Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Satyam saga and the financial frauds

The moment you read Satyam's chief Ramalinga Raju's letter to the Board, you can sense that there is more to it than what you see in the letter. Its unimaginable to see a company with over 53000 employees run with just 3% operating margins. Another thing that was hard to swallow was non-existence of Rs.5,040 crore by inflating profits over seven years. The gap in the Balance Sheet had not arised purely on account of inflated profits over a period of time but it was clear money was siphoned off to buy lands. Money did exist, company did have real clients, real people and it was profitable indeed.

But is this is the only instance where we have failed when it comes to corporate governance. It might not surprise you all that these kind of small financial frauds do exist in India but the only difference is the magnitude and reach. Talk to any small business man in the country and they'll tell you that they know various ways to inflate profits and valuations.

I was reading an interesting article about 12 ways a company can inflate its profits in Mint which was done with the collaboration of Crisil.

These are just a few ways but i am very sure small time business men know much more than this

12 ways a company can inflate profits :

1. Write-off expenses from reserves
2. Show previous year’s expenses as this years income
3. Revalue assets to write off losses/expenses
4. Revalue assets to write off transfer values
5. Show loan waiver as income
6. Transfer loans to associates
7. Transfer fixed assets to current assets
8. Continue with dead projects.
9. Inventory valuation
10. Inflate sales
11. Sale/Lease back of assets
12. Change depreciation policies.

All of you are welcome to share your thoughts on this.

World Economic Forum - CEO confidence plunges around the globe

Well its not taken me long to come up an update from the world economic forum's meeting in Davos. Just before the event could start PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey finding of 1,100 CEOs from across the globe and industry sector sets a grim backdrop to a four-day meeting of the world's business and political elite. Confidence among the world leaders and people who run the companies and shape the fate of economies has fallen to a new low.

Crisis that started due to banking system has spread to different industry sectors and today only a handful of business leaders are sure about the future of their companies revenues and profits. Survey suggests only 21% of CEOs said they were very confident of growing revenue in the next 12 months, down from 50 percent a year ago. And hopes for a short "V"-shaped recession appear to have evaporated with most business leaders expecting no more than a slow and gradual recovery over the next three years. Only about 34% CEO's see their revenues and growing over three years. "The three-year view is a bit better but the bad news is it is not that much better.

Message is very clear short term scenario is very bad but long term looks good but not as good as what we saw earlier. When economies come out of recession or a slowdown we see a 'V'-shaped recovery but according to some economists the concept of a vigorous recovery is for business cycles of the past but not for this post-crisis business cycle.

One question that came to my mind was about the emerging economies. What is the fate of emerging economies? What can they expect in the coming future? The Picture is equally gloomy for emerging markets as well. According to 'The Washington-based Institute for International Finance', a group of the world's biggest banks, said that it expects private capital flows to emerging markets to drop by nearly two-thirds to $165 billion this year. This clearly signifies the idea of "decoupling" of developed and developing world markets is just a myth.

Wait for more update from World Economic Forum, Davos

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2009 - Significant Event in history

The 2009 meeting in Davos at the world economic forum is significant not just for the topics that are to discussed but sheer number of confirmed participation is historic. It seems the whole world is getting together to discuss and decide the fate of world economy. Number of participants at the forum is simply staggering, More than 2500 participants from 96 countries of which over 50% are business leaders, drawn principally from the Forum's Members – the 1,000 foremost companies from around the world and across economic sectors. Over 1,400 chief executives and chairpersons from the world’s leading companies, the highest ever since the World Economic Forum was founded in 1971.

The meeting will be focused on managing the current economic crisis around the world and shaping the entire post-crisis agenda. Leaders will also discuss about the new economic reform and climate change. Lets all hope that the event is a huge success and the integration of all stakeholders of global society is able to transform the state of the world economy.

Keep checking the blog for constant updates from 'The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2009'

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Journey of Vince Mcmahon and WWF/E

We have been a fan of WWE in our childhood. I never missed it my childhood and i know of a few people still watch it regularly. Wrestling was a business run by regional offices and each region had an understanding that they would not invade each other’s territories. But Vince Mcmahon had a vision of turning the wrestling industry into a lucrative business, eventually gaining monopoly in the business. He was the one who brought the term "Sports Entertainment" into the wrestling world and shifted focus from pure violence to exaggerated storylines that attracts mainstream audiences. He started breaking into other territories and hired wrestlers from other companies. Early instances of this was recruiting Hulk hogan from American Wrestling Association (AWA) in 1984 who became a charismatic megastar of WWE. Vince was not satisfied with just that he started promoting and broadcasting into the rival territories. He was the pioneer in introducing 'The Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection' by incorporating pop music stars into wrestling world. But his first breakthrough came in the year 1985 when WrestleMania was aired closed circuit TV throughout the U.S. This created an explosion in the industry and he was able to expand its fanbase throughout the U.S.

