September 07, 2016

Internet use depends on connectivity speed as much as on price tariffs

Internet use depends on connectivity speed as much as on price tariffs. A recent global 'state of the internet' report indicates India's performance is dismal.

In FC last week:

September 06, 2016

#ThisDayThatYear circa 2009-Sept-6

September 06, 2009

life in general: oh gujarat!

The tragedy that has engulfed the state of Gujarat in India since March 2002 is of unprecedented proportions. 

Here is Harsh Mander in Hindustan Times a few days back:

Closure, yet so far

Of the many failures that characterise the polity and society in contemporary Gujarat, probably the most dangerous is the unprecedented extent of the arrest and collapse of processes of authentic reconciliation, because of which wounds refuse to heal. People of diverse faiths live side by side or in segregated ghettoes but in an uneasy, warped, brittle truce, without the restoration of genuine trust and normal social and economic intercourse.

The State remains openly hostile to a segment of citizens only because they belong to a different faith from the majority, reflected in raucous and openly prejudiced sectarian taunts in speeches of senior elected public leaders. They cast aspersions on the patriotism of Muslim citizens, parody their supposedly pervasive practices of polygamy and breeding large families, decry the alleged slaughter of the cow despite deep reverence towards her by Hindus, and claim their wide sympathies with terrorist violence.

Muslim ghettoes are routinely discriminated in public services, Muslim youth are picked up almost randomly on charges of terrorism and their deaths in ‘encounters’ or extra-judicial killings are explained away by State authorities with rarely even the façade of any credible evidence of their terrorist links and the circumstances in which it became necessary for the latter to take their lives without the due process of law. Their Muslim identity is accepted as reason enough to believe that they must have been terrorists, and terrorists do not deserve the protection of law.

There are few organised social and political spaces — official or non-official — in Gujarat today, for fostering forgiveness and compassion. There is instead a frightening communal chasm, accepted or actively fostered by the powerful political, administrative, business and media establishments. This engineered divide is growing exponentially between people of different religious persuasions. An ominous subtext characterises re-engineered social relations: new realities of settled hate, settled fear and settled despair in all villages and urban settlements that were torn apart by the gruesome mass violence of 2002. Gujarat continues to be a society bitterly, and some now grimly fear, permanently divided.

After the communal bloodbath that accompanied the vivisection of the country as it seized its independence, leaving a million people dead, there have been thousands of riots, or episodes of mass clashes between people of Hindu and Muslim faith, and pogroms, resulting in the loss, according to one painstaking estimate, of at least 256,28 lives (including 1,005 in police firings). It is remarkable that despite this recurring communal bloodletting during and after the traumatic partition of the country, there has been no systematic structured official (or even significant non-official) processes of ‘truth and reconciliation’, to help perpetrators and survivors of hate violence come together; to see and speak to each other; acknowledge their crimes and failings, their hate and fear, their grievances and suspicions; to seek and offer forgiveness, trust and goodwill; and ultimately help bring closure and eventual healing.

Given the enormity of contemporary threats posed by a deliberately fostered communal divide and violence to the very survival of secular democracy in India, fuelled further by the manufactured global ‘war on terror’, it is imperative today more than ever that systematic, sustained processes of reconciliation and justice in communal relations between sporadically embattled people of diverse faiths and ethnicities in India are established.

The Indian people have arguably had more experience than most through millennia of living with diversity. Therefore, even without organised processes of reconciliation, there are usually natural spontaneous processes of reaching out and healing that follow bouts of sectarian violence. There may be debates about whether without structured modes of facilitating reconciliation for survivors of the cataclysmic Partition violence of 1947, there has been adequate closure for families that experienced the agony and permanent uprootment from and the irreparable loss of their loved ones and homeland.

My own parents and their extended families lost their homes amidst hate, slaughter and arson in a region of the country that became a part of Pakistan in 1947, and their grief of loss remains dormant more than 60 years later, just below the surface. Perhaps we needed much earlier to bring together people who lived with the violence from both sides of the border, to share truth, discover their common burdens of suffering and privation, and thereby find the spaces for individual and collective forgiveness.

