Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Business April 3rd, 2013: The BARATUNDE THURSTON Edition WITH BARATUNDE THURSTON



WHY AREN’T YOU LINED UP OUTSIDE THE DARK ROOM ALREADY?!?

The Business is never a show to miss, but this week… THIS WEEK.  

We are welcoming two splendid guests: Frank Chu and Boutros-Boutros Ghali.

BARATUNDE THURSTON. 

Baratunde Thurston is a politically-active, technology-loving comedian from the future. He co-founded the black political blog, Jack and Jill Politics and served as Director of Digital for The Onion before launching the comedy/technology startup Cultivated Wit. Then-candidate Barack Obama called him "someone I need to know." Baratunde travels the world speaking and advising and performs standup regularly in NYC. He resides in Brooklyn, lives on Twitter and has over 30 years experience being black. He writes the monthly backpage column for Fast Company, and his first book, How To Be Black, is a New York Times best-seller.

And the wonderful Wonder Dave

Wonder Dave is a writer and performer from Minneapolis MN. not to be confused with Super Dave, who isn't the slightest bit wonderful.  In 2010 Dave, as part of the Minneapolis Slam Team, appeared on the Group Piece Finals stage at the National Poetry Slam. Dave’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in the Legendary, Orange Room Review, Breadcrumb Scabs, Pedestal, Shit Creek Review and Assaracus Magazine. 

All of your regulars will be there, it’s going to be like our new poster IN REAL LIFE!

The Business sells out.  Get there early for a seat.  

BYOBurrito. With black beans, or you're racist. 





Friday, 29 March 2013

Bye Bye Nipper



To my generation, Nipper is an old treasured friend. Nipper is the dog you see on that immortal brand logo of His Master's Voice, better known as HMV. Most of us , in the good old days, owned a HMV Radio and certainly bought a few HMV records - or at least one or two, for the money would stretch only so much those days. In India, until Television really came to the country along with the Asian Games of 1982, HMV radio was the prime entertainment medium of the land. HMV has now gone into receivership and , I'm afraid Nipper will now be consigned to a dusty shelf in some museum.



Nipper, was Mark Barraud's dog and lived in the late 1800s in Bristol in England. On his death, a sorrowful Barnard painted the famous picture of Nipper listening to a gramophone with a puzzled expression and sold it to the Gramophone company. A marketing genius there called William Owen made it the logo of the business and thus was the immortal His Master's Voice born.

The Gramophone Company started sometime in 1902 manufacturing and selling LP records. In 1921 they started their first musical store, in London's iconic Oxford Street. In the 1930s they started making radios and the later televisions as the music and entertainment industry took off. They opened a number of music stores all across the UK. While their music stores were chiefly in the UK, their radios found their way all across the world, or at least in the British Commonwealth. The picture of a family huddled next to the HMV Radio  and amidst the crackle and the hiss, coming those famous words This is London and then the Lillibulero, was the classic picture in many parts of the world a  while ago.

Many of us, from a certain generation , who have had the opportunity to travel to the UK, will fondly remember browsing through the HMV store on Oxford Street. Maybe not to buy, but wandering around the store was one of the pleasures of life.  The last time I went there was 4 months ago, ducking into the store on a cold and rainy evening.

As music, increasingly became digital, and online, HMV was bound to fail. Its time in sun was over. Who buys records anymore ? And even if we did, who buys from a music store - we order it on line. Or more likely, we listen to our choices online for free and never buy anything. HMV struggled for many years and at last early this year went into receivership. His Master's Voice had been stilled. I fancy Nipper stirred in his grave.

Well, all we can do is shed a tear for Nipper. And ruminate that not too distant in the future, a blogger might write a post wistfully remembering the days of Napster or that the great musicians of the age had their own site on MySpace !

As I conclude this post, I marvel at the crappy post on nostalgia I wrote not so long ago. I must have been punch drunk when I wrote that !!

Farewell good friend Nipper.  Yelp Yelp !
When my fiancĂ© first left for his MBA project in China, I was like:

but I realized my friends are all still in town, and now we're like:

[Re-] establishing the relevance of legacy news organizations

Legacy news organizations (newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters) are confronting three critical relevance challenges as the digital world matures: Changing business configurations and characteristics, declining value of traditional news and informational content, and unhealthy attitudes toward audiences. These challenges will need significant attention if they are to be successful in the new information environment. 

