Sunday, August 30, 2009

Can Social Networking be Perilous?

Elizabeth Bernstein has written an interesting piece in Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on how Facebook can sometimes ruin relationships and friendships. Apart from quite a few parallels that we get to see on social networking ourselves, I think a bit of it is also extended to online chatting too, where people put up 'status' messages and update them on an hourly basis with a status of what s/he is doing, stopping only short of "going to the toilet". I have seen people write all sorts of gibberish on their Facebook profiles. I admit I don't mostly understand much of it, but I think I am proud of this lack of understanding, for a change. What can be more irritating, is that you have hordes of people actually responding to such gibberish and making it sound like as if it's the most absorbing conversation currently on.

Anyways, enough said by me. The link articulates it much better. Enjoy...

Beware of Mumbai airport taxis

The back and yellow taxis of Mumbai are at it again. Yesterday on my way back home from the domestic airport at Santa Cruz, I took a prepaid taxi (non A/C, black & yellow; B&Y).

The airport authorities, for some strange reason, have driven off the radio taxis (Meru, Mega, etc) away from their usual parking lots and into some far-off corner of the airport complex (near Sahara hotel), but have installed phone services inside the terminal. The phone service is a new facility. There are four phones available, one each for 4 services presently available in Mumbai (Mega, Meru, Forche and Priyadarshini). As soon you claim your baggage from the baggage carousels, and just before you come out of the terminal, you pick up a phone and place an order for a radio taxi. So, as against earlier when these radio taxis were given a parking space near terminals, now they are merely allowed to pick up passengers from there, not park their cars. Parking space is a bit far, near the Sahara Star Hotel.

Unfortunately, yesterday evening all radio taxis were booked, so I had no choice but to take a pre-paid B&Y cab. I opted for a non a/c one. These are rickety-rackety and usually very badly maintained; those old Fiat taxis. The fare was Rs 260 and since it was prepaid, I paid at the airport counter itself. My previous experiences with these B&Y taxis from the airport have always landed up in arguments with them because they always charge extra and their meters are more often than not, tampered. But yesterday since I took a prepaid, I thought it could be different. I was wrong.

After I alighted, the cabbie asked me for extra Rs 20-Rs 30. I asked him why, he muttered something like "insaniyat ke liye" or some such shit. He also said something like as if we customers are making a fool out of them by not paying them anything extra. What crap! I refused to pay him and had a minor argument with him. After which he grumbled and left off.

But this is what we have to put up with. Earlier, when the airport authorities had separate parking lots, just outside the airport terminal, for radio taxis, there was never a shortage of radio taxis. The parking lots always used to be full of these radio taxis; when one used to go, the other used to come upfront and solicit passengers. Radio taxis are transparent and also cheap! A ride in a Meru or Mega cab (fully air-conditioned and well-maintained car) from airport to my place would cost me around Rs 280. (this was before the fares for the B&Y taxis went up effective 1 August). A pre-paid B&Y non-AC taxi in a badly-maintained rickety-rackety taxi cost me Rs 260! I do not know on what basis these fares have been fixed, but its downright highway robbery. And why must these clowns always expect something extra from us even after paying a pre-paid fare at the airport? The airport authorities must allocate a permanent parking space to radio taxis for the convenience of passengers. And not in some remote area. It has to be just outside terminals, so that passengers with all their baggage can walk up straight to them.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

go-go-goa


I am just back after a much-needed relaxed break to India's favourite beach destination - Goa. I can be a bit of a contrarion when it comes to travelling, so while most of us rush to Goa during Christmas, I've always wanted to visit the place in monsoon. Goa is not much of a beach place in the monsoon, but I've never really been a beach person. Give me mountains anyday. That said, I find beaches extremely soothing and relaxing, as well. I can sit by the sea for hours and just bask in the breeze and loose track of time. Anyways, so after a bumpy and turbulent flight that gave me a few goosebumps here and there, we landed amidst heavy rain at Goa's Dabolim airport. The airport is still primitive....It was fun, though, getting wet when we got out of the airport coach and ran towards the airport terminal.

