Monday, April 30, 2012

News and views: Million and Billion

We all speak about million and billion. But let us look at these for a moment:

Million = 1,000,000
In other words, a million is one followed by six zeros. In India this figure would be 10 lakhs.

Now a billion is a thousand million. So, billion would be = 1,000,000,000. In India this figure would be
100 crores.

Silver, a precious metal - the annual world production of silver is around 700 million ounces. Around 300 million ounces is obtained by re-cycling. So one can take the annual world availability of silver to be around 1,000 million ounces or one billion ounces. (One ounce = one troy ounce = 31.3 grams). These figures can be checked by anyone by going to google search.

News: Now let me give you the newspaper report from The Hindu of 30.4.2012:

Sujay Mehdudia caught up with Ved Prakash , Director (Marketing), MMTC, and talked about the bullion market, import of gold, demand for the yellow metal and how the PSU plans to deal with the emerging scenario. Excerpts:
What is your estimated target for gold import this financial year as compared to the past two years?
We have planned to achieve an import target of 175 million tonnes of gold and more than 1,100 million tonnes of silver this year.


(1) The import figure of silver is given as 1,100 million tonnes. Okay let us assume the have mentioned tonnes instead of ounces.

(2) If we take it as 1,100 million ounces. The world production per year is only 1,000 million ounces.
Is MMTC trying to import all and more silver than is produced all over the world in one year?

I am not an expert in this subject. I propose sending a copy of this to MMTC for their feedback. If any among you can throw some light on this it would be welcome. Let us further our knowledge.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

An order is an order is an order

These days there are very many models in air-conditioners and at times a particular model required
by a customer may neither be available with us nor with the manufacturer.

But it might be available with another dealer. Most of the dealers are very good friends too and they
often network among themselves and source the model. The transaction would be done on a cost-to-cost
basis with the understanding that the purchaser pay for the transportation of the unit.

A few months back a dealer friend of mine wanted a particular model which was available with me
and that too within one hour! Our vehicle was about to leave to one of our customers elsewhere.
I stopped the vehicle, loaded the machine and told the driver to first deliver the machine required
by me friend.

My friend was wonder-struck. He rang me up and expressed his sentiments. I told him: An order is an order.
A request is a request and we should try to fulfill it as far as is possible.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


There is a nominal value and a real value.

Let us take the American Silver Eagle coin made of 1 ounce of silver. It has a nominal value of 1 USD.

Similarly the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf coin made of 1 ounce of silver has a nominal value of 5 Canadian Dollars.

But the real value of these coins is much more than the value marked on them. The value depends upon
the price of silver on any given date (and time!!).

The value of both these coins as on date is around 35 US Dollars (roughly).

The intrinsic value of a coin should be less than the face value. The Canadian government found that the
cost of making a one pence coin was much more than one pence. So they have stopped minting these coins.

The 5 rupee cupro-nickel coin of India had a much more value than Rs.5.    So people melt these coins and make blades and cheap jewelry out of them it is told.

The Indian Government mints 150 rupees commemorative coins. Can't they  make these coins out of
say 10 grams of silver?

Friday, April 27, 2012


We all know the Fiat car which was very famous during the sixties and seventies. Later on it came to be known as Premier Padmini. Fiat has made a re-entry in India with Punto and other models.

But recently I came to know about Fiat currency. Fiat is a latin word meaning "let it be done". Fiat currency is the money that Governments print. JUST PRINT!!  This leads to inflationary markets.

Some countries are contemplating going back to the gold standard. If and when it is done, the price of
gold will go up.

Let us convert paper money to Gold and Silver. The real money.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Americans aping India?

Yesterday I dwelt upon the difference between India and America.

But it seems Americans are aping India.

Here are the facts:-

(1) Recently there was a programme of science education through project work in the local library
in Wake county of North Carolina for children. My daughter wanted to enrol my seven year old grand-daughter and she also informed about this programme to her neighbours (who are all Indians). Of course all the children are Americans(citizens by birth). The on-line booking started at 9 am and when my daughter logged in at 9.10 a.m. the programme had got filled up! She missed the bus.