During the twentieth century news products were widely used, fast-moving consumer goods. Because media operated in relatively inefficient markets, news organizations were cash-producing investments with high cash flows that yielded high profits. Newspapers had asset-heavy balance sheets and excellent equity positions.
The business drivers of the legacy news industry in the latter half of the twentieth century were growing consumption in absolute audience sizes (but declining penetration that most executives ignored). Companies changed high prices for advertising and set low prices (or no price) for consumers. They had the ability to self-finance operations and growth, carried relatively low debt loads (with the exception of a few firms during acquisition binges in the late 1990s and first decade of the millennium), and their shares were highly desired by investors.

Those conditions have changed markedly. The emergent business characteristics are that news is a low-demand consumer good with niche audiences, producing low cash flow, requiring asset-light balance sheets, and producing normal rather than excess profits.

Today there is diminishing consumption of news in traditional forms by audiences and advertisers, increasing prices for audience consumption and decreasing prices for advertising in many media. Low debt loads have become a necessity and most news organizations are no longer attractive investments. These changing characteristics and business factors are not a short-term problem, but represent a comprehensive transformation of the industry.
Compounding these business challenges is the reduced value of news and information content provided by most news organizations. Fifty years ago, you had to read a newspaper if you wanted to know what the weather was going to be, whether your favorite team won the match last night, whether share prices of your investments were up or down, what was happening in the school your children attended, whether the government was planning to increase taxes, whether the conflicts in other parts of the world were going to affect you, and what commentators were saying about public affairs.

Today, we have enormously increased amounts of news and information available from a wide variety of paid and free sources. At the better end of the spectrum is expert journalism in which economists, scientists, bankers, and other cover many topics of interest and specialized independent journalists and news organizations that are covering military affairs, social benefits, and corruption. Unfortunately, the overall trend is toward a narrower form of news and information, with reduced focus on issues, oversight, and analysis, and an inordinant supply of celebrity, sports, and entertainment news.

If legacy news providers are to overcome the content challenges, they will need to rethink and improve the value of content on all their platforms and strive to make their news and information unique. The content of news organizations will need to be reconceptualized and can’t just be moved across platforms because each is a different product, used in different ways by consumers, and needs different types of news and information to be prominent and presented in different forms.
Of equal importance, news organizations and journalists will need to interact with audiences in new ways that are outside their comfort zones. This is problematic because journalism has traditionally had highly paternalistic role definitions, seeing its functions as educating the rabble, guiding thought and opinion, protecting social order, and comforting the people. These definitions combine with professional values promoting wariness of social alliances and distrust of sources of information to make most journalists stand separate from the society and people they cover.

Those attitudes create significance relevance problems in the digital world because it is networked and collective, based on relationships and collaboration, and relies on connections built on shared values and interests, acceptance, transactions, reciprocity, acceptance, and trust. The public is increasingly adopting values and norms of the digital world and this is creating many conflicts with journalism.

Journalism remains firmly rooted in the material world which is based on structured relationships, privacy and concealment, property, hierarchy, control, and formality. But the digital world is based on more amorphous relationships, revelation and transparency, sharing, collaboration, empowerment, and informality. Consequently many news organizations have difficulties relating to the public in the digital world and are struggling to adapt.

For news organizations, adjusting to the new world is not simply a matter of finding new revenue, moving content to new platforms, and maintaining existing relationships with the public. It will require a complete rethinking of the roles and functions of news media, how they fit into peoples’ lives, and where they are positioned in the new information environment. These are enormous challenges and need to receive increased attention.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

The economics of an election

My state is coming into election time. The politics of it - who will win; who will lose, etc is beyond the purview of this blog. But this blog will certainly muse on the economics behind it.

I am foxed as to why anybody wants to stand for any election - for the economics behind this is akin to a Las Vegas casino. On a conservative estimate, each candidate would spend about Rs 15 crores in each assembly seat ( see this speech as evidence of such numbers). More than three quarters of it is not for campaigning, but to bribe the voters (shame on you and me). Traditionally it used to be just cash and liquor.  But apparently now even water drums, watches, sarees and T shirts feature, as evidenced by this photograph and this article from The Hindu today.


