Monday, July 27, 2009

Creativity at its best

Abhijit forwarded me the snap on the right. The snap on the left has been downloaded from google images for the sake of comparison.

Enjoy the contrast :-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Litti Chokha

This Saturday, we friends went to a place called 'Chili Pepper' to eat Litti Chokha. Its a Bihari dish. The Litti is similar to the Baati from the famous dish 'Daal Baati', except that it is filled with 'sattu' and 'mustard'. I would say, it has a pretty heavy dose of mustard. I like that extra mustard. It just runs up my nose and makes me feel as if I have put my nose in a container of ammonia.

Chokha is nothing but mashed stuff - typically consisting of egg plant, tomatoes, potato, garlic, coriander and mustard oil. Except for the egg plant, everything else is raw. I love this combination. You can call it "Kachcha Bharit" in marathi.

The food was good. I really enjoyed the Litti-Chokha and along with chicken curry, it tasted fantastic.

Something that was really different was the attitude of the waiter. I guess he had a bad start to his evening because he was in a really foul mood. Some instances of his bad mood -
  • He was unwilling to join two tables. When we told him that for 1 hour, we will be uncomfortable, he said - "aapko 1 ghanta baithaunga kya main?".
  • Later, when we left some tip for him, he was unhappy with the tip and was grumbling under his breath.
Fortunately, there were more sensible waiters over there who told him to keep quiet.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Start-ups, Biggies, ESOPs, ESPPs

I have been part of both types of companies - start-ups and established companies. For those who are seeking thrill, start-ups provide a great platform. Unfortunately, this thrill can be short-lived because most start-ups do not succeed. There are many reasons for failure of start-ups. The most significant one in my opinion is working on something hi-tech or cool rather than actually solving some real world problem. Other important reasons are that start-ups are mostly run as per whims and fancies of one person - the founder. His judgement is central to the success or failure of a start-up.

On a different note, why do people get attracted to start-ups. One reason is they seek thrill in their work. Start-ups do offer a lot of exciting work with stiff deadlines, but more often than not, a person ends up doing a lot of direction-less work. In contrast, things proceed at slow pace in an established company. A thrill seeker will definitely get bored by the time the project actually starts. I like both forms of working, as long as there is some direction and vision associated with what I am working on.

Another reason why people opt for start-ups in ESOPs. 20000 ESOPs worth 1 cent. Sounds great. Even if the stock gets listed at 1$, one will make 20000$. By this time, one actually starts counting the money in his own hands. All this is complete eye-wash. Many even agree to salary cut, and opt for the start-up instead of joining an established company. Quite foolish in my opinion.

Let me tell you why I consider all this foolish -
  1. First of all, if you are chasing big money, you have to realize that very few start-ups actually make it big; so the chances that your 20000 ESOPs will see any reasonable valuation is very very slim. Even big companies play the ESOP trick quite well. When the stock is over-valued, they give large no. of ESOPs and when the stock is low, they give less no. of ESOPs.
  2. Big companies give you the option of ESPPs. With ESPPs, if you time things right, you can make decent amount of money. Taking into account a minimum post-tax return of 10%, the annualized return for ESPPs is much higher. (10% for 5 months, 10% for 4 months, ..., 10% for 3 days). You can do the math.
  3. Another benefit with ESPP is that you can start with as less as 1%. Some times when the stock price is high or market is falling, invest small amounts. The benefit is that in a falling market, your lock-in price keeps getting revised downwards. When the market starts going up again, increase your contribution to full 10%.
  4. Another benefit is RSUs and bonuses. RSUs are like ESOPs but with a base price of 0, so you always make money on RSUs. The no. of RSUs given is generally a fraction of no. of ESOPs.
  5. If you file patents, you can make decent amount of money with them. If your patent is business critical, every year you can make some money on it.
In short, if you want to make money, I think you can make enough money in a big company and you need not join a start-up. Join a start-up if the start-up is doing something radically new (not if it is doing some thing low-cost which more often than not turns out to be low-quality also, or is trying to outgun biggies like HP, IBM in an existing market etc), and you want to be part of it. Judging this is quite difficult and depends on one's experience and judgement. However, one has to always be prepared for some frustrating times and wasted effort. The good side to all this is that you can make some very nice friends and have some very nice conversations.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hunt for Pav-Bhaaji in Bangalore ...

turned out to be an exercise in futility. Richa was craving for something "nice" to eat since Saturday afternoon. Whenever she says "nice" - I know I am in a big soup because converting that "nice" to something specific is a very difficult task. Many-a-times, I have gotten so frustrated with this exercise of conversion that I have literally said - "Get back to me with something specific. I find all this very vague".

This time however, the conversion from "nice" to "pav-bhaaji" was quite quick. It was followed by description of how Pune pav-bhaaji is so good, and how Bangalore sucks. Nevertheless, pav-bhaaji it was. We then browsed through burrp to find out places that served good pav-bhaaji. Adyar-Anand-Bhavan was one of them and it was reasonably close.

AAB in Koramangala was way too crowded. Both of us did not feel like eating there. We made a quiet escape. We then went to Empire on Jyoti-Nivas-College road in the hope that we might get pav-bhaaji there. We forgot that Empire is a predominantly non-veg place, and both of us were NOT in the mood to eat non-veg food. We drank a glass of water and made another quiet escape from there. By now, we had given up on the idea of having pav-bhaaji.

Richa then came up with a place named "Babette's". Actually, quite some time back, I had seen a poster in NetApp. It is a continental place - we both knew. Looking at the exteriors, we thought it would be reasonable. Once inside, we realized that we two were the only people there. Richa warned me that it might be very expensive. After looking at the menu card, we realized that a simple soup was around 200, salads around 250, and entrees around 400. No wonder the place was empty. If the place is Taj, I can pay this much, and I certainly have paid this much in the past. For a place named "Babette's", paying 400 or so is quite atrocious. We made another escape, this time however, on the pretext that my pregnant wife can't eat Italian and Japanese food.

We then headed for Maharaja, a multi-cuisine place, with renewed hopes of finding pav-bhaaji and if not pav-bhaaji then some decent food. When we reached Maharaja, there was no place to park and the place looked full. So "yahan bhi give up ho gaya".

Finally, we parked near "Mast Kalandar", or at least where it was. We were searching for Mast Kalandar, but it was nowhere to be seen. We came to know that it was replaced by "Go Veg", and from the looks of it, it seemed like just a change of names. Anyways, the only other stop would have been "home", so we stepped in. The place looked "nice", the crowd was good, and we were sure we will get vegetarian food.

The food was amazing. We ate Jowar roti, Alu kulcha, Makke ki roti, Chole, Chat, Jal Jeera, Buttermilk, Maa-ki-Daal and Raita. Our tummies were full to the brim. My pregnant wife was also satisfied - which is a rarity in itself.

All this for just 250 bucks. Babette's ka soup and salad was around this much. Babette's - you are gonna close down pretty soon. I am confident.