Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Meeting with a contrarian in Pune on 26 October 2013

A chance meeting with contrarian in October 2013 reiterated some of the basic tenets of great investors
  1. Growth capital is basically playing with others money.  
  2. Promoter is a smart cookie and not as dumb as funds managers think they are
  3. Focus on sectors that have no presence on the stock markets
  4. Short companies with two principles: Accounting fraud and weak leadership.  Great companies will never realize their true value if they are led by incompetent managers
  5. Contrarian view will help you make money only if you are right

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Uptake of systems like Amazon's `Mechanical Turk' in India

I have long been aware of Amazon's `Mechanical Turk', a mechanism through which tasks are farmed out to a large bank of humans. Each human worker has full flexibility on how many hours are worked and when. From the customer's point of view, Amazon supplies an API and access to a very large pool of humans who can perform small tasks. The median wage is $1.4 or Rs.80 per hour. In effect, Amazon has created a large market through which workers can find work, and firms can find workers to perform well defined tasks.

In a recent issue of The Economist, I was surprised to discover (a) that Amazon's Mechanical Turk has 0.5 million workers and (b) that roughly a third are from India. That's roughly 150,000 persons in India who are plugged into Amazon's Mechanical Turk. We don't know how many hours/week are spent in doing labour supply, but it's still a lot.

There are a few other such systems also. Here are links for exploration: oDesk, CrowdFlower, Elance, Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

These mechanisms add up to a whole new world for the functioning of the labour market. For first world customers who would like to connect up to cheap labour in India, our traditional view was that there had to be a man in the middle - a Datamatics or a TCS or an IBM. What these new systems seem to suggest is that for a certain class of tasks, it is possible to disintermediate the Datamatics or TCS or IBM.

For many individuals in India, the flexibility of working from home without rigidity about how many hours are supplied, and when, these systems could be a big win. At present, many households do not have computers and broadband connections, which is an important impediment. But this is also a constraint that is being rapidly eased through 3G, LTE, etc. These developments, put together, could become a whole new chapter in the story of India's connecting up to globalisation.

Borrowed from http://ajayshahblog.blogspot.in/

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Show a "Now Playing" notification in iTunes

Using a defaults write command, the iTunes Dock icon can be set to display a “Now Playing” song and artist pop-up that transitions in and out and music starts. It’s a nice addition, particularly if you’re playing songs from a shared network playlist and have iTunes hidden in the background. Enable the iTunes song and artist Dock icon popup

Open the Terminal in /Applications/Utilities/ and type the following:

defaults write com.apple.dock itunes-notifications -bool TRUE

Now kill the Dock to relaunch it:
killall Dock

Start playing a song in iTunes to see the notification appear, it’ll disappear automatically and then reappear briefly anytime a new song starts.

If you decide you don’t like the notification, disabling the iTunes song popup is just as easy:

defaults delete com.apple.dock itunes-notifications

You won’t need to relaunch iTunes, but you will need to kill the Dock again.

This only works in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, if you try it in prior versions nothing happens. Nice find by TheNextWeb.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Trying to marry art with technology

Packed schedules and client demands leave me with no time to visit art galleries, drink wine and understand the pains that an artist goes through to make himself appreciated. The India Art Collective online art buying initiative was a step in the right direction thus marrying art with technology to benefit the consumer / user / viewer etc. I must say that it is a half hearted attempt on behalf of the organizers to bring so much art to the connected, informed, demanding consumer With artists such as Souza, Mehta etc on display a handful of the so called 120 million online user base has crashed the website and whats more once you get in you realize that the pages have not been created. If the artists plan to marry art with technology they definitely need to get more creative!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Flying experience the day after the KFA debacle

On 16 November, after having booked myself on a full service flight, I am informed by the ticket rep that we have closed down our business lounge till further notice. And I thought I was flying a full service airline!

Once I complete the security formalities, I am amazed to see that the boarding gates are not manned. However, I notice at least 20 reps from the airline congregating for probably bashing up the airline management for making losses and in all likelihood contemplating their potential sacking.

While waiting for the Boarding gates to open the business news channel relays that petrol prices have been reduced but ATF prices would increase.

Finally, I read that mr sorry dr Mallya has a foreign investor lined up for KFA.
I seriously wonder strategic intent to the full service airline business in India at this time!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Interview excerpt of Mr. Warren Buffett from a Berkshire Hathway shareholder meeting.