(2) My grand-daughter is interested in art and has won some prizes in state level competitions. An art programme was arranged by Crayola but they rang up and said they could not conduct the programme since my grand-daughter was the ONLY taker!! Children are not interested in Art. (Nor do parents goad them).

(3) My two year old grandson was enrolled in an exercise and sports programme running to six classes along with eight other children. After two classes only two children are attending!!

I am not generalising. Only putting down in writing, what I observed! Mind you, Americans get scores and scores of medals in the Olympics.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

India, UK and USA

In 1959, I was in Durgapur.

The Durgapur steel project was built with the aid of many UK companies.

Somebody said that he wished he could visit UK. An elderly gentleman said: What is there in UK?
You have trees here, so also in UK you have trees. You have men and women here, so also there and went on in this fashion. Let that be.

I am in America for the past three months.

There are trees here. Men and women live here.......

Then, what is the difference?

Space and population. America is much bigger than India. There are lesser number of people living here.
Water, electricity and such amenities are no problem at all. The law is above anything else in America.
They are disciplined and time conscious. And that makes all the difference.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I visited the Cedar Fork Elementary School in Morrisville, North Carolina
where the students had put up a science fair. My grand-daughter Gayathri Achar in Garde I, experimented on water and ice. Here is the project:

Water and Ice
By Gayathri Achar

Can water expand when frozen?
I don’t think water can expand. I think ice will occupy the same space as water before it was frozen. 
Materials needed
Water, bowl
1)      Fill a small bowl with water upto the brim.
2)      Keep the bowl inside the freezer.
3)      Wait for 6- 8 hours for the water to turn into ice.
4)      Take the bowl out from the freezer.
5)      Note the changes.
1)      Water turned into ice. A state change has occurred from liquid to solid.
2)      It has expanded or grown from the amount that we took in the beginning of the experiment.
3)      The ice can be seen above the brim of the bowl even though no water was added 

Ice took up more space than water. My hypothesis was wrong. 

Ice is less dense than water.  This is a very special property of water.
Most substances like to scrunch closer and closer when it is colder
 but water likes to spread out like acrobats or expand when it is cold
 or when it turns to ice.
The "stuff"  in water is more tightly packed than in ice, so
water has greater density than ice. When something takes up more
space for the same amount it is said to be less dense. Ice is lighter than
 water. Even though it is the same amount of water, water will take up
 more space when it turns into ice.

Mass = the amount of "stuff"
Density = how tightly packed the "stuff" is
                   It is the mass(amount of stuff) per unit volume(amount of space).
Volume = the area of space the "stuff" takes up

Monday, April 23, 2012

I want the break-up...

This is an old story. But the moral does not change.

A repair-man was called to repair the typewriter.

He opened the typewriter, looked attentively for a few minutes, took his screwdriver
and tightened a screw. And gave a bill for Rs.100.

The customer said that the bill was exorbitant and asked for a break-up of the bill.

The repair-man said:

Charges for tightening the screw: Rs. 5
To know which screw to tighten: Rs. 95

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A miss is as good as a mile

I know that a miss is as good as a mile.

And I understood first hand what it means recently.

I bought two tickets for the recent mega millions lottery.

I won. But narrowly missed the jackpot.

One of my tickets won me a prize of 2 (Two) dollars!

But I won!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How we observe things

Have you ever wondered about the power of observation?

Some people have a very good memory and a keen sense of observation. The kind of people who
could write a story, a poem or paint a picture after walking down for some time in some place or the other.

One thing you would have noticed. Suppose you decided to buy a new TV. From that moment onwards
you will see TV advertisements all over the place. While watching TV, reading the newspaper or any magazine, while travelling on the road and so on. You see, these things were always there, only you have got fixed to it now.

Recently I revived my interest in numismatics.  A few months back I bought a newspaper and the guy gave me back in change a 2 rupee Asian Games commemorative coin.  I spotted it at a glance and then showed it to him. He gave me that coin as 2 rupees, but he said that he has never seen such a coin!!

Just check out what I have said!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Go Physical in silver this Akshaya Tritiya

This year Akshaya tritiya falls on 24th of this month.

