b)Is it because of doing one form and type of music together? c)Is it for the sake of earning money and recognition by doing one form of music? d)Is it to spread a philosophy? e)Is it to stay happy by doing one form of music together as collective music creates greater happiness? f)Is it to stay happy with the created collective identity of a band?

May be answers to these questions would then help in writing a thesis titled - "Music, Identity and Cooperation".

Geek (Anando)

Friday, January 1, 2010

What is common between a mechanic and an economic modeller

Economic modelling is very much similar to the habits of Mr. Chanchar played by Aamir Khan in the movie - "3 Idiots" that released very recently. As a passionate follower of Bollywood films and music, I have always drawn my inspiration to get new ideas from Bollywood films. So one week back when I saw Aamir unbundling the parts of a machine and creating new things out of it, immediately felt that Aamir is representing many people like us who try to model out intuitions for policy relevant works which is about unbundling out indicators relevant to policy making and then coming up with intuitive explanations (although many time I fail in doing that). Like Mr. Chanchar economic modellers also fail in the process of unbundling, reconstructing new things (new intuitive explanation) from the social facts around us (like the freeze that will come out because of loose screws).

The machine parts that Aamir was unbundling and fitiing are similar to the variables, indicators that we select. So if Aamir plans to use the battery of car to make an inverter called "virus", we also try to pick up variables from in and around us as explanatory variable to explain certain outcome variables (independent). The way Aamir as a mechanic fits the components and creates a new entity, we also try to find out explanatory variables and fit them through equational relationship to explain some intuition. The beauty of the subject, exercise is increased when we try to do the job of a mechanic to explain some policy relevant intuitions. The job of the economic modeller becomes exactly like a mechanic where a modeller has to struggle with the right set of explanatory variables and the functional relationship to explain the practical realities of policy relevant problems. Like a mechanic, the modeller has to keep on trying in the search of the variables (like the chips, inputs in a machine) and then has to fit them properly to create a system (a machine) that explains a realistic policy relevant intuition. I must say, most of the time when we do policy relevant modelling we struggle to create a system that could explain this relationship. Whereas a machine well constructed by Aamir in the film "3 idiots" was always having an objective of helping the mankind and change the society, we struggle to create a system that meaningfully explains the relationships and intuitions in and around the society that are dealt by various policies. May be this uncertainty of the subject makes the job of an economic modeller more struggling, exciting and creative. So a good modeller like a good mechanic has to be a craftsperson to see the explanatory relationship between the intuitions that we as modellers test. So the classes of economic modelling should be in the lines of Mr. Chanchar who used to influence his friends to create and construct machines for the purpose of contributing to the human cause. So for us in the subject of social science (as I think economics as a subject is more close to social science than mathematics) to become a good modeller, the first job is to find out the right question. Then, to test the question we need to be in the field and learn from the field about the right set of relationship and then one can get back in the lab and fit the appropriate (or best available) set of the data, equations to see how well the relationship holds. The fun is when the model explains the relationship and as a modeller you get a pleasure that the realities are produced in the lab. The joy is almost similar to creating a life through artificial reproduction techniques of biological science in the lab. But why am I saying all these.

Because once I started working after completing post graduation from university in 2004, I actually started learning what does an economic model entail. The learning taught me that policy relevant economic modelling is all about asking interesting questions and then trying to explore all kinds of variables and relationships that can explain the answer to some extent to the questions. Such questions should be collected and asked by seeing anything around us that happens in our day to day life. Many equations that I never understood way back in 2003, 2004 became much clearer once I was able to see the effective representations of such equations in the working life. So why dont we create and have an education system post higher secondary that instigates students to ask the right question and then explore it through a relationship in their respective subjects. May be then we could have more real fun loving economic modellers in our system at the age of 23, 24 who could explain the realities of social science in a much humanly way through equations explaining the the human and real intuition and not the maths . Then all of them would say like the 2 idiots of the 3 idiots - "Baba Shyamaldas Chanchar" - Aapka modelling really great hai.

Just to put forward more discussion on the subject - Let me pose a research question and lets all discuss what could be a modelling approach to test the research question like the mechanic - Mr. Chanchar of "3 idiots".

A) What is the effect of giving an industry status to Bollywood on the social indicators (like income, societal status, family relationships, positive emotions, happiness) of middle class budding film directors (say who have atleast done graduation - remember Ramgopal Verma, Anurag Kashyap who came from a non film family and a non film background) who could now get access to the industry?

Waiting for a modelling approach like a mechanist from all lovers of the fun generating aspects of social science -

Till then

Geek (Anando)