Growing fanbase in the US and huge popularity at the national level is not where Vince wanted to stop, internationally he promoted event with various celebrities, including Cyndi Lauper, Muhammad Ali, Billy Martin and 'The Rockettes' in an attempt to gain unprecedented publicity for the WWF throughout the world. Vince McMahon shaped the wrestling business into a unique entertainment brand that attracted family audiences from a small child to an adult. His unique marketing concepts like promoting key events live on PPV (Pay Per View) television led to the creation of multi-million dollar empire. McMahon kept expanding his empire by purchasing various rival wrestling firms like World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 2001 from AOL Time Warner. WWE has seen a memorable journey from regional wrestling to professional international wrestling business worldwide

Seems like recession here to stay for long

Well if you thought the after effect of financial meltdown had slowdown and the impact of recession was slowing down then you are wrong. Over 80,000 job cuts in a single day clearly signifies the painful symptoms of the ongoing recession and will have a significant impact on other industries over the next few months. Global giants like Caterpillar, Pfizer, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel, Philips, ING, Corus and Texas Instruments together accounted for 80,000 lay-off announcements yesterday. Its clear now that the financial crisis has infected the whole of the corporate world, from IT, Pharma to heavy equipment makers. Caterpillar and Pfizer were the major contributors in the lay-off announcements slashing its workforce by 20,000 and 26,000 respectively.

Lay-offs have a direct and immediate impact on some of the industries like consumer goods, health care, pharma, automobile and oil and gas. Consumer spending goes down drastically and hence dampen the growth of these industries in short and long term. Circuit City Inc second largest electronic retailer in the United States went bankrupt and this was purely due to dried-up Consumer spending in the US. If we are to go by these trends then the worst is not over yet. We can just hope that President Barack Obama's stimulus plans can do some trick and have a quick impact, or else it seems we are in for some more shocks.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Global meltdown catches IT firms off-guard

Bangalore, Dec 28 (IANS) After nearly a decade of uninterrupted boom, the Indian information technology industry finds the road ahead bumpy as 2008 draws to a close, with the global meltdown and financial turmoil in the US and other rich countries catching the otherwise resilient sector off-guard.With no signs of early revival, even the top firms - TCS, Infosys and Wipro - are bracing for hard times in the year ahead.

A reality check of the industry by leading IT industry-specific publication Dataquest of Cyber Media shows that the Indian software services sector is set for a lower growth this fiscal due to declining IT spends by enterprises worldwide and a volatile currency market.

“The global economic slowdown is impacting the Indian software services sector as never before. With the US, Europe and Japan slipping into recession, demand for outsourcing and offshoring IT services will slacken over the next three-four quarters,” Dataquest warned.

Though the software industry body Nasscom projected 21-24 percent revenue growth rate for this fiscal as against 28 percent in 2007-08, analysts fear the annual growth could decline to 15 percent by the end of the fiscal - the lowest in a decade.

Nasscom president Som Mittal said the growth rate target would now be reviewed in January, as the member-companies were in the process of furnishing fresh data to the representative body.

“We wanted to review the forecast in mid-December but could not do so as export and domestic firms are still assessing the situation. We will re-visit the numbers and give a revised forecast next month,” Mittal told IANS.

A performance review of the top 20 Indian IT firms shows the projected growth rate of 28 percent may not be met.

“The slowdown is likely to last 12-15 months. New application development is expected to be affected the most. Smaller companies looking for funding are equally affected by the tight credit market, while the large outsourcing firms/IT bellwethers are sitting pretty on cash on their balance sheets,” Dataquest said.

According to global technology and market research firm Forrester, slowdown in the technology sector will continue till the third quarter of 2009, while outsourcing growth will remain moderate till 2010.

“Slowdown will force companies to turn to vendors to help cut costs. Growth in IT outsourcing revenues will remain moderate due to the use of lower-cost offshore resources and smaller-scale outsourcing deals,” Forrester said in its report “Outlook for the global IT industry”.

“Unlike in the first two quarters (April-September), clients have put discretionary projects on hold in the third quarter. Decisions on new projects have been postponed to next year, as clients are busy grappling with the ongoing crisis,” the report said.

Bearish sentiment in the US and British markets, which account for about 80 percent of the Indian IT export revenues, are compelling vendors to tap emerging markets.

According to Dataquest, the meltdown also impacted projects in the banking, financial services and insurance sectors, which contribute about 40 percent of software sector revenues.

“Coupled with recession, the prevailing negative sentiment is also affecting new projects in manufacturing and retail verticals, which account for 15 percent and eight percent of the total revenues,” it added.

