Saturday, February 9, 2013

What Drives Our Career Choices!!!

I have a very strong proclivity towards  HR issues as it was my first professional career. My stands towards Recruitment is narrated in my blog http://saswatbarpanda.blogspot.in/2008/06/recruitmentthe-challenges.html.  Recruitment by companies whether direct or got out sourced is the demand side. But what is the supply side....of course its the candidates, the forthcoming employees, the designer of a forthcoming generation we can say. More specifically their way of choosing the career, the motif behind that, the catalyst to these motifs, the variables that nurture in their mind while making the decisions. In this regard I follow a post "The Service Patch" aptly written by David Brooks in The New York Times, Opinion Pages.
Top students at elite universities are now showered with these opportunities. Before the financial crisis, nearly half the graduates at some colleges went to work at investment banks, consultancies, hedge funds and the like.
But students are now looking at these programs more skeptically. Earlier this year, Rob Reich, a Stanford political science professor (not the former labor secretary, the other one), held a terrific online discussion on why so many elite students go into finance and consulting and whether this is a good thing.
Many recent Stanford grads ardently defended the finance path. One new investment banker wrote that he’s learning how the crude oil market works, meaning he now knows about Iran’s relationship to Russia, the cultural dynamics in Nigeria and many other things.
A Ph.D. student argued that these private sector firms do a lot more to alleviate poverty than nongovernmental organizations. Look at how global investment has reduced poverty in China.
An undergrad argued that these firms serve as great signaling devices. An altruistic nongovernmental organization is more likely to hire you if you did a stint at Goldman Sachs. You’ll be better at ending hunger later because you learned to be an analyst today.
Other students argued that the flood of talent into finance and consulting is a giant waste. Too many students slide into the finance job application process by default because it feels comfortably like applying to college. There’s a certain automatic prestige to it. It’s competitive, so it must be good.
These critics lament the brain drain into finance and consulting. The smartest people should be fighting poverty, ending disease and serving others, not themselves.
The student discussion was smart, civil and illuminating. But I was struck by the unspoken assumptions. Many of these students seem to have a blinkered view of their options. There’s crass but affluent investment banking. There’s the poor but noble nonprofit world. And then there is the world of high-tech start-ups, which magically provides money and coolness simultaneously. But there was little interest in or awareness of the ministry, the military, the academy, government service or the zillion other sectors.
Furthermore, few students showed any interest in working for a company that actually makes products. It sometimes seems that good students at schools in blue states go into service capitalism (consulting and finance) while good students in red states go into production capitalism (Procter & Gamble, John Deere, AutoZone).
The discussion also reinforced a thought I’ve had in many other contexts: that community service has become a patch for morality. Many people today have not been given vocabularies to talk about what virtue is, what character consists of, and in which way excellence lies, so they just talk about community service, figuring that if you are doing the sort of work that Bono celebrates then you must be a good person.
Let’s put it differently. Many people today find it easy to use the vocabulary of entrepreneurialism, whether they are in business or social entrepreneurs. This is a utilitarian vocabulary. How can I serve the greatest number? How can I most productively apply my talents to the problems of the world? It’s about resource allocation.
People are less good at using the vocabulary of moral evaluation, which is less about what sort of career path you choose than what sort of person you are.
In whatever field you go into, you will face greed, frustration and failure. You may find your life challenged by depression, alcoholism, infidelity, your own stupidity and self-indulgence. So how should you structure your soul to prepare for this? Simply working at Amnesty International instead of McKinsey is not necessarily going to help you with these primal character tests.
Furthermore, how do you achieve excellence? Around what ultimate purpose should your life revolve? Are you capable of heroic self-sacrifice or is life just a series of achievement hoops? These, too, are not analytic questions about what to do. They require literary distinctions and moral evaluations.
When I read the Stanford discussion thread, I saw young people with deep moral yearnings. But they tended to convert moral questions into resource allocation questions; questions about how to be into questions about what to do.
It’s worth noting that you can devote your life to community service and be a total schmuck. You can spend your life on Wall Street and be a hero. Understanding heroism and schmuckdom requires fewer Excel spreadsheets, more Dostoyevsky and the Book of Job. 
 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/25/opinion/brooks-the-service-patch.html?_r=2&

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why don’t Indian farmers grow more fruits and vegetables?