Interview date unknown. It doesn’t really matter since this is priceless advice not bound by the realm of time.
Warren Buffett is a plain-speaking, tee totaling man of uncrackable integrity who works really, really hard and sticks to his investing and management principles through boom and bust which makes him a freak of nature since he is above normal human tendencies. He is like a comet streaking through the heavens every 75 years or so. The questions the shareholders threw at him for 7 continuous hours ranged from finances, life, religion, career, politics, sports and several other streams. And he answered everything with a Zen like calm and confidence.
Even if you are least bothered about investments and finances, I insist, please read on.
What does it take to become a successful investor? Brilliance or Smartness?
Neither, Success in investing doesn’t correlate with I.Q. Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that gets other people into trouble in investing.
When do you deicide to invest in a firm?
The best thing that happens to us is when a great company gets into temporary trouble. We want to buy them when they’re on the operating table.
(Mr. Buffett bought Coke when it had its biggest fiasco after launching New Coke; he bought American Express when it went through a loss making phase in the early 60’s)
What do you look for in people when they come to sell their firms to you?
I don’t look for the usual credentials such as an MBA, a pedigree (Harvard, Wharton), or cash reserves or market cap of their firm. What I look for is just a passion in their eyes; I think that’s the key. A person who is hungry will always do well. I prefer it when people even after selling stay on and work for the firm; they are people who can’t wait to get off their bed to get to work. Passion is everything; there is no replacement for innate interest.
Mr. Buffett, you told us that Berkshire Hathaway has $ 45 Billion in cash. Why aren’t you investing?
Up until a few years back I had more ideas than money. Now I have more money than ideas.
When do you plan to retire?
I love my job; I love it so much that I tap dance to work. Mrs. B, the founder of Nebraska Furniture Mark worked until she was 104, she died within 6 months of her retirement, that’s a lesson to all my managers, don’t retire! I personally am going to work 6-7 years after I die, probably that’s what they mean when they say- “Thinking out of the Box”!!
Why do stock market crashes happen?
Because of human nature for greed and insecurity. The 1970s were unbelievable. The world wasn’t going to end, but businesses were being given away. Human nature has not changed. People will always behave in a manic-depressive way over time. They will offer great values to you.”
What are the things that are taught wrong in Business school and the corporate world?
I like such open ended questions, I think Business schools should refrain from teaching their wards about profit making and profit making alone, it gives a sense of 1 dimensional outlook to the young students that loss is a curse. In reality, in the corporate world, failure and loss making are inevitable. The capital market without loss is like Christianity without hell. I think they should teach the student on how to buy a business, how to value a business? Not just on how to determine the price of a business. Because price is what you pay, value is what you get.
Do you still hate Technology stocks?
With Coke I can come up with a very rational figure for the cash it will generate in the future. But with the top 10 Internet companies, how much cash will they produce over the next 25 years? If you say you don’t know, then you don’t know what it is worth and you are speculating, not investing. All I know is that I don’t know, and if I don’t know, I don’t invest.”
How to think about Investing?
The first investment primer was written by Aesop in 600 B.C. He said, ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.’ Aesop forgot to say when you get the two in the bush and what interest rates are; investing is simply figuring out your cash outlay (the bird in the hand) and comparing it to how many birds are in the bush and when you get them.”
How do you feel after donating $ 40 Billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation? You are a hero to us!
I feel nothing. I haven’t sacrificed anything in life. I have had a good life. I donated after I turned 75. I think I admire those people who sacrifice their time, share their food and home, as the people to be emulated not me. Besides, what is money before a man’s life?
What do you think are the pitfalls in donation?
I have never donated a dime to churches or other such organizations; I need to believe in something before I end up doing that. I have been observing the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation for years now and I am confident they will do a fantastic job of making use of the money. I am a big believer in Outsourcing, others believed in me as an Investor and gave their hard earned money to invest. I believe in Bill Gates, he is a better donor than me.
Why do you work from Omaha and not Wall Street , New York ?
Wall Street is the only place where people alight from Rolls Royce to get advised by people who use the Public transportation system.
You seem to be so well read, tell us how it all started.
My father was a stock broker, so we had all these financial books in our library. He introduced me to those classics and I got into them. I am lucky that my father was not a fan of Playboy! Reading is the best habit you can get. Well, you can learn from teachers too, and have mentors but there are so many constraints attached- they will talk fast, talk slow, they might talk like a pro or they might be terrible communicators. Books are a different animal altogether, I love reading! The beauty about reading and learning is that the more you learn the more you want to learn.