I was visiting Goa after a little more than 10 years. The place has changed a lot. Lots of development can be seen everywhere, but thankfully the place is still not as polluted and populated as say Mumbai or Pune. But then, you can't compare Mumbai and Pune with Goa. Lush green, though. Very, very green. It's just a very different Goa during monsoon. Everywhere and anywhere you could see acres of land covered with coconut trees. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but I think a coconut tree must be amongst the most pleasing sights in the world. I just feel extremely relaxed looking at it. And old Goan homes. They look grand, yet warm and inviting. Painted in vibrant colours. Like Mysore and Coorg folks, Goans know to take care of their homes. You'll see their homes in all sorts of bright colours, but violet, blue, green and yellow seem to be the in-thing these days...
Monsoon is also the best time to visit Goa if you want a good deal at a five-star resort. And as fed-up as I am of listening to requests to eat Goan curry whilst in Goa, the Goan curry still tastes good. There wasn't much variety of fish to be had, but then in monsoon, my mother says that fish should be avoided. Food at the Taj Holiday Village is absolutely great. Between six restaurants (three in Holiday Village and the other three in Taj Fort Aguada Resort), you can get to taste multiple cuisines, each prepared by lots of love and warmth by their well-trained and much-talented staff. And warmth is what is amply available at the Taj. They go to great lengths to make their customers happy. I watched the two chefs admirably at the breakfast restaurant. Atleast 10 people must have been standing on their heads demanding eggs, omelettes and what-not, and each of the two chefs, though completely drenched in requests and demands not to forget exhaustion, were at a time manning four stoves!!!

But you couldn't help but notice happiness in them. Like this guy from neaby Sawantwadi village who has been working here for the past 25 years proudly telling me so. Or this guy at the restaurant who started his work here, 20 years back, in house-keeping and proudly telling me that he, then, got promoted to the restaurant staff. But I guess if you're happy working at a place, it just shows, doesn't it? You can genuinely make your customers happy too. They call it passion, but whatever! Perhaps those samples who make it a point to look around for new "exciting opportunities" as soon as they complete a year, can learn something.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Elephant Lord Is Here

The festival season has officially kicked off in India, more so in Mumbai, with the onset of Ganesh Chaturthi. Ramzan has also begun. Man may create umpteen divisions but nature has its way of setting the balance right and so we have two festivals- that are as different as night and day as are those who celebrate them- coinciding their beginnings on the same day. It's a strange but very welcoming confluence of festivals across cultures. Me feels closer to Ganesh Chaturthi
though and it remains one of my favourite festivals of the year.

Mumbai looks the best during these 10 days. You can see colourful Ganapati pandals all across town with Ganpatis of all shapes and sizes; the taller they are the more awe-inspiring they appear to be. Almost every locality has a Ganapti pandal. There's hyper activity around each and every one of them and all very lit up. There are themes and motifs and lots of creativity that goes into setting up of some of them. They are awake 24/7. Infact I have noticed that some of these popular pandals in crowded residential areas come alive more after sunset. I suppose that is the time when people find to be convenient to pay their respects and offer darshan after a hard day's work. It looks as if the entire city has come out on streets.

When I was in college, a visit to Lalbaug, considered to be one of the busiest localities for Ganapati festivities, was a must-must on my list. Though I have never seen Lalbaugcha Raja (The King Of Lalbaug; one of the tallest Ganpatis in the city), I used to pay darshan to two other Ganpatis. One was in the lane, curiously named Ganesh Galli, and the other one nearby. It's a nightmare taking your car or hoping to catch the bus from Lalbaug in these days. Serpentine queues line up outside the Lalbaugcha Raja; it takes hours to get darshan. The kind of faith you see pouring out on streets is electrifying.

One of the beauty of this festival is despite being celebrated on a huge scale, peace prevails. Probably one of the reasons behind this is that it is one of the few festivals celebrated at such a grand scale that also has a large and significant presence of women involved in the festivities.
















The other Ganapati pandal I used to compulsorily visit was at my college-friend Ashish's at Peddar Road. A very devout Ganapati-worshipping family, the Jhambs have unflinchingly hosted the Elephant Lord at their home for many years. Every day at around 7 pm, they have a small pooja, as they do during a few other times during the day as well. The Jhambs have a fascinating collection of small Ganpati idols that are exclusively and systematically placed on top of a sideboard in their dining room. Every year we could see an addition. It is almost as if you step into Satguru's. When in college, my friends and I used to go together after finishing off our lectures. These days, we are all dispersed busy with our respective lives, families and commitments; it's a pity we do not even ask one another now, we make our own arrangements and go as we please. I do not think I have missed one year, since I think 1995, to go to the Jhambs. I shall miss this year though; I am off to a much-needed holiday this week.