The number of assembly constituencies in Karnataka is 224. There are four political formations in the fray. So that makes for 900 serious candidates. At Rs 15 crores per candidate, that amounts to an expenditure of Rs 13,500 crores .  Karnataka's GDP is about Rs 4,60,000 crores. So, something like 3% of GDP will be spent by candidates - that by any stretch of imagination is a staggering sum.

As JP Narayan, says in the video I refer to earlier, you have to spend this money to stand a chance. Spending it does not guarantee victory, but not spending it guarantees defeat. So, if you stand, you have to spend.

Consider for a moment, the ability to have a sum of Rs 13500 crores created for spending. Since much of the spending is illegal, the money has also to be generated by questionable means. It is actually not so easy to siphon away 3% of GDP - even corruption has its limits. Add the problem of keeping Rs 13500 crores in cash. If it is all packed in Rs 500 notes, each crore weighs 34 kgs. So Rs 13,500 crores weighs 460 tonnes - that is 46 lorry loads. You can't brazenly transport 46 lorry loads around - some will be stolen, some will be seized by the Election Commission officials, etc etc. And consider the logistics of buying so much liquor (and water drums). Its a mammoth logistics exercise and all has to be done surreptitiously.

And there can be only one winner in each constituency. What about the three blokes who lost. They have washed Rs 45 crores down the drain. They will virtually be bankrupted, for there is no way to earn it back until the next elections and , even then, only if they win. For the winner, he has to recoup a decent return on his investment - let us say he must make Rs 60 crores - to recoup a return on his investment and to create the capital for the next election. That is also not easy -  each winner to make Rs 60 crores is not an easy task.  A few can make that, but for everybody to make this sort of an amount is a tall order, however brazen the corruption is. And this alone is not enough, for each of his hangers on wants to make money as well. 

If you put your money in a bank deposit you can make 50% in 5 years, virtually risk free. With a little more luck, in the stock market or in gold, you can double it in 5 years. So, why take such wild risks for relatively meager returns and the possibility of losing it all. Obviously economics is not the strong point of those who stand for elections.

Many of the citizens are disgusted with those who would like to be our elected representatives. The best way to give them a big knock on their head is to vote such that the government will fall every year and elections are needed. Three elections in three years is enough to bankrupt them all. And then, maybe fresh air will emerge.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Taking my husband pretty much anywhere besides the B-School and nearby bars is like:

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

When my boyfriend asks what I did all day and I tell him I applied to jobs (and he believes me), I'm like:

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Business March 27, 2013: The “Will you Durst with us?” Edition



We saved a spot on our Durst card open just for you.  Come join us!

Sweeping both sides of the aisle with a quiver full of arrows dipped in common sense, Will Durst transcends party ties, having performed at events honoring former Presidents Bill Clinton and George HW Bush as well as acclaimed appearances a column, daily website jokes—yet still finds time to perform hundredss of comedy shows every year. He has racked up more than 400 television appearances in 14 different countries while slinging jokes around the globe in his one man crusade to make people laugh out loud on purpose against their will. Hobbies include the never-ending quest for the perfect cheeseburger, while his heroes remain the same as when he was twelve—Thomas Jefferson and Bugs Bunny.

Also joining us, the fantastic Karinda Dobbins

Hailing from the Motor City and now living in the Bay Area, Karinda's humor is sharp, distinctive and infused with hilarious social commentary. Karinda has appeared at dozens of venues throughout the SF Bay including The Purple Onion, San Francisco Punchline and Cobb's. Karinda is a breakthrough talent with an unconventional perspective and colorful wit that engages and pulls you into her aggressively laid-back comedic style.


Hosting the evening’s boogie will be Matt Lieb

Matt Lieb is a comedian, writer, actor and street musician/Bone Thugs-N-Harmony cover band. He was the winner of the 2004 KZSC Comedy Competition, has performed with Brent Weinbach, Moshe Kasher, Mary Van Note, Ronna & Beverly and has opened for W. Kamau Bell, Jasper Redd and San Francisco’s premier sketch comedy troupe Killing My Lobster.