People who join Berkshire Hathaway seldom leave. How do you get along well with all your executives?
I try to get quality people. I always say – Hire someone in your organization who is better than you are. If you do that, you build a company of giants. If you get people worse than yourself, you build a company of dwarfs. And do not try to do everything yourself. Delegate the jobs and look out of the window. The results will come. That’s how you build institutions. It happens only when you empower others, believe in others. I am an investor, I am very secured at that, I have no clue how to make Coca-Cola or how to dole out credit cards (Mr. Buffett owns 8% of Coca-Cola and 13 % of American Express). I understand the wisdom of the aphorism that you cannot please all the people all the time. Of Course, you will always find qualities that you don’t like in people around you, but if you observe carefully the love of the work unites you both. There is no point in being obsessive about a bad quality in a person, whom you otherwise respect.
I am a small time businessman from Dallas , Texas , what do I need to do to hit big time?
Be patient, Achieving your financial goals and dreams will not happen overnight. As much as we would all really love to accomplish our goals in a few years, this is an ongoing process. Defining your financial goals is not a one-time task; you need to keep adding new plans at different stages in your life. We all admire the skills of Olympic ice skaters, pro golfers, and concert pianists. But do we remember that they didn’t acquire their skills overnight? They had to practice hours on end for years to achieve their dreams. The key to success is to continue learning throughout your life with a voracious appetite.
I think it is marvelous that you have had a golden run with investing, how did you do that?
My rule is to be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. Besides, I call investing the greatest job in the world because you never have to swing. You stand at the plate; the pitcher throws you General Motors at 47! U.S. Steel at 39! And nobody calls a strike on you. There’s no penalty except opportunity lost. All day you wait for the pitch you like; then when the fielders are asleep, you step up and hit it.
Stay dispassionate and be patient. You’re dealing with a lot of silly people in the marketplace; it’s like a great big casino and everyone else is boozing. If you can stick with drinking Coke, you should be OK. First the crowd is boozy on optimism and buying every new issue in sight. The next moment it is boozy on pessimism, buying gold bars and predicting another Great Depression, most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested is when no one else is. You can’t buy what is popular and do well.
Mr. Buffett you have seen so many crashes and recessions, your take on facing recessions and stock market crashes?
If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians. Every scenario is different. But always remember, Tough times do not last. Tough people do.
What is the 1 biggest advice you would impart to a young investor like me?
Think for a moment that you are given a car and told this is the only car you would get for the rest of your life. Then you would make sure that you car is taken care of well, it is oiled and detailed every now and then. You would make sure that it never gets rusted, and you would garage it. Think of yourself as that car. You just get 1 body, 1 mind and 1 soul. Take care of it well. Invest in yourself that would be my advice.
You personally know many of the Financial executives who are engineers of the current turmoil in the financial world, surprisingly even after record losses, those executives receive astronomical salaries and bonuses and arrogantly declare that they deserve it, why didnt you advice them from making such decisions and what’s your view on their justification for their pay?
I like sharing my ideas but don’t like imposing my ideas on anybody. It doesn’t make sense and is a waste of time. If somebody has decided that they know everything that is there to know, nobody can help them. The best way to learn and succeed is to know that we know nothing. There is an entire universe out there and still some of us think we can know everything. In the world of investing a few people after making some money tend to imagine they are invincible and great. This is the worst thing that could happen to any investor, because it surely means that the investor will end up taking unnecessary risks and end up losing everything. Arrogance, ego and overconfidence are very lethal. Personally I don’t feel too comfortable with too much extravagance, because I always think like an investor. My thought process doesn’t see a lot of value in a fancy car or a designer suit. Thinking like an investor always is very important to bring in a sense of discipline and focus. Before reading balance sheets and investing you need to make sure your outlook and mindset is that of an investor. Never let ego, arrogance and over-confidence control you – not just as an investor but also as a human being. You will never have internal peace if you are unable to look at everybody around you with love, compassion and understanding. Irrespective of who the person is, he or she can teach you something you don’t know. I have learnt so much from people all around me and I wouldn’t have been able to learn all these wonderful things if I had not spoken to them with a smile. To quote Sir Isaac Newton- If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.
“A man has to learn that he cannot command things, but that he can command himself; that he cannot coerce the wills of others, but that he can mold and master his own will: and things serve him who serves truth; people seek guidance of him who is master of himself”.