It is considered a very auspicious day to buy gold, jewelry and the like.

Buying jewelry does not address itself from an investment perspective. Becuase it cannot
be encashed at any point of time. At best you could pawn it.

Why not kill two birds in one shot?

Buy silver in bars!


(1) Traditionally the gold price to silver price ratio is around 16:1. Today it is around 50:1
So silver price should go up within the next one year.

(2) Gold sells for around 1650 dollars an ounce whereas silver can be got at 32 dollars an ounce.
(ounce=31.1 grams). For about just 30,000 rupees you could purchase a 1/2 kg. bar of silver today.

(3) Silver has many uses in the industrial arena like electronics, photography, cell phones, computers, pc boards, medicine (it is even used in certain band-aids) and so apart from being a precious metal, it is also a consumable item.

(4) China which was an exporter of silver is now an importer of the metal. Chinese government is encouraging its citizens to invest in gold and silver coins. US has a silver bullion coin for sale to its citizens. So has China, Australia, Mexico and Austria. But not India. We are crazy in buying silver vessels and silver jewelry.

(5) Let us say you have a lakh of rupees worth of silver vessels and on a rainy day you want to encash it. It would be difficult. Whereas if you had the same in bars/bullion it would be much easier.

(6) Silver which is ruling around Rs. 60,000 a kg. is tipped to go up to around 1,00,000 by the year end, according to Mumbai bullion merchants. Let it go up to 80,000 or even 70,000. Still there is a good return. And there is no downside risk. Silver can never go down to 50,000 by year end!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Story of Nightingale and Glowworm

It is a story. And it is a poem. It is a story-poem.

The Nightingale and Glowworm was written by William Cowper.

A nightingale, that all day long
Had cheer'd the village with his song,
Nor yet at eve his not suspended,
Nor yet when eventide was ended......

We used to have a book of story poems in our house and I still remember
the day my father read out this poem to me.

A story with a moral written in poetic form.

To read the whole poem and enjoy please contact Mr. Google.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Needs and wants.

Let me put it this way.

I am thirsty.

I may want to drink a bottle of lemon juice but I definitely need to drink a glass of water.

Needs are things essential for our very living! Like food, clothing and shelter.

But in this age we have to add transportation to our needs. I may want a car to travel to
my office 20 Kms away, but I definitely need a good public transportation system!!

Some years back people wanted an air-conditioner for their comfort. Thanks to urbanisation, loss of greenery, power-cuts and higher disposable incomes - it is slowly crawling towards a need.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blue Mountain

As a young boy I used to often go to Coimbatore. By Nilgiris express. By Blue Mountain express.
And suddenly it dawned to me one day that Neel= Blue and Giri= Mountain. Nilgiris and Blue Mountain were one and the same. There was only one train referred sometimes as Nilgiris express and at other times as Blue Mountain express.

After passing my S.S.L.C. exam in 1966, I joined Vivekananda College and studied there for four years. I used to cycle to college and I will pass by the large vacant ground with a board: This place belongs to Nilgiris 1905.

Much later the Nilgiris super market was opened in this place. Here you could get authentic Madurai Malli (Jasmine flowers from Madurai) around 4 p.m. in the evening. Who has not heard of the Nilgiris cake shows?

Alas! A business which was started in 1905 and was successfully run by the family members for more than a century was sold to a private equity investor a few years back.

I came to know of it when a prospect rang me up and asked for 55 air-conditioners. He asked me to meet him in Nilgiris and explained that he had bought the place.

It seems that the younger generation of the family were not interested in continuing the business and the elders were not comfortable in appointing professionals and running the show.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I am also a student.

During the years 1967-70, I was a student of Vivekananda College (now known as Ramakrishna
Mission Vivekananda College). I studied B.Sc. with Botany as major. Prof. G. Venkataraman was our Professor and he was also the Principal of the college.

Dr. S. Venugopalan was one of our teachers and he had done his doctorate from USA. Under his guidance, the department was upgraded and M.Sc. course introduced in the late seventies. Later M.Phil and Ph.D. too.