http://www.ifmr.co.in/blog/2013/01/30/why-dont-indian-farmers-grow-more-fruits-and-vegetables/#comment-787929531

 Sharing an article by by Dr. Richa Govil, Ashoka India
In India, rice and wheat comprise 70 percent of agricultural produce by area, but less than 25 percent by value. In other words, wheat and rice are low value crops to grow compared to other options. Yet, the land area dedicated to wheat and rice has not seen a significant decrease in the last decade.
Government data shows that the consumption of wheat and rice has been declining around 1-2 percent in both urban and rural India, while the demand for fruits and vegetables has been rising by 2-3 percent annually. This again begs the question: Why aren’t farmers shifting to growing more fruits and vegetables?
Furthermore, detailed studies across the country have also shown that while farmers just about break even (gross return compared to gross costs) on cultivating wheat and rice, growing fruits and vegetables is a profitable undertaking (gross returns are on average double the costs). Besides fruits and vegetables, there are also other crops that generate a higher income than wheat and rice. Having gone through these reports and data, I have been wondering why, despite all this, do farmers choose to grow mostly wheat and rice?
In other words, if Indian consumers are demanding more fruits and vegetables, and these crops are more lucrative anyway, why do Indian farmers keep growing more and more wheat and rice?
Are farmers completely unaware of the difference in returns? Or, is it that despite knowing the disadvantages they choose to grow wheat and rice?
The first possibility seems rather difficult to believe. While I am sure farmers have not created a detailed profit and loss statement for growing wheat versus okra, it is unlikely that farmers are completely ignorant. They probably do have a rough idea of probable market prices, input costs and likely profits.
So what is it about fruit and vegetables that keeps farmers from growing them?
Out of intellectual as well as professional curiosity, I have being digging deeper into this question, with the help of field visits and people working in the agricultural sector. Here are the results from my own observations and discussions with agri-sector professionals and experts.
  1. Minimum support price: Wheat and rice come with a government minimum support price, and fruits and vegetables don’t. Farmers find it reassuring to know that MSP exists and may influence open market prices and/or demand for their produce.
  2. Risk of crop failure: Pulses, fruits and vegetables are more vulnerable to adverse weather, leading to higher risk of failure. Rather than pay for crop insurance (where it is available), farmers prefer to simply avoid these crops.
  3. Care and effort required in cultivation: Wheat and rice require less care and effort to grow than vegetables. Higher care for crops means reduced availability of farmers for alternate income-generating activities, whether crafts or wage labour.
  4. Need to sell quickly due to lack of storage facilities: India has about 5400 cold storage units, the majority of which are appropriate for potatoes. So farmers don’t really have much of an option to store fruits and vegetables for later. The need to sell immediately means that they are at the mercy of current market prices, unlike grains that can be held on to for a longer time.
  5. Price volatility: Fruits and vegetables experience a much higher degree of price volatility than grains. Part of the reason for this is the high level of mismatch between demand and supply of fruits and vegetables. Another reason is the inefficiency of markets in matching supply and demand in different parts of the country. And of course, their inherent perishability and lack of cold-chain is an additional worry.
  6. Price realization due to spoilage: Lack of proper storage and transport facilities has yet another impact – spoilage of produce resulting in lower price realization due to poorer quality of produce by the time it reaches markets. For example, I saw cracked coconuts at a sorting-grading facility – damage that could easily have been avoided with proper packing (and better roads).
  7. Stored crops as financials assets: As one agri-expert put it, farmers treat grains like fixed deposits, for lack of other ways of saving/keeping money. Repeatedly, farmers told me that they store grains and sell them off as and when the need for cash arises. You simply can’t do that with fruits and vegetables! Even cold storage would extend the life of fresh produce by only so much (unless processed, of course).
  8. Dignity of transaction: Recent discussions with farmers revealed another reason for medium to large land-holding farmers not growing vegetables. Typically, vegetables are harvested and sold in smaller quantities at a time. When selling wheat, a large landholder farmer can arrive in the mandi with a truck-load full of wheat and be treated with respect. But if he arrives with a small vehicle of veggies, he will be treated just like small and marginal farmers without much respect and dignity. It is interesting to note how class dynamics plays into decisions about what to grow.
Almost all of the reasons listed above relate to risk – either production risk, logistics risk or market risk. Only two non-risk reasons can be seen in the list besides dignity of transaction: the opportunity cost of choosing crops which require greater care, and use of stored crops as financial assets. In principle, the latter can be addressed with better financial access for small holder farmers.
Typical solutions to risk management are insurance products, but typical crop insurance products cover only a limited subset of these risks. And in any case, insurance subscriptions in India have been much lower than hoped for by policy makers and non-profits alike.
So, what are the mechanisms and institutions needed to address the plethora of risks, to enable farmers to produce the crops people want to eat more of, which also happen to be the crops that give higher margins to farmers? Or, if we expand our thinking to non-food crops, we can ask: what mechanisms and institutions will help farmers shift to more lucrative crops with growing market demand?
Challenges of switching crops
Switching to a crop that has not been typically grown in the area brings in additional sets of challenges. First, it goes without saying that the soil and climate have to be conducive to cultivation of the new crop.
Second, the farmer has to learn how to grow the new crop (or new variety of the same crop). For example, I visited farmers who were growing baby corn for the first time and had let the cobs grow too much simply because they did not know when to harvest it. While the produce was still usable, a significant portion of its potential value was lost.
Third, buyers for the new crop need to either already exist at the local mandi (wholesale market), or brought to the local market, or the produce shipped to wherever the buyers are. In Bihar, I was speaking to farmers who traditionally grow cauliflower. Driving around the area in the cauliflower season, you see miles and miles of cauliflower. I asked a savvy farmer group why they grow the same crop that everyone else does and they replied that since the region is known for cauliflower, it is the cauliflower buyers who come to their local mandi. If they started growing something else, they cannot be confident of finding a buyer. Interventions in crop switching (such as organic farming) work well when a new market-facing intermediary is created to procure the produce directly, or act as a sourcing agent for other buyers.
And lastly, the financial risks of making the transition need to be absorbed or softened. For example, a few organizations working on transitioning farmers to organic farming are experimenting with providing a financial safety net during the first three years of transition and low yields before the produce can be certified as organic. These kinds of arrangements could be considered in this context as well and would help encourage farmers to switch to new kinds of crops.
 My strand in this is....
What to do with demand and supply when a farmer is repeatedly growing rice in his land as it is convenient to marketing(as he perceive) and very used to the process followed during the cultivation. Nobody comes to guide/educate him the demand of fruit, vegetables(some) in the market. From previous generations his family accustomed to the same monotonous process of cultivation. And belief me..its a strong idea that deep rooted in his mind which can and only can changed through guiding him and providing him customized service regarding what suits the soil and how they/govt helps him if he faced any trouble in any stage of the value chain. We can't generalized a conclusion looking at the status farmer(s)of Punjab and apply it across the geography. Last but not the least, the soil quality has been degraded by increasing use of pesticides year after year. so will it suits the fruit cultivation or need to prepare the soil for it? I don't have the answer. This is one the problem that the farmer(s) facing in some part.
As you point out, this is indeed a big problem. I know of a few efforts which have been successful in changing crops to some extent. But we still have a very long way to go.