To sustain the growth momentum, albeit more slowly, Indian IT vendors are shifting to fixed price model from time-and-material billing model. Infosys, Wipro and HCL are moving away from billing customers by the hour to entire projects or in parts to maintain their profitability, as fixed price contracts give flexibility to drive productivity and protect margins.

In the second quarter (July-September), fixed price contracts accounted for 34 percent of the combined business of Infosys, Wipro and HCL, as against 29 percent in the same quarter the previous fiscal. TCS has been sustaining on fixed price contracts, which accounted for 44 percent in the last quarter.

The currency volatility has also compounded the woes of the Indian IT sector.

If a rising rupee in the last fiscal had dented export earnings, the steady rise of the US dollar against the rupee, British pound and Euro during the second quarter (July-September), impacted revenue realisation in dollar terms since 30 percent of the billing is done in these currencies.

“The sharp and sudden appreciation of the US dollar against the rupee by 5.5 percent, euro (13 percent) and pound (13.8 percent) in the second quarter had adversely impacted the revenue of Indian IT firms in dollar terms,” Dataquest noted.

As a result of over-hedging in forward contracts, benefits of a weak rupee were limited. For instance, Infosys posted a market-to-market loss of $28 million (Rs.1.35 billion) on hedging $932 million for the entire fiscal.

Similarly, Wipro suffered a forex loss of Rs.280 million in the second quarter on hedging $2.1 billion, while HCL took a hit of Rs.970 million.

On the other hand, multinational companies proved to be resilient.

“Having consolidated their presence in the hardware segment, thanks to a liberalised import regime and lowered tariffs, global brands such as Dell and Lenovo have outperformed their Indian counterparts even in these times of slowdown,” the Dataquest report said.

Similarly, in the software segment, global majors like Microsoft and SAP registered revenue growth of 29 percent and 104 percent respectively last fiscal, and continue to grow despite the slowdown.

Above blog taken from

Business benefits of going green in India

Organizations across the globe have taken up the initiative of going green to save operational costs and also save the environment. Major developed countries across the globe took up the green initiative and formed Kyoto Protocol to keep the emission of greenhouse gases below the level of 1990’s. Developing countries like India and China are just required to measure and track the emission of greenhouse gases. Companies in developing countries can make money by reducing emission of greenhouse gases and trade carbon credits in the international commodities market.

Business benefit has driven Indian companies to go green

Indian companies and MNC’s can make millions by taking on the green bandwagon. Going green seems like the best option for companies to reduce their operating costs. Rising inflation, rising salary costs and fluctuating currency rates have had a huge impact on the bottom line of various companies. Companies take up green initiatives for their workforce, physical and IT infrastructure not only to save their operating costs but also make money by trading carbon credits. ONGC has already made million by trading in carbon credits and expects to make $625 million over the next 10 years. Gujarat Fluorochemicals and SRF’s revenue from carbon trading more than their core business activities. Companies such as Reliance Industries, BPCL, HLL, Maruti Udyog, Hero Honda, Dabur, M&M and ITC have taken the initiative of going green for their products with the help of clean technologies and earned the reputation of being some of the greenest companies in India. Major MNC’s like IBM, Dell, HP, Cisco and Sun Microsystems have already replicated their global green initiatives like green IT infrastructure, flexi-time, flexible work schedules and telecommute in India and saved millions of dollars. There is a huge potential for these MNC’s and Indian IT companies to go green for their workforce and infrastructure and save 25% to 30% of their operating cost on employees. On an average flexi time and telecommute saves about 20% to 25% of operating costs on each employee. India has also seen emergence of green infrastructure or green building in the last couple of years. India is now the 4th hottest market for green buildings in the world. In 2003 there were 6000 sq m of green building space, by the end of 2008 there will be 304,000 sq m, a 5000% increase. The projected growth potential for green building in India is estimated to be at $180 millions by the end of 2008 and is project to grow to $400 million by 2010.
These green buildings can save about 30% to 35% of energy costs and also help companies earn carbon credit points based on a certain parameters set by the Indian Green Building Council. Though the initial cost of these building would be 5% to 10% higher than a normal building but in long term it could save over 50% of the operating costs for companies.

Intangible benefits of going green
There are various intangible benefits a company can get from various green initiatives. These would also have an impact on the bottom line of the companies and indirectly save operating costs. The initiative of going green for workforce for instance can reduce attrition, reduce employee health expenditure, reduce stress, improve work life balance of employees and hence improve employee productivity which would results indirect cost savings for the company.


Startup Landscape in India

The environment for start-up companies has never looked so good. The ecosystem for start-up companies has evolved over the last few years. Start-up events (Nasscom, Tie, Proto & HeadStart), VC meets and Seminar (India Opportunity Seminar) are helping start-up companies to showcase their product capabilities and marketing skills. It’s not just the VC’s or government owned financial institutes that are funding the start-ups and helping to building the entrepreneurial environment but also major MNC’s are contributing their bit by setting up their VC arm in India to encourage the start-up companies and foster the innovation culture. Currently there are over 200 active VC’s both Indian and MNC venture firms investing in Indian start-ups.