He also taught us Religion for one hour in a week. The first period every Monday. I am not sure if this practice still continues.

Dr. Venugopalan used to say: "You are a student. I am also a student. An elderly student".

This has made us to learn something new every day in our lives.

Prof. V.V.Subramanian was one year senior to me in the department and later taught in the very same college and was also the Principal for a few years.

A few months back there was a call from my college and they wanted a deep-freezer for the canteen. I took the opportunity to visit my alma-mater and spend some time there. And I got to supply the freezer.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

24 Karat Silver!!!

I see in many Indian websites (including banks) silver bars being claimed as 24 Karat pure.

Probably they mention it as such because people in India know so much about gold and that
24 Karat gold is pure gold and that ornaments are made of 22 K gold. 22 K gold is 91.67% pure.

But the purity of silver is not measured in Karat (or carat); it is measured in percentage.

(1) Ultra Fine Silver: This is 99.99% Silver. Denoted as 999.9. Need an example? The beautiful Canadian Silver Maple Coin.

(2) Fine Silver: This is 99.9% Silver. Denoted as 99.9. Example? The American Silver Eagle coin. It is 99.93% Silver and 0.07% copper.

(3) Sterling Silver: This is 92.5% Silver. Denoted as 925. In Sterling silver, 92.5% of the object
by weight is silver and 7.5% will be another alloy, usually copper. Usually, jewelry and silverware
are sterling silver.

(4) Coin Silver is 90.0% Silver. Denoted as 900. Coins minted in the US like quarters, dimes and half dollars minted before 1965 had 90% silver content.

I have only one question: We buy a lot of silver vessels in India. Are they 925 Silver and if so are we charged as such or or we given 925 (or less) Silver content and charged for 99.9%?
I don't know.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Tale of Two Countries

I was just comparing the price of 99.9% pure silver between United States and India
and this is what I found:

HDFC Bank is selling silver grams of 50 grams of 99.9% purity:

The price as of today is Rs.4,270 per piece of 50 grams (Swiss make)

US Silver Eagle (99.9%) coin price: 35 dollars
1 dollar = Rs.51
So the price for 31.1 grams of silver is 35 x 51= Rs.1785
per gram: 57.60
for 50 grams: Rs.2880

Inference: In India 50 grams silver bar is costlier by Rs.1,390 ( 4270-2880)

OR, instead of buying 50 grams in India, we can buy 74 grams in USA!! 1390/57.6=24

Any of your comments?

Friday, April 13, 2012

What's ailing APPLE?

The world is happy that the apple fell. Yes, the apple fell on Newton's head and we came to know about gravity.

But today the world wants Apple to go up. The Apple share -will it go up? Yes but there is no news about the new product I-Phone 5 yet! That's ailing Apple! At this rate we have to start betting on what models we will have in another 3 years.

When I am talking to my girl-friend on the I-phone - and at the same time another girl-friend were to call me - will my phone talk to her on its own without disturbing me or her?

May be, may be.

But I prefer to go with THE APPLE OF MY EYE!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Why this use and throw kolaveri?

I live in the new age. But I am an old-timer.

Or am I? No. But the world is making me look like an old-timer.

When the world was not yet a global village, we had the mantra: Be Indian, Buy Indian.

We had the Ambassador and Fiat cars. And those who purchased one could use it for years
and years. It gave employment to lot of mechanics. Spare parts were easily available. All that
is gone. You know better.

We used to have the black ITI dial phones. They lasted for years and years. We were happy with
them. Very happy. Now you have cell phones - smart phones. Crazy phones? You know better.

We had the window air-conditioners. Voltas, Blue Star, Accaire. They lasted for years and years.
They were maintained regularly by mechanics, were repaired. They would be brought to the
workshop and tinkering and metal fabrication work done, compressors repaired, spray painted and so on. Now the Chinese are dumping flimsy stuff (good but not long lasting). They change
the electronic designs in them so often and neither you will get the spares nor can you successfully repair them.

For the sake of two lost buttons, will you buy a new shirt?

