Book Review: Not just an accountant

“Not just an Accountant” is the Memoirs of Vinod Rai, who as Comptroller & Auditor General of India shocked the country with the expose of mammoth scams in the Govt.

Just as T N Seshan changed the profile of the  Election Commisioner’s Office, similarly Vinod Rai changed the profile of what was considered to be a low profile Audit office.

The early chapters of the Book cover his career when he was an IAS officer belonging to the Kerala state cadre.

He narrates some of the challenges he faced there…the diversity of the challenges makes me aware of the tough conflicts IAS officers face while performing their duties.

The later chapters cover the role of the office of CAG and goes into depth of the five key scams unearthed there:

  1. Telecom Scam – The truly shocking scam where he exposes that Manmohan Singh knew what has happening but did not stop it.
  2. Coal Scam- Another scam which Manmohan Singh tried to stop but was too weak to implement his own orders.
  3. Commonwealth Scam- This scam is astounding in its audacity-Suresh Kalmadi floated a private entity to use Govt funds for the Games !
  4. KG Gas Scam- How Reliance ran rings around the Govt in its negotiations is again breath taking.One is by turns amused and shocked at the shenanigans that Reliance got away with.
  5. The Aviation Scam-How the then Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel murdered Air India by needless purchase of aircraft and also screwed the Indian aviation sector by giving non-reciprocal flying freedoms to foreign airlines.

The book is written in a very easy to read manner and the integrity and professionalism of the author leaps from every page.

However it is also a depressing read as one realizes the extent to which our tax money is stolen and frittered by the powers that be.

Do buy this book if interested in knowing how Govt of India functions.

Book Review: 5 Moving Average Signals that beat Buy & Hold

This is an interesting book for me to review as I am not really a technical analysis kind of guy.

There is no denying that, many times in the markets, it is better to be in cash than be fully invested.

The Book “5 Moving Averages that beat Buy and Hold” by Steve Burns & Holly Burns give 5 Moving Averages that one can use to protect oneselves in a falling/sideways market

These averages are to be used on the index and not on individual stocks as “the index can’t go bankrupt,issue false earnings etc”

The five moving averages are as follows:

  • 200 Day Average.Buy/Hold when index is more than 200 Day Average on the last day of the Month.Else move to cash
  • 250 Day Average.Buy/Hold when index is more than 250 Day Average at the end of the day.Else move to cash
  • 50 Day SMA & 200 Day SMA. Buy/Hold when the 50 Day SMA is more than the 200 Day SMA.Else move to cash
  • 20 Day SMA & 200 Day SMA. Buy/Hold when the 20 Day SMA is more than the 200 Day SMA.Else move to cash
  • 50 Day SMA & 100 Day SMA. Buy/Hold when the 50 Day SMA is more than the 100 Day SMA.Else move to cash

The Book has back tested these formulas and makes a decent case.

There may be additional factors such as whiplashes,trading costs,impact costs etc which may impact the results in an actual trading environment

Do buy this book if interested in an introduction to Moving Averages.

Book Review: Transforming Transport

The Book ‘Transforming Transport’ is written by a Switzerland based Think Tank called W.I.R.E.

The Book consists of interviews with leading architects,car designers,writers, thinkers etc to understand how transportation will look like in the future.

Currently, more than 50% of the world’s population live in urban cities.It is just not possible for all these people to use cars for their own transport with all the attendant problems of traffic congestion,parking etc

Some studies say that around 30% of the traffic in cities is from cars searching for parking !!

The future of transportation looks then something like this:

  1. More reliance on trains/rail. One train can replace 1000 cars.We are seeing this in India with Metro projects lined up for 25 Cities
  2. More focus on auto sharing.The rise of Uber/Ola is testament to this. Most cars spend their time in parking. As per the The Royal Automobile Club, active use of cars in UK is only 3% ; 97% of the time, the car is parked-either at home or at destination. Ford has introduced a concept called GoDrive which is a pay per minute car-sharing service.
  3. Driver-less cars. In the West, there is a lot of focus on driver-less cars.Just as the very rich or hobbyists ride horses, similarly driving a car will be relegated to the fringes
  4. Move towards Electric.Fossil Fuel Cars will be phased out and the industry will move towards electric. Road technologies  exist which will charge the car as it drives on the road
  5. Cars no longer seen as a status symbol.Why should it when it will be primarily be as a way to go from Point A to Point B?
  6. Logistics industry will be comparatively unaffected as 90% of the World’s trade happens by sea.
  7. Changing Urban Landscape.More focus on walk to work/shop.Immobility-the ability not to be stuck in traffic jams-will be the real luxury
  8. Virtual travel.Instead of actually going to Paris, you can sit in the comfort of your living room and tour the Louvre !

All in all,an interesting book and am grateful to my friends at Julius Baer for sharing it.

Book Review: Tibet & the Tibetan People’s Struggle

This is an unusual book review for me as usually my reviews cover books on finance, investing or business biographies.

This book was gifted to me by the good folks at Shanti Stupa, Ladakh and hence I feel a bit obligated to write about it.

Many Indians do not know anything about Tibet or about the struggle of the Tibetan people.

Tibet was more or less independent when China “liberated” Tibet in 1950.With brute force, they suppressed the Tibetan people.

On 10 March,1959, the Tibetan people rose in revolt.The Chinese crushed this revolt mercilessly and many lost their lives.

Since then, 10 March is commemorated by the Tibetans as ‘National Uprising Day’

The Book is a collection of speeches made by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 10 March every year for a period of 40 years from 1961-2011

The speeches more or less fit a pattern:

  • Remembrance of those martyred on that fateful day
  • Highlighting the changes in the  international arena
  • Illuminating on the oppression,injustices and cultural genocide faced by the Tibetans
  • Appealing to the Chinese for talks
  • Thanking Indians and the India Govt for their support and assistance
  • Ending with a prayer for peace , truth and justice

As you start reading the letters, it feels like you have gone back in time when Mao was ruling China

As you come to the present, you realize how little China and their Han Nationalism attitude towards Tibet and even India has changed over the years.

You also appreciate how difficult it is to wage a non-violent struggle for freedom from an authoritarian power…it takes decades and decades before one can succeed.

As such,I feel lucky to live in a free India and thank our freedom fighters who made it possible.

Book Review: Sam Zell-Am I being too subtle?

The Book ‘Am I Being too Subtle?’ is written by Billionaire Sam Zell who is famed for his deal making skills

The Book are essentially his memoirs which makes for superb reading.

Sam Zell was born in Chicago to a Jewish family.His family fled Poland from Hitler and made the journey to US crossing over from Poland to Russia to Japan to the US.

From the beginning, Sam was great at making deals-especially in the real estate sector.

He parlayed his success into raising funds and investing in capital asset companies/real estate.

He make famous for his deals buying distressed assets…so much so, that he became well known by the epithet ‘The Grave Dancer’

His most famous deal was in 2008 when he sold his REIT company to Blackrock at the top of the real estate cycle for $ 39 Billion

The Book is written in a very salty style and makes for great learnings.

Two takeaways for me personally were:

  • Conduct your deals in such a way that people want to deal with you again and again.This essentially means always leave something on the table for the other guy
  • Go where the competition is limited/non-existent. You can be a genius but if there is lot of competition, you won’t make any money

I STRONGLY recommend this book for all traders/investors/deal makers