In other communal conflagrations that I have witnessed and handled in small district towns as a district administrator, I have observed that within days of such mass sectarian upheavals, persons of goodwill and compassion reach out from each community and others grasp their outstretched hands gratefully. There are spontaneous individual and collective expressions of remorse and grief at the loss suffered by the other community, and of compassion, through which processes of social and personal healing set in.

By contrast, the defining feature of Gujarat after the 2002 massacre is its frozen compassion. It is the determined absence of remorse both by the State and among many segments of the people, the conspicuous absence of social and political processes of reconciliation, and a resultant persisting bitterly unreconciled divide and distrust between the estranged communities. It is not surprising, therefore, more than seven years later, that what is most scarce in the parched earth of allegedly vibrant Gujarat is reconciliation and empathy.

Excerpted from Fear and Forgiveness: The Aftermath of Massacre (Penguin)

Harsh Mander is Convenor, Aman Biradari. The views expressed by the author are personal.

Personal finance Apps for Indian investors - far and few

A feature story I wrote in FC a couple of days back -

Personal finance Apps for Indian investors - far and few

Money management or personal finance management is not just about
investing. There are other critical elements involved as well. It includes
the management of your money outflows through spending. It also covers the inculcation of a habit of monitoring of your total financial networth on a
regular basis.

If not monthly, you should monitor you financial networth on a quarterly or
yearly basis at the least. This should be a comprehensive monitoring
encompassing two main elements – one, a categorywise break-down into
investments, cash-on-hand, bank savings and deposit account positions; and two, an asset-class distribution of your savings and investments.

There is no dearth of web portals and mobile phone apps offering you
advanced features to help you invest across asset classes such as equities,
debt and gold and platforms such as stock exchange trading and mutual funds. These portals and apps not only give you the ability but also spare no
effort in providing every bell and whistle in their offerings.

No after-sales service for investors

But there is a short supply of advanced portals and apps offering
post-investment money management or advisory tools. A vast majority of
brokerages, including the large ones who are otherwise technologically
advanced, do not help much in this vital sphere, and neither do the large
banks. Their current features in post-investment personal wealth management apps are very raw, and do not go beyond the raw basics.

But in the last one year a beginning has been made ith a handful of firms
(brokerages, firms and information technology startups) beginning to offer
mobile apps  and web-based apps which allow users who download them to keep
an eye on a large gamut of their personal finance lives.

According to Rahul Jain, executive vice president-personal wealth advisory
at Edelweiss Broking, "A lot of our personal wealth advisory clients were
coming back to us and telling us that while they were getting a lot of
advise on where to invest no one was telling how their investments were
doing and no one was providing them advise on risks seen from an entire
personal finance perspective." Jain said he and his firm realised that they
had to couple their existing advisory tools with with an expense-management
tool or a money manager application to make their advisory service more powerful.

Concurs Amar Choudhary, CEO and co-founder, Finaskus, a firm providing
automated financial planning and investing service for retail services.
"Investors are increasingly seeking awareness of not just the returns they are getting from their investment and but also how their investments are doing in different cuts," says Choudhary.

What the Apps do?

Financial Chronicle Research Bureau takes a look at the features being offered by a few of the new breed of technology-savvy firms which have taken the lead in post-investment and personal finance management arean. So
far, these money manager Apps are smartphone based applications available for download for phones running on Android, Apple and Windows platforms. Web-based apps or portals are still not easy to find.

Walnut and Money View are two personal finance management mobile Apps which were launched last year with basic features which have got upgraded with some new features over the last one year. A couple of months back Edelweiss Broking went live with a free money manager App called WealthPack which works like an automatic money manager.

These are Apps developed by Indian companies incorporating the terminology and language used in the communication sent by financial or other companies in the domestic financial ecosystem. There are far more similar Apps globally targeting users of other countries. It is, therefore, important to
differentiate between domestic and international Apps.

Moreover, so far, these Apps are free. It is possible that they will become
chargeable in the future and to download them you may have to pay anywhere
upto Rs 300 or more, depending on the scale of the features offered and the
technology used.