Egg or the Hen??


Mon Feb 4, 2013 in Thomas Escritt in (Reuters) wrote Hundreds of soccer matches have been fixed in a global betting scam run from Singapore, police said on Monday, in a blow to the image of the world's most popular sport and a multi-billion dollar industry. I thought up for a while...its crickect fixing (gentleman's fixing) or of the soccer for which Europe is known from long.

It has been reported that about 680 suspicious matches including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and the Champions League for top European club sides, have been identified in an inquiry by European police forces, the European anti-crime agency Europol, and national prosecutors.
"This is a sad day for European football," said Rob Wainwright, director of Europol. "This is now an integrity issue for football. Those responsible for running the games should hear the warnings."
The world's most popular sport, soccer is played on every continent. The World Cup and Europe's Champions League are beamed worldwide and generate billions of dollars for national associations, clubs and broadcasters.The matches in question, some of which have already been subject to successful criminal prosecutions, were played between 2008 and 2011, the investigators said. About 380 of the suspicious matches were played in Europe, and a further 300 were identified in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Top players are household names.
Corruption linked to Asian betting syndicates and organized crime has long been seen as a threat to the game, but Monday's announcement underlines the scale of the problem.
Ralf Mutschke, Director of Security for world soccer's governing body FIFA, said sports bodies and prosecutors needed to work more closely together.