IPL how big can it get?

In the past two seasons, IPL has managed to create a property that has generated considerable amount of audience excitement and increased media viewership leading to the creation of an economic entity - the benefits of which would be exploited by each component of the IPL value chain namely broadcasters, franchise owners, BCCI and last but not least – players.

With the third IPL edition coming back to India – the so called home of cricket and the fourth edition likely to witness the participation of two more teams there will be an increased interest from a local viewership and fan base perspective and it is also likely to expand the addressable market in terms of advertising revenues.

It is a known fact that the central broadcasting revenues, revenues earned by the BCCI and each franchise from SET Max, the television broadcaster, typically are the largest chunk of revenues at present. The addition of two new teams in the fourth season will increase saleable airtime and consequently advertising revenues for broadcasters since the number of matches will increase from 60 to 94.

In addition, Google has also entered into a two year potential fee sharing agreement with IPL to stream live IPL matches on the former’s video sharing website YouTube, which will benefit the BCCI as well as the franchises. As the popularity of the tournament grows as does the size of the Indian digital advertising market, models such as these, which increase the ability to monetize league rights are not only beneficial to the BCCI but also to the franchises which are expected to receive a share of the revenues accruing to BCCI.

The second source of revenues are central and individual sponsors spending currently approximately INR 150 million to 200 million for each sponsorship slot namely ground sponsor, tournament partner, team sponsor. The expansion of the league coupled with increasing audience interest is expected to increase the value of these slots in future seasons.

Local sponsorships too have added to the topline of the franchisees. In season 2, Chennai SuperKings was able to register 14 local sponsors for their team. Franchises have resorted to two types of sponsorship deals viz: fixed amount and barter deals. The wide reach of IPL, especially in the “hard to reach” youth and males target group and the presence of iconic players and Bollywood stars in the various teams will continue to drive sponsorship income for the individual teams in the future.

In season 1, ticket sales accounted for as low as 7% of total revenues to around 15% of total revenues for various teams. In season 2, most teams had planned an increase in their ticket prices and had intentions of applying a strict “no free tickets” regime. With the tournament moving to South Africa, the efficacy of these strategies could not be tested. Season 3 will witness teams focusing on this aspect and making all efforts to enhance this revenue stream. Internationally, ticket sales account for approximately 15% to 20% of total revenues as a result of premium ticket sales, corporate boxes in addition to normal ticket sales. Infrastructure upgradation to improve the viewer experience is a must and the BCCI needs to work with various stakeholders to make this happen.

Revenues from the sale of theatrical rights for INR 3300 million for a 10 year period and licencing agreement with a leading general entertainment channel would further add to the stream of revenues for the BCCI and each franchise.

Licensing and merchandising is unlikely to be a major revenue stream in the near term. The licensing and merchandising market is at a nascent stage in India. With organised retail constituting only 7% of the total retail market, an important supply chain enabler for merchandising is undeveloped in India.

On the costs side, the franchisee fee payable to BCCI forms a large chunk of operating expense for each team. The franchisees were auctioned to the highest bidders prior to the first season. The auctioned price is payable by the franchisee owners to BCCI over a period of 10 years. Reliance Industries won the franchisee rights for Mumbai Indians for USD 111.9 million which is payable in equal annual installments’ over 10 seasons. However, with the reserve price for the two new teams fixed at USD 225 million each as compared to USD 50 million each for the first auction, the franchisee fee for new teams is expected to be much higher and a major proportion of the total cost for the franchisees.

Player fee is the other major cost element for the teams. With two additional teams in Season 4 leading to increased demand for players and the existing contracts expiring at the end of Season 3, player salary costs will be a key factor that will influence profitability for the franchisees. The current IPL contracts of the players with individual teams expire in 2010. The salary contract rules, post-2010, have not yet been decided by IPL. The IPL auctions of 2008 and 2009 had salary caps of USD 5 million and USD 2 million respectively. As was seen in both auctions, some team owners have deep pockets and are ready to pay large amounts to get big name players into their teams. The salary model that IPL opts post 2010 will be a key factor in estimating operating costs for each franchise.

