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The Real India

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It’s impossible to escape the slums in India.  The Bessemer office in Nariman Point overlooks slums.  The apartment I’m staying at in Worli overlooks slums.  Even Mukesh Ambani’s mansion overlooks slums.

But that’s a microcosm of the real India.  The significant majority – in fact, the overwhelming majority – are not much better off.

Here’s a graph of the evolving demographics of India compiled from a number of data sets.  “Poor” means a family earning less than 1 lakh rupees a year (a little over $2000).  “Middle Class” means a family earning between 1 lakh rupees and 10 lakh rupees a year (between $2000 and $20000).  Upper class is above 10 lakh rupees a year, or $20000+.

While the positive trend is the number of people going from “poor” to “middle class” by 2025, the sheer magnitude of people in the “poor” class is staggering, saddening, and maddening.  That’s the real India.  And as investors, I hope we remember to not only strive to do well for ourselves, but to do good with our capital for the real India and the real world.

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Written by sheeltyle

June 22, 2011 at 1:28 pm

The Return of the Professional Athlete Role Model

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It seemed like the past five years, all we heard off the field was sports athletes in jail, getting arrested for alleged rape, dog fighting, taking steriods or drugs, and sending lewd photos.

Michael Vick.  Ben Roethlisberger.  Brett Favre.  Plaxico Burress.  Maurice Clarrett.  Mark McGuire.  Kobe Bryant.  And the list goes on and on and on.  It seemed life half of the NFL or NBA was on probation, in a lawsuit, or at some point had a run-in with the police.  And it felt like half of the MLB was on steroids after the Mitchell Report came out.

Professional athletes, once role models to almost every kid who dreamed of playing under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden or in the snow at Soldier Field, suddenly became the definition of crime, thuggery, and poor values.

But as I’ve started to recently hear more stories like the Eagles flying from LA to NYC to get the back of a bullied kid or Mark Sanchez befriending an 11 year old with rhabdomyosarcoma, I’m starting to believe that the trend may be reversing.  The NBA Cares initiative, the MLB teaming up with the Susan G. Komen foundation to swing pink bats for breast cancer, and the NFL’s Tribute to the Troops are examples of the organizations’ focus on restoring league-wide images of peace, goodwill, compassion, and benevolence.

Small actions, but they speak volumes for the return of the professional athlete role model.  And while there is a ways to go, I’m optimistic and very happy to see these steps.

Written by sheeltyle

February 14, 2011 at 8:07 am

Posted in Trends

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No More Cars

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A hundred years ago, New York City had a manure problem. The average horse produced between fifteen and thirty-five pounds of manure and it piled the streets.  It was a huge health hazard due to the disease, it was a large nuisance, and it was growing.  People began thinking of better manure removal and cleanup solutions, even trying to burn it.

Meanwhile, Henry Ford, in southeastern Michigan, produced the Model T.  He revolutionized transportation and eliminated the manure problem.

I see the the future of transportation as similar.  Part of the current hype is around cleaner, more efficient transportation systems: perhaps we need cleaner vehicles, electric vehicles, and hybrid vehicles.  Perhaps the right fuel isn’t our current natural gas, but some sort of cellulosic based ethanol.  Perhaps we need narrower cars to fit more on the road, similar to Commuter Cars.

Or, perhaps, our transportation system, once again, has become outdated.  As our populations continue to increase, we will continue to see more traffic jams and gridlocks, perhaps even more to the extent of last summer’s 60 mile long gridlock in China.

Dirt roads became paved roads after the Model T.  In 50 years, perhaps the paved roads could be upgraded once again: to include powerful magnets.  Perhaps the future of transportation is not in cars, but in some sort of magnetic levitation system that can cleanly, safely, and quickly transport a large number of people.

It’s something to think about, especially as large cities known for their traffic problems—Mumbai, Jakarta, Beijing, and Sao Paulo—continue to experience population growth with limited infrastructure change.

Written by sheeltyle

February 12, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Trends

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