And featuring your regulars Caitlin “Mashed Potato” Gill and  Nato “Twerking” Green.

You can cut this rug for just $5!  You can even bring a friend for free with one of our handy 2 for 1 coupons! http://thebusinesscomedy.blogspot.com/

BYOBurrito and electric slide it down your gullet. 

Barbarians at the Gate II

Barbarians at the Gate is the name of the scintillating book that detailed the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco in the mid 1980s. It was made into a movie as well and for a long time it was the biggest M&A transaction in the world. I strongly recommend the book, if you have an interest in business. ( or if you like thrillers !)
 
Take 2 seems to be happening in the goings on with Dell. The resemblance to what happened with RJR Nabisco is uncanny.
 
The Dell story started with Michael Dell, the founder teaming up with Silver Lake, a private equity firm,  and announcing a bid to take Dell private at $13.65 a share (a 25% premium over the closing price of $ 10.88 prior to this announcement). When rumours of this started to surface in January, people thought it was not a doable deal. Dell after all is a struggling PC maker in an industry which is declining with the onslaught of tablets. In any case its a fiercely competitive and somewhat commoditized industry. Whoever wants to pay top dollars for that.
 
As soon as the announcement was made, there were many murmurs that this was not a good deal for the shareholders - never mind that the stock was languishing at 35% below the bid price until rumours started to float. Carl Icahn, a famous Wall Street tycoon wanted to get in on the act. So did Blackstone, perhaps the world's largest private equity fund. Blackstone offered on Friday to buy the whole company for not less than $ 14.25 a share. Carl Icahn offered to buy 58% of the company for $15 a share.
 
Every investment bank in town is on one side of the deal or the other. So are many lawyers. Whatever happens, they will all pocket handsome fees. Money, greed, egos and insane optimism will now decide the direction of the deal. None have said what they will do with the company to realize value from what they are paying for it. Some form of stripping it and selling off pieces while keeping the rest would be inevitable. But still, how can the ugly duckling magically transform into a swan. What of Michael Dell himself. If either Blackstone or Icahn win, he will most likely be out.
 
Exactly the same thing happened with RJR Nabisco then. The book beautifully portrays the actors, their egos and their insanity. KKR "won" then, but then time proved how much of a dud deal it was as they had wildly overpaid. Now RJR Nabisco as a company does not exists. Various bits and pieces are in various places although the tobacco company RJ Reynolds still exists making Salem, Camel and Winston cigarettes. 

If you like thrillers, follow the Dell saga. And if you work for Dell, maybe its time to polish that CV.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

When we are all leaving the bar after the free tab runs out on Thursdays, it's like:

Thursday, 21 March 2013

When I drive by undergrad parties on my way to get my taxes done I feel like:

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

What I felt like trying to meet people at the B-School welcome weekends:

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Business March 20th 2013: The “So a Bishop and an Old Lady Walk Into The Business…” Edition



With a set-up like that, you just KNOW you’re in for wacky hijinks!!

This week we welcome back an old favorite before she becomes worm food.  

At age 77, Lynn Ruth Miller is a renaissance woman who wears many hats. She entertains audiences of all ages with comedy and song. She is living proof that the older you are, the more fun you have.Lynn Ruth is the host on two television programs on public access television, Channel 26 in Pacifica: “What’s Hot Between The Covers” (book reviews and interviews in the arts) and “Paint With Lynn” (a hands on creative arts series)

We are also happy to have, all the way from LA, the fabulous Pat Bishop.
 
Pat Bishop writes, produces, and directs sketches and other content at Funny Or Die, and performs stand-up across the country. He's super into ginger ale.  So he and Lynn Ruth already have a lot in common!

All these wonderful guests, plus your Business regulars Bucky “Chicken Crossin the Road” Sinister, Nato “Stupid Blonde” Green, Sean “Knock Knock” Keane and Caitlin “Yo Momma” Gill.  

This whole show is just $5!!! And you can bring a friend for freeeeeee!  http://thebusinesscomedy.blogspot.com/

Get there early!  WE SELL OUT.


BYOBurrito cause I ain’t sharin’ mine.  NO JOKE.