The one place I'd like to get a feel of though, during Ganapati, is Pune. This, many say, is the hub of Ganapati celebrations, though if you go to Parel, Lalbaug and central Mumbai areas, you'd disagree. Maybe next year I might take out some time to visit Pune during Ganapati. That's one more reason for me to visit one of my favourite weekend gateways.

(in pictures: Ganpati temple in Wai, Maharashtra)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gullible Investors or Gullible Agents?

That Indian mutual funds (MF) are not supposed to ask for a no-objection certificate (NOC) from us if and when we change our broker and transfer our existing MF investments to a new broker, is a fact that is not well known. Although I have written on this in the magazine that I work for, more than once, (read here and here), many of us aren't aware of it. And MFs and agents are only too happy to exploit this.

A couple of days back, I had called for my stock broker, who is also an MF distributor. Since they offer online MF buying and selling, I wish to open an online MF account with them and thereafter transfer all my existing MF investments to them. I already have a direct equity account with them; an offline mode though presently, wherein a broker executes trades on my behalf. To this, now I want my MFs. This will enable me to get a consolidated statement, one that will give me a summary (as well as details) of all my equity and MF holdings.

Much to my surprise, my relationship manager told me that I would need an NOC from my old agents. He obviously did not know who I was (I don't mean to say this in the immature VIP-culture fashion amply seen these days at airports;) ) and which publication I write for and the stand that our publication holds in this regard. I reminded him that I am quite aware of my rights as a MF investor and that an NOC is not really required, but falsely demanded to make agent-changing a time-consuming affair. I do not know whether I have convinced him or not, but I intend to go pursue this matter to its logical end. I shall keep you posted on how smooth or otherwise my transfer is going to be.

The problem, as I often highlighted, is that when the Association of Mutual Funds of India (Amfi) says anything, it is not legally binding on MFs. Amfi is a trade body. It is not a regulator. For it to become a law, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) needs to pass the order. And with Sebi recently asking MFs whether or not they are demanding NOCs in this regard and reasons if they are, shows that the market regulator is serious. Probably for the first time in my nine years of journalism career am I observing Sebi monitoring the Indian mutual funds (MF) industry this closely. It's been pretty quick in passing orders to ensure that the end-investor gets serviced adequately.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Do I Smell A Rat?

No doubt that SRK is a big star. But for him to paint the town red with his celebrity status after he was detained at the Newark Liberty international airport was going a bit too far. He was all over the media saying the US immigration authorities treated him "shabbily" just because his last name happens to "Khan". Hey guys, guess what is the name of his upcoming movie!!! It's called 'My Name is Khan' (directed by Karan Johar) and it is all about racial profiling in the US, post 9-11, and how minorities (read Muslims) are looked at. And speaking of Karan Johar, he seems to be feeling upset and terrible. Oh, how touchy!

It is true that you get profiled in the US if you either happen to be from one of the so-called watch list nations or have a 'funny' name or anything that may arouse their suspicion. Last year when I went to the US, of the six times that I was at their airports, my mother and I were profiled twice. Of course we were not taken inside any room and confined for one / two hours but we were asked to step aside and our handbags were checked and each and every item was checked. A few random questions with some small talk were thrown at me, though I must admit, all their officials were extremely polite. I think I was profiled because I am an Indian. But I could be wrong. Though after those two incidents, I was at their airports four more times and the check-ins were a breeze. So I am not at all surprised that SRK was also detained and asked questions.

But for the so-called, media-painted albeit so shamelessly, Bollywood Badshah, to be grilled at a foreign airport, by immigration officials who were merely following their country's rules irrespective of whosoever the detainee is or how high up his connections go, was merely routine. if anything, it just goes to show that their duty of their country is top-most priority irrespective of who you are. SRK should have realised this and respected it. My cousin sister, born and brought up it the US and with therefore all her American style, accent, etc., and also a mother of two was once similarly detained and questioned for two hours when she went back home to Detroit because, amongst other things I do not remember clearly, she was carrying baby food which was white powder (ferex / cerelac). She was made to eat some of that in front of the immigration officials to prove that the food was indeed baby food and not anything suspicious.