Overall, the IPL has proven that it has the ability to capture the imagination of not only the Indian public but also the world cricket lovers at large. The challenge for the IPL going forward would be to sustain this early advantage through innovative marketing and targeting of new audiences. Also, key will be the ability of the league to tap revenue streams that have remained largely untapped. The eight current franchises are well placed to benefit from these initiatives over the next 1-2 years and turn profitable.


Male camaraderie and bonding is clear when it comes to soccer, cricket and gadgets. With fakeiplplayer now releasing his very own book, I’m convinced that men today quite thoroughly and perhaps now openly enjoy idle gossip and controversies surrounding underhanded politics...albeit in the world of cricket! The blog has garnered significant interest from single males 20 and above, with a graduate degree or higher, browsing primarily from home. When I compare the audience for cosmopolitan, a website whose content includes articles on idle talk and gossip, it is dominated by single females 20 and above, browsing primarily from home or school with a diverse education. Both websites with content centred on juicy topics and gossip generate audiences that are completely contrasting. Women have been open to admit that they are attracted to this format but the number of men lured to a site that focuses on idle gossip and controversies suggests that maybe the fakeiplplayer has opened up a whole new market for writers, marketing guys and entrepreneurs.

India is news

The news business in India is certainly commoditized. Today, after long, I managed to reach home earlier than usual and switched on the television set for the daily news. I have read news articles and research reports that claim India has over 65-70 news channels. I had the pleasure of browsing through over 50 news channels focusing on different genres or interest groups. Even when the channels are dissected by genres you come up with ~12 hindi news channels (Aaj Tak, ETV, DD, IBN 7, India TV, Live India, NDTV, News 24, Press TV, Sahara Samay, Star News and Zee News) controlled by as many different owners, ~ 11 english news channels including business (CNN, BBC World, Headlines Today, NDTV 24 X 7, CNN IBN, Times Now, NewsX, ET Now, CNBC-TV18, NDTV Profit and UTVi) controlled by 8 different owners and a large list of regional news channels and so on and so forth for regional channels too. While I do understand the hype around regional news channels because I personally believe localized news is important and would receive interest from the local population. However, I cannot fathom the fact that a country with over 200 million households with a TV penetration of 68% and a much lower Cable & Satellite (“C&S”) penetration at ~ 49% can handle 12 hindi news channels, 11 english news channels and a number of regional news channels.

A country such as the USA with a population of 300 million and a strong television penetration is still serviced by a handful of national networks and a plethora a regional channels for a very long time. The presence of a network also means that the channels are offered as a bouquet thus providing economies of scale to the network.

Talking about economics none of the channels are making money today except for the leader in each genre! In India, independent business houses have commenced operations with single channels with the hope of making money by sensationalizing news or as a conduit for a person preferring anonymity.

Going forward, with the advertisement market expected to grow at a rate of 12% to 13% through 2014 prudent economic theory suggests that no more than 3 to 4 channels in each genre should survive with the remaining withering away or being funded purely for social or political causes. National news though dying will pave the way for regional news.

We are likely to witness tremendous innovation in this space with a lot of players offering news over the mobile, focusing on a network model. The ones who fail to keep pace with the changing times are likely to be acquired or close shop and focus on their core competencies!

Speech that set off a blogosphere bonfire!

Indra Nooyi's Graduation Remarks at Columbia.

Following is the transcript of the address given by Indra Nooyi, President & CFO of PepsiCo (PEP), at the Columbia University Business School graduation ceremonies on May 15, 2009.

Good evening, everyone.

Dean Hubbard, distinguished faculty, honored graduates, relieved parents, family, and friends, it's a distinct pleasure to be in New York City this evening to celebrate the biggest milestone to date in the lives of you, the young men and women before us: your graduation from Columbia University Business School.

It may surprise you, graduates, but as big a night as this is for you, it's an even bigger night for your parents. They may look calm and collected as they sit in the audience, but deep inside they're doing cartwheels, dancing the Macarena, and practically speaking in tongues, they're so excited. This is what happens when parents anticipate that their bank accounts will soon rehydrate after being bone-dry for two years. So, for everyone here this evening, it's a very special occasion. And I'm delighted to share it with you.