Should "Reduce, recycle and reuse" remain a mantra? Can't we follow it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An apology for a stabilizer

The electricity department is supposed to give us 230 volts supply. I love that "supposed to".
Because they often give us only 180 volts or sometimes even 170, 160, 250 and so on.

So the engineers designed the stabilizer which will automatically boost or buck the incoming
voltage and give a stabilized output.

That's nice but we want a lot of freebies with what we buy. So the sellers started giving away
FREE stabilizers with the products.

And slowly the stabilizers they started giving were an apology for a stabilizer. They hardly
boost 10 volts. This will harm the equipments.

Depending on how good or bad the voltage is in a particular area, the customer should choose
between a single-boost and double-boost stabilizer with an ISI mark and pay for it.

I do not wish to go into the details of single and double boost, etc. Any engineer will explain the details to you. Just ask.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Worked in Conran Smith and failed in Smith ??

Our business Prabal Electricals was in Conran Smith Road and the tools division of Addison and
Company Limited was in Smith Road. Addison and Company has now shifted to Sriperumbudur
and in that place a Childrens' Hospital is being planned to be built by the Amalgamations Group.

The wonderful engineer V.N. Venkateswara Rao (VNVR) was in charge of the maintenance department in Addisons. A workaholic, he used to cycle down to his office by 6.30 a.m. Yes,
6.30 a.m., because the first shift would start at 7 a.m.

He was a very kind person with never a harsh word.

Once there was a minor problem in the motor which we gave back after repairs. It was immediately set right on the spot by our technician who went there within an hour.
The distance between our company and Addisons was less than 2 Kms.

He asked me whether the motor was tested before it was brought to his company. And I said: Yes, we did, Sir. This is how he expressed his displeasure smilingly: How come, Mr. Bhargav, that this motor worked in Conran Smith Road and failed in Smith Road?

Need I say more?? Hats off to you, Sir.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Try and try till you succeed

There is a Tamil proverb which says: If you keep hitting it, even the ammi will move. (Ammi is a large grind stone usually not moved from its position).

In the early seventies we were one of the leading repairers of electric motors and were
catering to industries in and around Chennai.

My friend Ranga (Ramasubbu Ranganathan) joined us and he was assigned the task
of adding one major client over a particular time frame and the company was ECC,
a L&T group company.

The company was less than 2 Kms from our workshop and Ranga used to cycle down to
their office once or twice a week. After about a dozen visits nothing much happened. The Purchase Officer in-charge used to say "No, nothing has come up yet". Sometimes he would
say "Well, there came a motor yesterday and we gave it away since you didn't come" or something very much like that.

So our company Chairman Mr. P. Prabhkar told him: "Look, Ranga. Make it a habit to leave office exactly by 10 AM everyday without fail, If you have any urgent work, delegate it to Bhargav or somebody else. Meet Mr. Tully every day and just ask him if you could be of help to him. Spend a minute or two and come back."

Ranga did just that and we got our first motor after about ten visits. And after that with our timely service and good work we used to get regularly work from them. The daily visits turned to weekly and fortnightly visits.

We youngsters were thrilled. Our Chairman had taught us the mantra: Try and try and you will succeed.

Nothing succeeds like success!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Dressed to kill

Dressed to kill means wearing clothes that are intended to make people notice you.

In these days for service people like air-conditioner technicians, sales guys in the supermarket
and the like, it is very important to have a uniform that makes them distinguishable.

They should also carry their ID cards for easy reference.

Things are catching up and we see many companies following this wonderful practice.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Warranty and Guarantee

Warranty and guarantee are used as if they mean one and the same. But actually it is not so.
There is a difference.

When you buy an air-conditioner the manufacturer offers you one year guarantee and an
additional four year warranty on the compressor.

What does this mean?

(1) If at all anything goes wrong, say defective compressor or spares, defective remote or
refrigerant leak or fan motor burnt or whatever..... The company will replace and/or repair
free of charges to you.

(2) If after one year and within the four year warranty period, if the compressor fails, the company will give the compressor alone (free of cost, subject to certain terms and conditions)
free of cost, but the handling, gas charging, replacement of any defective parts, etc will be
to your account. (If you have entered into AMC with the manufacturer or authorised franchisee, then of course nothing is payable by you.)