We may crib and cry endlessly shouting injustice to the insane security measures that we get to see these days at international airports, especially the US airports. We curse them for their ways and systems and call it names. All accepted and very much true, in most cases. I am not a US fan and we all know that some of their wars have gone horribly wrong. Their administration can be awefully inhumane. But we can't deny one thing. Post 9-11, there has not been one terrorist attack on US soil. One of the reasons is because they take their security so seriously. You may be a huge star globally, but to their immigration officials, if your name pops up on their screen, you better have answers to their questions. And you better also have all the time that they need to answer their questions. If only such stringent security measures were adopted in India, we wouldn't have had all these repeated terrorist attacks, one after the other, all over our country. I am sure some pompous guests would be cribbing to be subjected to the security checks at the Taj and Oberoi, but who could blame these poor hotel authorities for all the ordeal they want through on 26-11. Desperate situations call for desperate measures. You can't please everyone; if you're pushed to the wall, you have got to wake up and learn to take care of yourself. For all the pains that we have to go to every time we pass through the metal detectors of Taj and Oberoi and have our luggage screened, I am placing my bet that these two hotels would not go through 26-11 ever again. That is, if they continue with their security checks and not come under pressure to compromise.

I think we can learn two lessons in this:

1) Adopt similar strict measures for all travellers coming from abroad, as well as those travelling within India. Ask questions and start profiling if the officials suspect something. Retain our humanity, but ask questions. And do not get swayed by whosoever is there on the opposite side. They may be politicians or movie stars or sportsperson or even rock stars. We have to subject them to stringent security checks even if we have to run our hands all over them. This is no time to buckle under pressure, wave diplomatic flags and lay down red carpets to every tom, dick and harry.

2) Unless they are downright rude or brutal, we should co-operate with foreign airport officials and be ready to subject to their security checks and systems, irrespective of who we are. I am not saying we have to lick them, but if they ask questions politely and do not disrespect us, we should co-operate. They can be very intimidating, but SRK is a grown-up man and a seasoned traveller; he ought to have handled this in a more dignified manner.

Having said that, for SRK to crib endlessly, especially in the wake of his upcoming movie 'My Name is Khan' and to make such a big issue of this, puts a big dent on his credibility. Aamir Khan is known for his publicity nonsense like cutting somebody's hair or having ushers get haircuts similar to his, from his upcoming release; they're all brilliantly documented and well-known. That these stunts work, is by itself preposterous. Did SRK get carried away by something similar? Who knows!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Come Clean

Open recently carried a well-written story on the recent controversy surrounding Indian cricketers' refusal to accept the whereabouts clause of Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency). Various others sports like Tennis, football, cycling and so on have confirmed to Wada rules. The International Cricket Council (ICC) too has subscribed to its norms, but the Board of Cricket Council of India (BCCI) and Indian cricketers are resisting. That they claim to abide by the Wada rules, except the whereabouts clause- which states that every cricketer, at the start of every quarter must inform their whereabouts of one hour every day for the next three months so that they are available for ant-dope test- is hardly giving away much. Some cricketers have also gone to the extent to claim that cricket has to be treated differently than other sports because cricketers have to travel much and are hardly at home for a few days here or there. Hence their privacy must be respected.

Privacy of celebrities is always a concern and an issue. It's quite right on the part of celebrities to claim that even they have a right to privacy and the cameras- or in this case, a doping control officer with an empty bottle to collect the urine sample- should be limited to the hours they are on duty. But once on family time, no intruders should be allowed. After all, if current world no 3 tennis player Andy Murray claims that he had to pee with his pants down literally in front of the DCO to ensure the genuineness of the sample deposited at 7 am in a morning in his home where the DCO turned up unexpected, then what are we talking about? Have they no lives of their own or any dignity?