I am keenly aware that graduates traditionally refer to our time together this evening as the calm before the storm. Some graduates -- perhaps those who minored in self-awareness -- refer to the commencement address as "the snooze before the booze." However you describe my comments this evening, please know that I understand. It wasn't that long ago that I was in your place. And I remember the day well. I knew that I owed my parents -- my financial benefactors -- this opportunity to revel in our mutual accomplishment. Yet, as the guy at the podium droned on about values, goals, and how to make my dreams take flight, I remember desperately checking and rechecking my watch. I thought, "I deserve to party, and this codger's cramping my style!"

In one of life's true ironies, I am now that codger. Well...I'm the female equivalent. A codg-ette, I guess. And I now understand that values, goals, and how to make dreams take flight, really are important. So being a firm believer that hindsight is one of life's greatest teachers, allow me to make belated amends.

To that distinguished, erudite, and absolutely brilliant man whom I silently dissed many years ago: mea culpa. Big, BIG mea culpa!

This evening, graduates, I want to share a few thoughts about a topic that should be near and dear to your hearts: the world of global business. But, I'm going to present this topic in a way that you probably haven't considered before. I'm going to take a look at how the United States is often perceived in global business, what causes this perception, and what we can do about it. To help me, I'm going to make use of a model.

To begin, I'd like you to consider your hand. That's right: your hand.

Other than the fact that mine desperately needs a manicure, it's a pretty typical hand. But, what I want you to notice, in particular, is that the five fingers are not the same. One is short and thick, one tiny, and the other three are different as well. And yet, as in perhaps no other part of our bodies, the fingers work in harmony without us even thinking about them individually. Whether we attempt to grasp a dime on a slick, marble surface, a child's arm as we cross the street, or a financial report, we don't consciously say, "OK, move these fingers here, raise this one, turn this one under, now clamp together. Got it!" We just think about what we want to do and it happens. Our fingers -- as different as they are -- coexist to create a critically important whole.

This unique way of looking at my hand was just one result of hot summer evenings in my childhood home in Madras, India. My mother, sister, and I would sit at our kitchen table and -- for lack of a better phrase -- think big thoughts. One of those thoughts was this difference in our fingers and how, despite their differences, they worked together to create a wonderful tool.

As I grew up and started to study geography, I remember being told that the five fingers can be thought of as the five major continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America. Now, let me issue a profound apology to both Australia and Antarctica. I bear neither of these continents any ill will. It's just that we humans have only five fingers on each hand, so my analogy doesn't work with seven continents.

Clearly, the point of my story is more important that geographical accuracy!

First, let's consider our little finger. Think of this finger as Africa. Africa is the little finger not because of Africa's size, but because of its place on the world's stage. From an economic standpoint, Africa has yet to catch up with her sister continents. And yet, when our little finger hurts, it affects the whole hand.

Our thumb is Asia: strong, powerful, and ready to assert herself as a major player on the world's economic stage.

Our index, or pointer finger, is Europe. Europe is the cradle of democracy and pointed the way for western civilization and the laws we use in conducting global business.

The ring finger is South America, including Latin America. Is this appropriate, or what? The ring finger symbolizes love and commitment to another person. Both Latin and South America are hot, passionate, and filled with the sensuous beats of the mambo, samba, and tango: three dances that -- if done right -- can almost guarantee you and your partner will be buying furniture together.

This analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents leaves the long, middle finger for North America, and, in particular, the United States. As the longest of the fingers, it really stands out. The middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all of the fingers working together efficiently and effectively. This is a really good thing, and has given the U.S. a leg up in global business since the end of World War I.

However, if used inappropriately -- just like the U.S. itself -- the middle finger can convey a negative message and get us in trouble. You know what I'm talking about. In fact, I suspect you're hoping that I'll demonstrate what I mean.. And trust me, I'm not looking for volunteers to model.

Discretion being the better part of valor...I think I'll pass.

What is most crucial to my analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents, is that each of us in the U.S. -- the long middle finger -- must be careful that when we extend our arm in either a business or political sense, we take pains to assure we are giving a hand...not the finger. Sometimes this is very difficult. Because the U.S. -- the middle finger -- sticks out so much, we can send the wrong message unintentionally.