Criminal gangs are believed to be involved in match-fixing networks, using them as a way to launder cash. Last year the head of an anti-corruption watchdog estimated that $1 trillion was gambled on sport each year - or $3 billion a day - with most coming from Asia and wagered on soccer matches.

Is it  a discovery of an issue which runs since long period or they are following the path of gentlemen.....thus like what comes first, the hen or the egg???I don't know..any one have the answer?

How lynching art and culture came to be a popular sport in India today By DIPANKAR GUPTA | Feb 2, 2013, TOI

Politicians like to be on top but not in front. This position does well in dictatorships and monarchies, but botches up the act in democracies. Our ministers enjoy the privileges of office, but not the work that should go with it. Whenever decisions have to be taken they hide behind "the people", and every battle line they draw is nearly always on sand.

This attitude shows up in a number of ways, but never more grossly as in matters of culture. When Bertolt Brecht said, "Art is not a mirror held up to society but a hammer with which to shape it," he could have been thinking of democracy as well. Democracy, at its best, is much like art; it is not supposed to reflect reality as much as to change it.

Where there is good demo-cracy there is good art for there are good laws that keep people in place. This allows scholars, painters, filmmakers and authors to survive for, by definition, they think differently from the rest. But if you ride the river with them, you would sail to shores you would never have imagined.

Like art, democracy too takes society to levels unthinkable in the past. If people were always supreme then the many things we take in as part of our everyday life, would not be there. Women would not have voting rights, minorities would hide when the majorities marched in, and only the rich would be counted as full citizens. If all of this is not acceptable any longer, it is because there were leaders once who went against the people to deliver what was right and just.

Quite as Brecht had recommended for artists, these politi-cians shaped peoples' views and did not reflect them. There was not a single pregnant woman in the British Parliament when it banned the employment of expecting mothers in mines. Nor was there a demand from the streets of London or Manchester, when child labour was banned in the UK. Hitler, on the other hand, was a blot on European civilisation, for he played on peoples' passions like an orchestra.

Come to think of it, Gandhiji never asked the people if they wanted untouchability out, nor did Nehru go for a straw poll before he piloted the Hindu Marriage Act. Neither of these measures would have been possible if Gandhi and Nehru stood in the shadow of the people and feared the light. As they knew how to call a bully's bluff, they junked the mirror for Brecht's hammer, and gave us the liberties we enjoy today. Like good democrats, artists too are meant to force the pace, but they need a wise democracy to protect them.

On the other hand, if our politicians insist on reflecting peoples' views only that section of the crowd will win that can most aggressively snatch the mirror. What explains the swagger of khap leaders, Deobandis and Hindu fanatics? It is almost as if they have been promised lunch, dinner and the taxi fare home. It is because those in state power find the people alibi so easy to use, so convenient to fob off as being democratic, that they rarely use the hammer. It is the line of least resistance that does the trick; it keeps both lazy politicians and sleazy rabble-rousers happy.

This allows Jayalalithaa to blame Kamal Haasan for offending a dozen sections of Muslims and for the Congress to look the other way when M F Husain is threatened. Mamata too feels entitled to use the people to pillory intellectuals and Mayawati and Narendra Modi do just the same in their own bailiwick. If the spectre of the people can spook the law, even in broad daylight, who would dare to take it on? If only our leaders feared the people less and the law more.

But experience tells us that once we taste the new that democracy serves up, our stomachs turn at the traditional fare. If we must always have the familiar gruel, then why have a master chef in the kitchen? If it is always going to be etchings on the walls of caves why have Picasso or M F Husain? If the past is always so good, why have a future? Only when artists and democrats go against the people and their parents, they are worth that candle at the India Gate.

At his coming of age speech in Jaipur, Rahul Gandhi had a chance to break free from the past. Instead, he too took the easy route like any other hard-boiled, elderly politician might. Instead of leading from the front, he said that robust "building blocks" were already in place. Incidentally, he also mentioned listening to peoples' voice, in one form or another, perhaps 15 times in that short speech. In the Hindi bit that remained he wanted to create leaders as if they could be made in classrooms and political hothouses.

This is why we have a bunch of old people on top even though some of them look young!