Much as we like to sympathise with our sporting idols, the answer is a resounding No. Well, dignity, yes, but privacy, no. When drug abuse is so rampant across the world and where numerous examples have come up in sports that performance-enhancing drugs are available and can be consumed, it is the duty of every sportsperson to declare himself / herself clean. And if this means peeing with your pants down in front of someone to prove yourself, then so be it. In times when sportsperson having to stand to earn millions of dollars every year, this is a small sacrifice. Sports is a discipline. It's not just about fun and games. Sportsmen are idols to millions and billions of people around the globe. It not only teaches you how to play, but also inspires discipline, grit and courage. When Steffi Graf wins the French Open beating the then-world no 1 player half her age to win the French Open, in her early 30s or when Roger Federer wins the the one grand slam that has painfully eluded him for years, despite going through the worse 12 months of his career prior to this and when almost everyone had written him off inspire people to never give up. But when these stars resort to doping and are caught, it tarnishes the name of sport. We somehow begin to ponder of others' successes too; doubts start to creep our mind. It is this larger picture that our cricketers seem to miss.

Cricketers find all the time to squeeze numerous advertisements and commercials into their busy schedule; one that has made a millionaire virtually out of everyone of them who are the most active. They may be idols in India, but to the world of sport, they are as common as any other sportsperson. And as far as their exhaustive schedule is concerned, if tennis starts in the first week of January and goes up well till November-end (add to that the Davis Cup final in December for the two nations that have to fight it out), then other sports are no less hectic than Cricket. Why should Cricket therefore get special treatment? If they want their sport to be squeaky clean, then cricketers should be prepared to unzip whenever the DCO comes knocking on their doors.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

MUKTAD

As the Parsi-Zoroastrian calender draws to it's year-end, leading to the Parsi New Year (somewhere around 21 August), the final days of remembering of our departed loved ones, popularly called as Muktad, have started. I am going to give you a very layman description of what this is all about. Neither am I am priest nor do I possess any exceptional knowledge of my religion that almost every second Parsi these days claims s/he has. I cannot give you an ultimate guide to what the Muktad prayers are all about. But nonetheless, all this is my observation.

The final 10 days of the Parsi calender year are the most colourful days, literally if not metamorphically, of the year. Muktad is a tradition in our community where prayers are held over a period of 10 days (the last five days are called the Gathas) in prayers and jashan prayer ceremonies in the memory of our dead and the departed. Why do I say it is colourful? Because each departed loved one has to be dedicated a vaz made of silver or German silver. These vases are to be filled up with flowers.

Every day these flowers are to be changed. The Agiary (Fire-Temple) puts some flowers in them every day and we too can buy more flowers available in plenty outside the Agiaries and have them deposited in the vase. It's a very colourful sight inside our Agiaries. Flowers of various types and colours can be seen in abundance everywhere neatly arranged in their respective vases all across in the Agiary. Vases is kept on tables with a marble top. Each table has the name of the departed written underneath it. There is also a map hung somewhere in the corner of the Muktad hall; a large room in every Agiary dedicated to the Muktad tables and prayers.

On the first day that we go, the priests (dasturs) or the helper boys help us locate our loved one's table. We are not supposed to touch the table or the vases or the flowers that are already kept inside other people's vases. The flowers that we buy from outside are to be given to either of them, who then dip them in water and then put them inside our vases. Simultaneously, a priest is assigned to us and we handover our sukhad (sandalwood stick). An individual's prayer can last to anything between half an hour to one hour, but the overall Muktad prayers start as early as 6 am in the morning at the dawn of the day and lasts through the evenings, with a small break in the afternoon.

In a Parsi priest's life, these are one of the toughest days. They have to start very early and get into the prayer ceremonies. As soon as they finish one person's prayers, they move onto to the other departed. This goes on almost non-stop till about 10 or 11 when they break. Then, in the evening, the other set of rituals and prayers start and go on for about 2-3 hours. It's a tough life for them, as well as the helper boys who go about with their tasks of helping the priests and Agiary authorities jostling the continuously pouring crowds throughout the day and performing chores. In reality the day starts very early for all Agiaries though. Action starts from as early as 3 am in the morning when the Agiary and/or prayer hall has to be cleaned, flowers need to be shopped and picked up from the flower market and brought to the Agiary and kept in the vases and the place need to be in tip-top shape, ready for prayers, all by the time it's 6 in the morning.