Unfortunately, I think this is how the rest of the world looks at the U.S. right now. Not as part of the hand -- giving strength and purpose to the rest of the fingers -- but, instead, scratching our nose and sending a far different signal.

I'd challenge each of you to think about how critically important it is for every finger on your hand to rise and bend together. You cannot simply "allow" the other four fingers to rise only when you want them to. If you've ever even tried to do that, you know how clumsy and uncoordinated it is.

My point here is that it's not enough just to understand that the other fingers coexist. We've got to consciously and actively ensure that every one of them stands tall together, or that they bend together when needed.

Today, as each of you ends one chapter in your young lives and begins another, I want you to consider how you will conduct your business careers so that the other continents see you extending a hand...not the finger. Graduates, it's not that hard. You can change and shape the attitudes and opinions of the other fingers -- the other continents and their peoples -- by simply ascribing positive intent to all your international business transactions. If you fail, or if you are careless, here's a perfect example of what can happen:

A U.S. businesswoman was recently in Beijing, China, on an international training assignment for a luxury hotel chain. The chain was rebranding an older Beijing hotel. As such, the toilets in the hotel had yet to be upgraded. There were no porcelain commodes, just holes in the floor. Until recently, this was the standard procedure in China.

Now, 8,000 miles removed from the scene, you and I -- and most Americans -- can shake our heads and giggle at the physical contortions and delicate motor skills necessary to make the best of this situation. We're simply not used to it. But to loudly and insultingly verbalize these feelings onsite, in front of the employees and guests of the host country, is bush league. And yet, that's exactly what this woman observed.

In the hotel's bar, the woman overheard a group of five American businessmen loudly making fun of the hotel's lavatory facilities. As the drinks flowed, the crass and vulgar comments grew louder, and actually took on an angry, jingoistic tone. While these Americans couldn't speak a word of Chinese, their Chinese hosts spoke English very well, and understood every word the men were saying.

And we wonder why the world views many Americans as boorish and culturally insensitive. This incident should make it abundantly clear. These men were not giving China a hand. They were giving China the finger. This finger was red, white, and blue, and had "the United States" stamped all over it.

Graduates, it pains me greatly that this view of America persists. Although I'm a daughter of India, I'm an American businesswoman. My family and I are citizens of this great country.

This land we call home is a most loving and ever-giving nation -- a Promised Land that we love dearly in return. And it represents a true force that, if used for good, can steady the hand -- along with global economies and cultures.

Yet to see us frequently stub our fingers on the international business and political stage is deeply troubling. Truth be told, the behaviors of a few sully the perception for all of us. And we know how often perception is mistaken for reality.

We can do better. We should do better. With your help, with your empathy, with your positive intent as representatives of the U.S. in global business, we will do better. Now, as never before, it's important that we give the world a hand...not the finger.

In conclusion, graduates, I want to return to my introductory comments this evening. I observed that as big a night as this is for you, it's an even bigger night for your parents. I ascribed their happiness to looking forward to a few more "George Washingtons" in their bank accounts. While this is certainly true, there is another reason.

Each of your parents believes that their hard work has paid off. Finally! They believe that maybe -- just maybe -- they have raised and nurtured the next Jack Welch, Meg Whitman, or Patricia Russo.

Don't disappoint them. Don't disappoint your companies. And don't disappoint yourselves.

As you begin your business careers, and as you travel throughout the world to assure America's continued global economic leadership, remember your hand. And remember to do your part to influence perception.

Remember that the middle finger -- the United States -- always stands out. If you're smart, if you exhibit emotional intelligence as well as academic intelligence, if you ascribe positive intent to all your actions on the international business stage, this can be a great advantage. But if you aren't careful -- if you stomp around in a tone-deaf fog like the ignoramus in Beijing -- it will also get you in trouble. And when it does, you will have only yourself to blame.

Graduates, as you aggressively compete on the international business stage, understand that the five major continents and their peoples -- the five fingers of your hand -- each have their own strengths and their own contributions to make. Just as each of your fingers must coexist to create a critically important tool, each of the five major continents must also coexist to create a world in balance. You, as an American businessperson, will either contribute to or take away from, this balance.

So remember, when you extend your arm to colleagues and peoples from other countries, make sure that you're giving a hand, not the finger. You will help your country, your company, and yourself, more than you will ever know.

Thank you very much