Well if you have the right idea in place, an idea that can scale then everything else looks good. But are there many fundable ideas or are the entrepreneurs working in the right direction to make the best use of all the ecosystem and exposure that they are getting. We do see a rise in the number of startups in the last three years but not many innovative product ideas that are scalable to become power to reckon with. If you look at the trend in the last two years most of the startups that have come up are in the space of online video or search engines, these are trend followers rather than innovative products or ay out of the box thinking from startups in India except for a few interesting companies. Well not to say these are extremely good but atleast their products are much better and are capable of sustaining in the long run.

A few interesting products from Indian startups –

Mobitop – A product from Mobisy, It is a mobile phone application development platform with which application developers, device manufacturers and operators can easily develop and deploy new breed of applications with Web 2.0 features.

Hooeey – It is an interesting application that captures your browsing history and gives tools to store/analyze them.

Deskaway – Project management tool from Synage Software, It acts as a single window through which organizations can manage and track their work, thereby increasing team productivity and growth.

MedSphere (Instarad) – Company is a global teleradiology and PACS solution provider which develops teleradiology and PACS products and services for customers around the world.

Druvaa inSync – It is a CDP solution for Laptops which lets you automatically synchronize your personal data with an enterprise wide central server in office or while on move.

StoreGrid – It is a flexible data backup software designed for workstation and server backups, StoreGrid supports Exchange Server backups & SQL Server backups and has a 1-Click selection facility for 'common backups'.

Diffen – Wiki based site for listing differences or comparisons (subjective as well as objective) between similar things – It improves reader engagement by displaying contextual rich application in an intuitive window, it allows publisher to add extra channel of revenue through targeted display of contextual and affiliate advertisements. (Contextual Content Presentation and Mode)

MobiSolv – It is mobile solutions organization with focus on solving real life problems using the mobile technology. They are currently focused on providing solutions in the Mobile Advertising and Marketing pace.

Currently India has about 550 product start-up companies and out of which over 200 odd are technology start-ups. A lot of startups have come up in the last one or two years especially in the space of Localized/Specialized Search, Online shopping/Printing, Instant Messaging/Consumer Voip and Mobile VAS companies.

A large chunk of these technology start-ups are located in metro cities like Bangalore (28%) and Mumbai (17%).
Bangalore has Innovation Culture, Investors (At all phases), Customers, Proximity to markets, Academia, Research institutes and most important talent in place to encouraging entrepreneurship.

Lone survivor of recession - Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO)

Global meltdown and Recession has hit all the industries hard but there is one industry that is booming during this period “Legal Process Outsourcing”. Industry has seen faster growth in the last few months; demand for legal activities has grown from across sectors and verticals. Legal departments do not generate revenue and hence the pressure to cut costs is much higher on them. This has resulted in increased volume of outsourcing of legal work, especially from countries like US and UK which make up 95% of the legal outsourcing market. LPO companies in India are thriving like never before as most of these companies have witnessed increasing business and influx of various new legal processes. Slowdown in the global economy and increasing legal activities among companies like restructuring, downsizing, layoffs, closure of branches, winding up of subsidiaries and termination notices to collaborators and franchisees has led to the growing demand of Indian LPO service providers. Factors such as cost advantage of over 70% for legal work in countries like India is forcing companies to increase the outflow of such legal activities. Performing document review with a senior associate in US costs $200-300 per hour while the same work outsourced to Indian LPO would cost companies barely $25-30 per hour. Another important factor is availability of abundant talent is another which is attracting outsourcing of legal work to India. As per Bar Council of India, Indian universities graduate nearly 80,000 lawyers per year this does not take into account those who study at overseas universities and return to India. Statistics shows till date only 42% find gainful employment as lawyers in India while others having to content themselves with jobs in the country's booming services and IT sectors. Growing legal outsourcing industry will attract law graduates from IT and BPO sector back. All these are good signs for both Outsourcer and Indian LPO service providers.

Indian LPO vendors clearly stand to benefit from the current global turmoil and increasing legal activities. India has over 100 service providers that can be categorized into three groups: Captive centers, Third party - Niche service providers (Stand-alone LPOs) and Third party - Multiservice providers. Companies like GE, Cisco, Oracle. DuPont have their own in-house legal departments in their captive centers in India. Dedicated third party service providers like Evalueserve, Datamatics, WNS, Manthan, Titus, G B Law Solutions, LegalSonic etc offer offshore legal services along with other services. India also has certain niche players such like IP PRO, Patent Metrix, Pangea3, Mindcrest and Quislex.