The best flower arrangement I have ever seen in any Agiary is the one at Delhi Parsi Anjuman Agiary, Delhi. The caretaker family of this Agiary led by a dynamic- but (now) very old lady- Mrs Dhun Bugli, her son (the priest) and his wife, take great care of this Agiary. We are not allowed to bring our own flowers; a rule that I have seen only in this Agiary. But not without good reason. Mrs Bugli is a champion at flower arrangements and all vases have uniform flower arrangement, on any given day, with the same colour combination. Every day, she changes the flower arrangements. It's absolutely beautiful. Neither the flowers nor the colours are loud, but they make a magnificent impact. This is what I call a Kodak moment.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Things I Want To Do

All my free time is consumed by the ever-increasing office work load. But I guess in these days, so long as you have work, small or big, is a boon. But my point is, I am not getting enough time to blog, except on weekends. But I am trying to get a few things done. First and foremost, I want to digitalise all my photo albums. I must be having dozens of photo albums (in physical form) but I've been wanting to digitalise them forever. I finally started the process today. But Rs 10/- per picture is a bit too much. In just 2 albums that I gave today and a few loose pictures to add, I would be burning a decent-sized hole in my pocket. But what the heck! These are life-long memories. And pictures...clicking, storing, you name it, I love. I really don't know if Rs 10/- is good enough, but if you come to know of a cheaper rate, please enlighten me. I have a scanner in my office, but obviously I do not have time to do all that myself. Outsourcing is the way to go for me, atleast in this case.

Secondly, I am trying to get back to my Yoga. God knows how much I have ignored this aspect of my life in the last three months or so. I have been most irregular in the past year. Fund managers are open to talk to me only in the evenings, so if I need to catch their perspective, I have to wait all the way till evening time. But I feel Yoga is one of the best ways to detoxify. These days, I am trying to include Saturdays too to my Yoga schedule. I have had a terrible pain in the neck for the past fortnight and I am trying out some new asanas to eradicate the pain. And it's working brilliantly. I do my yoga at Kaivalyadhama yoga institute at Marine Drive, next to Tarapore Aquarium. I haven't tried any other institute, but I am extremely satisfied by Kaivalyadhama.

The setting is perfect, it's dang opposite the sea front, so it is very breezy. The place is absolutely serene and carries a lot of positive energy. And they've done up the place (the last phase of renovation is remaining), so that place looks better than before. Gone are the surly walls and peeling paint; the modern day Kaivalyadhama is all set for its umpteenth innings. Not that the earlier phase was bad at all. They have separate wings for ladies and gents and separate sets of teachers for both sexes. Lady teachers for ladies and gents teachers for men. I am no agent of Kaivalyadhama, but if you want to practice or learn Yoga, this is as good a place as you can get. And I am sick of skeptics. I am not sure what irritates me more: when people tell me that I will become thinner if I go to Yoga or when they as me the net asset value (NAV) of a mutual fund scheme to ascertain whether it's suitably "high" or "low" a value that they can invest in. Ignorance, I tell you, is available at every nook and corner. It's absolutely free, in lots of abundance and one commodity that will always be the cheapest even if inflation soars to a 100%.

New Rules of the Mutual Funds Game

These are interesting time in the Indian mutual funds (MF) industry. The market regulator, the securities and exchange board of India (Sebi) has been acting in a most proactive manner, quite unlike anything we've observed in the past. I've seen the regulator acting in the past too, but the way it has responded, post October-2008 crisis that delivered a giant blow to the MF industry, is a bit, you may say, admirable. As you must be knowing, after 1 August, entry loads are abolished. These were upfront charges- usually 2.25%- that were levied on you at the time of investing. So if you had invested Rs 100 in a MF, Rs 2.25 (2.25% of Rs 100) was deducted as entry load and the remaining Rs 97.75 was invested in the market. The entry load was eventually passed onto the the distributor as his commission.

Now Sebi has said that you- the investor- will have to sit with your agent and jointly decide the amount you'd like to pay him. You will need to account the quality of your distributor's advice and the service he provides and figure out an amount you'd like to pay him.