I hope you have a broad overview of guarantee and warranty.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Lion and the Rat - same old story

Singamum eliyum - yes, the Lion and the Rat.

You know the story. A fierce lion was having a nap. A rat ran over the lion's paw and
seemed to disturb its sleep. The lion woke up and gave a threatening roar. The rat said "Enna vuttudoo". "Leave me alone", after-all I am so small. But I promise to help you one day.

It so happened that the very same lion got caught in a net laid as a trap. It so happened that
the very same rat came by, bit the net in a hundred different places and set the lion free.

Moral? Any big job can be done by patient hard work.

I have heard my father narrating this story to his grandchildren hundreds of times.

But the beauty is that every time he will narrate in different ways and it would seem to be a new story.

Why don't you try to narrate this story in your own words? You may mail me your version to One day I will post those that I receive.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Silver is poor man's gold.

Silver is poor man's gold. Yes, it is.

Gold is trading around 163o dollars an ounce and silver around 31.75 dollars an ounce.
(ounce=troy ounce=31.1 grams).

Last year silver peaked at around 48 dollars an ounce and since then has come down
due to various market forces.

But it cannot be kept at "artificial" low prices for long.

A quarter kilo of silver should cost little less than Rs.13,500 in India. Some banks (Karur Vysya Bank) are also into selling sterling silver, assayed.

It is high time that we think of having some of our investments in the form of silver.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Voltas, a Tata group company, started manufacturing air-conditioners in India in the year 1954.

Despite stiff competition from brands like LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Hitachi, Daikin, Blue-Star, Carrier and Ondia, Voltas is the number one brand.

SOUTH-2 (TN & Kerala)F11F12 YTDJan-12Feb-12F11F12 YTDJan-12Feb-12F11F12 YTDJan-12Feb-12

Voltas AC - No. 1 Brand in the entire Region & both in TN & Kerala
(as per ORG GFK - Feb 12 report).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


AMC stands for Annual Maintenance Contract. These are contracts for one year period
towards service and maintenance of the equipment/s. The contract amounts are usually
collected in advance.

It is to be noted that the equipment covered by the contract may fail anytime during
the one year period and the service provider must have adequate money to buy the
parts required.

What I used to do in my line of business was to convert such income into finished
goods. The money in the bank is not going to accumulate any interest. So why not
have it in the form of finished goods. This will also facilitate getting cash discounts
from the supplier.

Occasionally I used to offer air-conditioners on three to five months interest free
instalments to known customers. This way the sale would also increase and the same
time there will be regular cash inflows to the company.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April fool

I've heard this while in school:

April Fool
Go to school
Tell your teacher, big fat fool.

But this April first, it seems somebody who bought some mega millions lottery
ticket in an office pool, is telling them that she won in a ticket which she bought
outside of the pool account.

Winning in a lottery is almost luck to the square of infinity!

But one ticket wins - and who knows, it could be yours.

If you are also buying some tickets outside of a pool account, which you sure can, please inform them before hand!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Collecting - expensive vs inexpensive

You may be knowing or you might have read or you might have come across people with
collectables. These are generally expensive items like designer watches, antiques, motor-cycles,
cars, pens, works of art and so on. To indulge in such activities one must have deep pockets.

Perhaps the most inexpensive collectables which can be developed into hobbies for people
irrespective of their age are stamp collecting and coin collecting.

Once the courier services were approved for inland mail, stamps have lost their charm. These
are no longer available as they are not in common use.

Collecting circulating coins is the most inexpensive hobby!

As a beginning, circulating coins can be collected. Have you ever noticed an odd looking coin
coming into your hands?

A two rupees plus coin (there may be very few of these in circulation a few years down the line),
a two rupees Asian Games coin, a five rupees Anna, Alphonso or C. Subramanian coin...

Any one (or many more) of these coins are likely to come into your hands if you are in Tamil Nadu.

The internet will give you a lot of information on coins.

Why don't you start looking into those coins in your pocket and in those odd places in your home?