The first and the foremost thing all these Apps do is scan through the text
messages (SMS) on your smartphone. The Apps' software then identifies the
SMSes which have come from your bank, brokerage firm, utility company,
credit card issuer, digital wallets (such as Paytm, MobiKwik), radio taxi
companies (such as Meru, Easy Cabs and Uber) and similar other entities.

After this, the features depends on the Apps' own programming strengths
kick based on the algorithms built into the software code of the App. The
Money View App, for instance, says it tracks your bank SMSes and tells you
where and how you spend your money. "With the daily expense manager, you
can analyse your spends using graphs and charts," it says.

The Edelweiss App has algorithms written to cover 50-odd banks and credit
cards. Apart from these, it covers billers such as Airtel, Vodafone, MTNL,
Credit Card Billers, MTS and others.

The Money View App says it also keeps track of your taxi, movie and train bookings, which the other two Apps would also end up doing as a part of their total offering.

According to Edelweiss' Jain, his firm's App aims to integrate their investments with expenses, and work out an advisory around it. "The spending pattern among many young people is that if they make, say, Rs 1.00
lakh they spend Rs 1.10 lakh," says Jain.

Picking up from the text messages in your smartphone, the basic framework
in these Apps allows you to see an overview of your expenses, investment,
inflows and account balances. Depending on each App's algorithms, the transactions are categorised automatically. That which can not be categorised are simply called 'uncategorised' which you can then edit and specify the category you want the transaction to go into.

"In our App, you can manually add your cash spends as well. You can even
change the categorisations if you think the App's algo has wrongly categorised it," says Jain.

The analytics abilities of any App can vary and watch out for these because
this is what caters to your primary purpose of understanding your personal
finances by going beyond a simple investments overview.

What you should demand from a money manager App?

A simple feature such as historical month-end values of bank accounts, and
monthly inflows and outflows is of great value for you if you want to
understand where your money is coming from and where it is going.

It is imperative that the App you choose should offer you charts or tables
which show a historical trend of your expenses, inflows and ATM
withdrawals. Some of the Apps available today are already offering
monthwise charts for a period extending upto six months. But a longer
period analytics is preferable and keep a lookout for an App that digs
deeper into the past and shows you the trend visually in charts.

Ability to export statements is also a must for any useful App. "We are
also going to soon add budgeting and goals in our App. You can tell the App
that you would not like to spend more than Rs 20,000 a month on restaurant
bills or you tell it that you a budget of Rs 1 lakh in a month," says Jain.
The App will send you alerts when your limits come close to being breached.

There are, however, severe limitations in what the Apps dependant on your
smartphone's text messages can do. It can not integrate your investment
holdings in your demat account for the simple reason that a vast majority
of depository participants do not send SMSes on the holdings value at the
end of a month or even a quarter. All you have is the trading portal from
where you can get this by logging in. There is no automatic seamless
integration so far.

Finaskus' Choudhary takes the expectation further and says, "It is nice for an investor to see how he has created total wealth over the last few months or years. But how about breaking down the trend by asset class?" Even within an asset class, it helps an investor to know how his direct equity investments are faring and how his mutual fund investments are faring

Analytics algorithms will be the new game changer for investors in their
personal finance management. Companies and banks in the domestic financial system are already spending significantly on analytics but with the sole objective for using it for marketing and pushing financial products.

Customer service for investors gets imparted secondary importance. But new tech startups which have made a lead through the money manager Apps such as Money View and Walnut are likely to expand their features and try and capture the missing elements.

In the payments world, the changes are more rapid. The banking regulator,
Reserve Bank of India, recently upgraded the payments ecosystem by going live with its unified payments interface (UPI) App which makes your
smartphone do things on funds transfer and other payments, which existing
digital wallet providers like Paytm are already offering in various forms.

Towards the end of last year, the Citi banking group convened developers
from India around the globe to unveil innovative digital banking solutions.
As per a press release issued by Citi in November last year, in India it
received a record high number of registrations for solutions ranging acrossbevery area of banking and financial technology including mobile payments, investment banking, wealth management, financial inclusion, savings and personal financial management.