While we wait for various distributors to think it through and devise new costing strategies, the first ques are coming from online distributors. ICICI Direct (www.icicidirect.com) has decided to charge Rs 100 per annum for a total investment amount of Rs 8 lakh. Kotak Securities has decided to offer MFs on its website for free. No charge. But in case if advisory services are wanted to get to know recommendations of which funds to buy, then Kotak securities will charge. It said that it will disclose such charges on its website in a month's time. Of course a free service is great, but even the charges imposed by ICICI Direct are most reasonable. For someone who wishes to buy and sell MFs on the net through one common window, these online brokerages offer a great service.

However, if you still wish to avail of your broker, you can continue to do so. Many brokers I know are offering to sell MFs free of charge. They aim to make money in trail fees. These are fees they earn on your investments till such time that you stay invested. It's also called loyalty bonus. But their total income that they used to earn from selling MFs will definitely take a hit, as most of them, in order to tackle competition, is charging NO LOAD. Customers too want free service.

I feel as customers, we must be considerate. Guy please understand, even if these agents do not give out much advice, even if they come to your house to pick up forms and deliver them to the registrar or the MF's offices, they are still doing some service. So what if it is just a courier service, but it is still a service. And for a service they need to be paid. Try going to the MF's offices yourself or even to your registrar's offices. You will need copies of PAN card, original PAN card and also Know-Your-Client (KYC) documents. It is a pain. It's easy, but a pain. If your agent is atleast doing all this for you, don't demand free service just because your agent's competitor is doing all this for you, for free.

True, for a courier service, he may not deserve 2.25% - the erstwhile norm for entry load that your all distributors used to get, irrespective for his service's quality. But he deserves something if he is giving you a service. A good regulation is one thing. But critics will always say that investors are not yet prepared. By demanding free services, we are giving fodder to critics and having eggs thrown at our faces. Let's own up some responsibility here too and start behaving in mature way.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009




Ok, I can't miss an opportunity to shoot a video of my flight either taking-off or landing. This is the first time I shot a video of landing and to my luck I landed on New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport's new runway; they say it's Asia's longest.

Delhi is hot and this time I had little time there. It was intended to be a quickie. But no matter the paucity of time or whatever it is, I think I seem to be a regular at Khan Market now, can't recollect the last time I was in Delhi and didn't land up there for dinner or lunch. I just can't enough of this place. Great shopping centre, but hardly anything that suits my budget, but what I am most interested here are its restaurants. I have already tried the Kitchen, Blanco (my favourite) and the Big Chill (absolutely must, if you like desserts) and Sidewok. This time too, Himalee and I went to Sidewok.

You should see how she drops requests to the Maitre D'; watching her do her stuff is funny now. "Excuse me, could you please change this music, it's very sad?", "Excuse me, exactly how much time would it take for you to serve us Dim Sums, and oh could you please ensure the Dim Sums arrive at our tables before the Curry rice?" "I hope my Coke is cold, how cold is it really though, do you think I'll need ice?" With such graciousness her Highness opens her mouth, I almost feel the gentleman at the next table would pop up and bend low and kiss her hands like as in chivalry.

Anyways, I didn't get much to do my touristy thing but office party was held the next evening at a nice and cool spot called QBA at Cannaught Place. This is a pub-cum-lounge bar in the heart of Delhi and a comfy place to hang out. By the time dinner was served, I was full with all the snacks served to us and i had an early morning flight out of Delhi to catch the next day, so I excused myself and retired at my guest house.

Weekend was reserved for one of my favourite weekend gateaways, Pune. Awesome weather and extremely windy with drizzles every now and then makes Pune a fantastic place to be during monsoons. I just can't get enough of this city. Shopping for Osho chappals and a visit to my favourite Kayani Bakery, spending some time inside Dorabjee's store even if I have precious little to nothing to buy and visit to all the three Agiaries (Parsi Fire-Temples) are a must-must on my list of things to do in Pune. Osho chappals are a steal; very comfortable, aesthetic looks and would you believe it, for just Rs 50/- a piece? This is one place where I wouldn't mind leading my retired life!!!

Canadian Rockies: Day 11-13 (Vancouver highlights)

On day #11, I took the ferry and came to Vancouver. Much of Vancouver is filled with Asians. The whole 36 km distance between Tsawwassen Fe...